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Title: St. Leon - A Tale of the Sixteenth Century
Author: Godwin, William
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.

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[Illustration: _Boxall del^t._ _C. Marr sculp^t._

ST. LEON,

“_I took her hand and by my caresses endeavoured to soothe and compose
her._” _Page 65._

_London, Published by Henry Colburn & Richard Bentley, 1831._]



                               ST. LEON,

                                  BY
                            WILLIAM GODWIN.

             [Illustration: _He put his hand to the wound;
                 the Animal stirred not._ _Page 273._]

                                LONDON.
                         COLBURN AND BENTLEY,
                        NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
                                 1831.



                               ST. LEON:

                                   A
                    TALE OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.

                                  BY
                            WILLIAM GODWIN.

          Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou
            liar of the first magnitude.          CONGREVE.

                                LONDON:
                  HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY,
                        NEW BURLINGTON STREET;
                     BELL AND BRADFUTE, EDINBURGH
                         AND CUMMING, DUBLIN.
                                 1831.

                                LONDON:
                   Printed by A. & R. Spottiswoode,
                          New-Street-Square.



ADVERTISEMENT.


The Publishers of the Collection of “STANDARD NOVELS” are extremely
desirous that I should furnish them with a few lines, by way of
introduction to the appearance of ST. LEON in its present form. I am
however at a loss how to oblige them. In the original Preface I frankly
stated the sources upon which I had drawn for the idea and conduct
of the work. I have therefore no remarks to offer, but these which
follow:--

In 1794 I produced the novel of Caleb Williams. I believed myself
fortunate in the selection I had made of the ground-plot of that work.
An atrocious crime committed by a man previously of the most exemplary
habits, the annoyance he suffers from the immeasurable and ever-wakeful
curiosity of a raw youth who is placed about his person, the state of
doubt in which the reader might for a time be as to the truth of the
charges, and the consequences growing out of these causes, seemed to
me to afford scope for a narrative of no common interest. I was not
disappointed. Caleb Williams was honoured with the public favour.

The consequence was that I was solicited to try my hand again in a work
of fiction. I hesitated long. I despaired of finding again a topic
so rich of interest and passion. In those days it was deemed a most
daring thought to attempt to write a novel, with the hope that it might
hereafter rank among the classics of a language. The most successful
English writers in that province of literature had scarcely gone
beyond three. It had not then been conceived that the same author might
produce twenty or thirty, at the rate of two or three _per annum_,
and might still at least retain his hold upon the partiality of his
contemporaries. To Sir Walter Scott we are indebted for this discovery.

At length, after having passed some years in a state of diffidence and
irresolution, I ventured on the task. It struck me that if I could “mix
human feelings and passions with incredible situations,” I might thus
attain a sort of novelty that would conciliate the patience, at least,
even of some of the severest judges. To this way of thinking ST. LEON
was indebted for a “local habitation, and a name.”

One of my most valued friends [Mr. Northcote] has often told me, that
the public may sometimes be interested in the perusal of a book, but
that they never give themselves any trouble about the author. He
therefore kindly advised me on no occasion to say any thing in print
about myself. The present race of readers seem scarcely disposed
to verify this maxim. They are understood to be desirous to learn
something of the peculiarities, the “life, character, and behaviour,”
of an author, before they consign him to the gulph of oblivion, and are
willing to learn from his own testimony what train of thoughts induced
him to adopt the particular subject and plan of the work, upon the
perusal of which they are engaged.

_June, 1831._



PREFACE.


The following passage from a work, said to be written by the late Dr.
John Campbel, and entitled _Hermippus Redivivus_, suggested the first
hint of the present performance:--

“There happened in the year 1687, an odd accident at Venice, that
made a very great stir then, and which I think deserves to be rescued
from oblivion. The great freedom and ease with which all persons, who
make a good appearance, live in that city, is known sufficiently to
all who are acquainted with it; such will not therefore be surprised,
that a stranger, who went by the name of signor Gualdi, and who made a
considerable figure there, was admitted into the best company, though
nobody knew who or what he was. He remained at Venice for some months;
and three things were remarked in his conduct. The first was, that he
had a small collection of fine pictures, which he readily showed to any
body that desired it; the next, that he was perfectly versed in all
arts and sciences, and spoke on every subject with such readiness and
sagacity, as astonished all who heard him; and it was, in the third
place, observed, that he never wrote or received any letter, never
desired any credit, or made use of bills of exchange, but paid for
every thing in ready money and lived decently, though not in splendour.

“This gentleman met one day at the coffee-house with a Venetian
nobleman, who was an extraordinary good judge of pictures: he had heard
of signor Gualdi’s collection, and in a very polite manner desired to
see them, to which the other very readily consented. After the Venetian
had viewed signor Gualdi’s collection, and expressed his satisfaction,
by telling him that he had never seen a finer, considering the number
of pieces of which it consisted; he cast his eye by chance over the
chamber-door, where hung a picture of this stranger. The Venetian
looked upon it, and then upon him. ‘This picture was drawn for you,
sir,’ says he to signor Gualdi, to which the other made no answer,
but by a low bow. ‘You look,’ continued the Venetian, ‘like a man of
fifty, and yet I know this picture to be of the hand of Titian, who has
been dead one hundred and thirty years, how is this possible?’--‘It is
not easy,’ said signor Gualdi, gravely, ‘to know all things that are
possible; but there is certainly no crime in my being like a picture
drawn by Titian.’ The Venetian easily perceived, by his manner of
speaking, that he had given the stranger offence, and therefore took
his leave.

“He could not forbear speaking of this in the evening to some of his
friends, who resolved to satisfy themselves by looking upon the picture
the next day. In order to have an opportunity of doing so, they went
to the coffee-house about the time that signor Gualdi was wont to come
thither; and not meeting with him, one of them, who had often conversed
with him, went to his lodgings to enquire after him, where he heard,
that he had set out an hour before for Vienna. This affair made a great
noise, and found a place in all the newspapers of that time.”[1]

It is well known that the philosopher’s stone, the art of transmuting
metals into gold, and the _elixir vitæ_, which was to restore youth,
and make him that possessed it immortal; formed a principal object of
the studies of the curious for centuries. Many stories, beside this of
signor Gualdi, have been told, of persons who were supposed to be in
possession of those wonderful secrets, in search of which hundreds of
unfortunate adventurers wasted their fortunes and their lives.

It has been said of Shakespear, that he

    Exhausted worlds, and then imagined new[2]:

but the burthen sustained by Shakespear was too heavy for the shoulders
of any other individual. I leave the first part of the task above
mentioned to be divided among those celebrated novelists, living and
dead, who have attempted to delineate the scenes of real life. In
this little work I have endeavoured to gain footing in one neglected
track of the latter province. The hearts and the curiosity of readers
have been assailed in so many ways, that we, writers who bring up the
rear of our illustrious predecessors, must be contented to arrive at
novelty in whatever mode we are able. The foundation of the following
tale is such as, it is not to be supposed, ever existed. But, if I have
mixed human feelings and passions with incredible situations, and thus
rendered them impressive and interesting, I shall entertain some hope
to be pardoned the boldness and irregularity of my design.

Some readers of my graver productions will perhaps, in perusing
these little volumes, accuse me of inconsistency; the affections and
charities of private life being every where in this publication a topic
of the warmest eulogium, while in the Enquiry concerning Political
Justice they seemed to be treated with no great degree of indulgence
and favour. In answer to this objection, all I think it necessary
to say on the present occasion is, that, for more than four years,
I have been anxious for opportunity and leisure to modify some of
the earlier chapters of that work in conformity to the sentiments
inculcated in this. Not that I see cause to make any change respecting
the principle of justice, or any thing else fundamental to the system
there delivered; but that I apprehend domestic and private affections
inseparable from the nature of man, and from what may be styled
the culture of the heart, and am fully persuaded that they are not
incompatible with a profound and active sense of justice in the mind of
him that cherishes them. True wisdom will recommend to us individual
attachments; for with them our minds are more thoroughly maintained in
activity and life than they can be under the privation of them; and it
is better that man should be a living being, than a stock or a stone.
True virtue will sanction this recommendation; since it is the object
of virtue to produce happiness, and since the man who lives in the
midst of domestic relations will have many opportunities of conferring
pleasure, minute in the detail, yet not trivial in the amount, without
interfering with the purposes of general benevolence. Nay, by kindling
his sensibility, and harmonising his soul, they may be expected, if he
is endowed with a liberal and manly spirit, to render him more prompt
in the service of strangers and the public.

Nov. 26, 1799.



TRAVELS OF ST. LEON.



CHAPTER I.


There is nothing that human imagination can figure brilliant and
enviable, that human genius and skill do not aspire to realize. In the
early ages of antiquity, one of the favourite topics of speculation was
a perfect system of civil policy; and no sooner had Plato delineated
his imaginary republic, than he sought for a spot of earth upon which
to execute his plan. In my own times, and for upwards of a century
before them, the subject which has chiefly occupied men of intrepid
and persevering study, has been the great secret of nature, the
_opus magnum_, in its two grand and inseparable branches, the art of
multiplying gold, and of defying the inroads of infirmity and death.

It is notorious that uncommon talents and unparalleled industry have
been engaged in this mighty task. It has, I know, been disputed by the
audacious adversaries of all sober and reasonable evidence, whether
these talents and industry have in any case attained the object they
sought. It is not to my purpose to ascertain the number of those whose
victory over the powers and inertness of matter has been complete. It
is enough that I am a living instance of the existence of such men. To
these two secrets, if they are to be considered as two, I have been
for years in the habit of resorting for my gratification. I have in my
possession the choice of being as wealthy as I please, and the gift of
immortal life. Every thing that I see almost, I can without difficulty
make my own; for what palaces, pictures, parks or gardens, rarities of
art or nature, have not a price at which their owner will consent to
yield them? The luxuries of every quarter of the world are emptied at
my feet. I can command, to an extent almost inconceivable, the passions
of men. What heart can withstand the assault of princely magnificence?
What man is inaccessible to a bribe? Add to these advantages, that I am
invulnerable to disease. Every sun that rises, finds the circulations
of my frame in the most perfect order. Decrepitude can never approach
me. A thousand winters want the power to furrow my countenance with
wrinkles, or turn my hairs to silver. Exhaustless wealth and eternal
youth are the attributes by which I am distinguished from the rest of
mankind.

I do not sit down now to write a treatise of natural philosophy. The
condition by which I hold my privileges is, that they must never be
imparted. I sit down purely to relate a few of those extraordinary
events that have been produced, in the period of my life which is
already elapsed, by the circumstances and the peculiarity to which I
have just alluded.

It is so obvious, as to make it almost improper to specify it, that
the pursuit in which so many of my contemporaries are engaged, and
the end of which I have so singularly achieved, is in its appearance
infinitely more grand and interesting than that which occupied the
thoughts of Plato and the most eminent writers of antiquity. What is
political liberty compared with unbounded riches and immortal vigour?
The immediate application of political liberty is, to render a man’s
patrimony or the fruits of his industry completely his own, and to
preserve them from the invasion of others. But the petty detail of
preservation or gradual acquisition can never enter into competition
with the _great secret_, which endows a man in a moment with every
thing that the human heart can wish. Considered in this light, how mean
and contemptible does the ambition of the boasted ancients appear,
compared with ours? What adept or probationer of the present day would
be content to resign the study of God and the profounder secrets
of nature, and to bound his ardour to the investigation of his own
miserable existence?

It may seem perhaps to many, that the history of a person possessed
of advantages so unparalleled as mine, must be, like the history
of paradise, or of the future happiness of the blessed, too calm
and motionless, too much of one invariable texture and exempt from
vicissitude, to excite the attention or interest the passions of the
reader. If he will have patience, and apply to the perusal of my
narrative, he will in no long time perceive how far his conjecture is
founded in sagacity and reason.

Some persons may be curious to know what motives can have induced a
man of such enormous wealth, and so every way qualified to revel in
delights, to take the trouble of penning his memoirs. The immortality
with which I am endowed seems to put out of the question the common
motives that relate to posthumous fame.

The curiosity here mentioned, if it really exists, I cannot consent to
gratify. I will anticipate nothing. In the progress of my story, my
motive for recording it will probably become evident.

I am descended from one of the most ancient and honourable families
of the kingdom of France. I was the only child of my father, who died
while I was an infant. My mother was a woman of rather a masculine
understanding, and full of the prejudices of nobility and magnificence.
Her whole soul was in a manner concentrated in the ambition to render
me the worthy successor of the counts de St. Leon, who had figured
with distinguished reputation in the wars of the Holy Land. My father
had died fighting gallantly in the plains of Italy under the standard
of Louis the Twelfth; a prince whose name was never repeated to me
unaccompanied with the praises due to his military prowess, and to
the singular humanity of disposition by which he acquired the title
of _The father of his people_. My mother’s mind was inflamed with the
greatness of my ancestors, and she indefatigably sought to kindle in my
bosom a similar flame. It has been a long-established custom for the
barons and feudal vassals of the kings of France to enter with great
personal expense into the brilliant and dazzling expeditions of their
sovereigns; and my father greatly impaired his fortune in preparations
for that very campaign in which he terminated his life. My mother
industriously applied herself to the restoration of my patrimony; and
the long period of my minority afforded her scope for that purpose.

It was impossible for any boy to be treated with more kindness and
considerate indulgence than I was during the period of my adolescence.
My mother loved me to the very utmost limits perhaps of human
affection. I was her darling and her pride, her waking study, and her
nightly dream. Yet I was not pampered into corporeal imbecility, or
suffered to rust in inactivity of mind. I was provided with the best
masters. I was excited, and successfully excited, zealously to apply
myself to the lessons they taught. I became intimately acquainted with
the Italian writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. I was
initiated in the study of the classics, to the cultivation of which
the revival of letters at this time gave particular ardour. I was
instructed in the principles of the fine arts. There was no species of
accomplishment at that time in vogue, that my mother was not anxious I
should make my own. The only science I neglected was the very science
which has since given rise to the most extraordinary events of my life.
But the object to which my attention was principally called, was the
pursuit of military exercises, and the cultivation of every thing that
could add to the strength, agility, or grace of my body, and to the
adventurousness and enterprise of my mind. My mother loved my honour
and my fame more than she loved my person.

A circumstance that tended perhaps more than any other to fix the yet
fluctuating character of my youthful mind, was my being present as a
spectator at the celebrated meeting between Francis the First and Henry
the Eighth, king of England, in a field between Ardres and Guines. My
mother refused to accompany me, being already arrived at an age in
which curiosity and the love of festive scenes are usually diminished,
and the expenses incurred by all the nobility who attended upon this
scene being incompatible with the economy to which she rigidly adhered.
I was therefore placed under the protection of the Marquis de Villeroy,
her brother, and, with two servants who attended me, formed a part of
his suite.

I was at this time fifteen years of age. My contemplations had been
familiar with ideas of magnificence and grandeur, but my life had
been spent in the most sequestered retirement. This contrast had a
particular effect upon my disposition; it irritated to a very high
degree my passion for splendour and distinction; I lived in the fairy
fields of visionary greatness, and was more than indifferent to the
major part of the objects around me. I pined for every thing the
reverse of my present condition; I cultivated the exercises in which
I was engaged, only as they were calculated to prepare me for future
achievements.

By the incident I have mentioned, I was transported at once from a
scene of modest obscurity, to a scene of the most lavish splendour that
the world perhaps ever contemplated. I never remembered to have seen
even Paris itself. The prevailing taste of Europe has for some time led
very much to costliness in dress. This taste, in its present profusion,
I believe took its rise in the field of the Vale of Ardres. The two
kings were both in the vigour of their youth, and were said to be the
handsomest men of the age in which they lived. The beauty of Henry was
sturdy and muscular; that of Francis more refined and elegant, without
subtracting in any considerable degree from the firmness of his make.
Henry was four years older than his brother monarch. The first of them
might have been taken as a model to represent a youthful Hercules, and
the last an Apollo.

The splendour of dress that was worn upon this occasion exceeds almost
all credibility. Every person of distinction might be said in a
manner to carry an estate upon his shoulders; nor was the variety of
garments inferior to the richness. Wolsey, a man whose magnificence of
disposition was only surpassed by the pride of his soul, was for the
most part the director of the whole. He possessed the most absolute
ascendancy over the mind of his master, at the same time that Francis
artfully indulged his caprice, that he might claim from him in return a
similar indulgence in weightier matters.

The pomp of processions, and the ceremony of opening this memorable
festival, went first; a sort of solemn and half-moving pageant, which
the eye took in at leisure, and took in till it was filled. This was
succeeded by every thing that was rapid, animated, and interesting:
masques and exhibitions of all kinds; and, which was still more to me,
and which my soul devoured with indescribable ardour, joustings, tilts,
and tournaments without end. The beauty of the armour, the caparisons
of the steeds, the mettle of the animals themselves, and the ardour and
grace of the combatants, surpassed every thing that my fancy had ever
painted. These scenes were acted in the midst of a vast amphitheatre of
spectators, where all that was noble and eminent of either country was
assembled--the manliness of aspiring youth, and the boundless varieties
of female attraction. All were in their gayest attire; every eye was
lighted up with complacency and joy. If Heraclitus, or any other morose
philosopher who has expatiated on the universal misery of mankind, had
entered the field of Ardres, he must have retracted his assertions, or
fled from the scene with confusion. The kings were placed at either
end of the lists, surrounded with their courtiers. Every eye through
this vast assembly was fixed upon the combatants; the body of every one
present was inclined this way or that, in unconscious sympathy with the
redoubted knights. From time to time, as the favourites of either party
prevailed, the air was rent with shouts and acclamations.

What added to the fascination of all that I have yet mentioned, was
that now, for the first time in an equal degree perhaps for centuries,
the stiffness of unwieldy form was laid aside, and the heart of man
expanded itself with generosity and confidence. It burst the fetters
of ages; and, having burst them, it seemed to revel in its new-found
liberty. It is well known that, after a few days of idle precaution
and specious imprisonment on both sides, Francis one morning mounted
his horse, and appeared, without guards or any previous notice, before
the tent of Henry. The example was contagious, and from this time all
ceremony was laid aside. The kings themselves entered personally into
the combats of their subjects. It was a delightful and a ravishing
spectacle, to witness the freedom of the old Roman manners, almost
of the old Roman Saturnalia, polished and refined with all that was
graceful and humane in the age of chivalry.

It may easily be imagined what an effect a scene like this was
calculated to produce upon a youth of my age and my education. I
recollected with anguish that the immaturity of my years precluded me
from taking any active part in the spectacle. My appearance however was
sufficiently advantageous. I was presented to Francis the First. He
did me the honour to question me respecting my studies; and, finding
in me some knowledge of those arts and that literature, of which he
was himself so zealous a favourer, he expressed to my uncle a great
satisfaction with my figure and acquisitions. I might from this time
have been taken to court, and made one of the pages to this illustrious
monarch. But the plan of my mother was different. She did not wish for
the present that my eye should be satiated with public scenes, or that
the public should grow too familiarly acquainted with my person. She
rightly judged that my passion for the theatre of glory would grow more
impetuous, by being withheld for some time from the gratifications for
which it panted. She wished that I should present myself for the first
time among the nobility of France an accomplished cavalier, and not
suffer the disadvantage of having exposed in the eye of the world those
false steps and frailties, from which the inexperience of youth is
never entirely free. These motives being explained to the king, he was
graciously pleased to sanction them with his approbation. I accordingly
returned to finish the course of my education at my paternal château
upon the banks of the Garonne.

The state of my mind during the three succeeding years amply justified
the sagacity of my mother. I was more eager for improvement than I had
ever yet been. I had before formed some conceptions of the career of
honour from the books I had read, and from the conversation of this
excellent matron. But my reveries were impotent and little, compared
with what I had now seen. Like the author of our holy religion, I had
spent my forty days without food in the wilderness, when suddenly my
eyes were opened, and I was presented with all the kingdoms of the
world, and all the glory of them. The fairy scene continued for a
moment, and then vanished; leaving nothing behind it on all sides, but
the same barrenness and gloom by which it had been preceded. I never
shut my eyes without viewing in imagination the combats of knights
and the train of ladies. I had been regarded with distinction by my
sovereign; and Francis the First stood before my mind the abstract and
model of perfection and greatness. I congratulated myself upon being
born in an age and country so favourable to the acquisition of all that
my soul desired.

I was already eighteen years of age, when I experienced the first
misfortune that ever befel me. It was the death of my mother. She felt
the approach of her dissolution several weeks before it arrived, and
held repeated conversations with me, respecting the feelings I ought
to entertain, and the conduct it would become me to pursue, when she
should be no more.

“My son,” said she, “your character, and the promise of your early
years, have constituted my only consolation since the death of your
excellent father. Our marriage was the result of a most sincere and
exclusive attachment; and never did man more deserve to be loved than
Reginald de St. Leon. When he died, the whole world would have been
nothing to me but one vast blank, if he had not left behind him the
representative of his person, and the heir to his virtues. While I was
busied in your education, I seemed to be discharging the last duty to
the memory of my husband. The occupation was sacred to the honour of
the dead, even before it became so peculiarly pleasing to me upon its
own account, as I afterwards found it. I hope I have in some measure
discharged the task, in the manner in which my lord your father would
have wished it to have been discharged, if he had lived. I am thankful
to Heaven, that I have been spared so long for so dear and honourable a
purpose.

“You must now, my son, stand by yourself, and be the arbitrator of
your own actions. I could have wished that this necessity might have
been a little further deferred; but I trust your education has not
been of that sort which is calculated to render a young man helpless
and contemptible. You have been taught to know your rank in society,
and to respect yourself. You have been instructed in every thing that
might most effectually forward you in the career of glory. There is not
a young cavalier among all the nobility of France more accomplished,
or that promises to do greater honour to his name and his country. I
shall not live to witness the performance of this promise, but the
anticipation even now, pours a long stream of sunshine on my departing
hour.

“Farewell, my son! You no longer stand in need of my maternal care.
When I am gone, you will be compelled more vividly to feel that
singleness and self-dependence which are the source of all virtue.
Be careful of yourself. Be careful that your career may be both
spotless and illustrious. Hold your life as a thing of no account,
when it enters into competition with your fame. A true knight thinks
no sacrifice and suffering hard, that honour demands. Be humane,
gentle, generous, and intrepid. Be prompt to follow wherever your
duty calls you. Remember your ancestors, knights of the Holy Cross.
Remember your father. Follow your king, who is the mirror of valour:
and be ever ready for the service of the distressed. May Providence be
your guardian. May Heaven shower down a thousand blessings, upon your
innocence, and the gallantry of your soul!”

The death of my mother was a severe blow to my heart. For some time all
the visions of greatness and renown which had hitherto been my chosen
delight appeared distasteful to me. I hung over her insensible corpse.
When it had been committed to the earth, I repaired every day to the
spot where it was deposited, at the hour of dusk, when all visible
objects faded from the eye, when nature assumed her saddest tints,
and the whole world seemed about to be wrapped in the darkness of the
tomb. The dew of night drizzled unheeded on my head; and I did not turn
again towards the turrets of the château, till the hour of midnight had
already sounded through the stillness of the scene.

Time is the healer of almost every grief, particularly in the sprightly
season of early youth. In no long period I changed the oppression
of inactive sorrow, for the affectionate and pious recollection of
my mother’s last instructions. I had been too deeply imbued with
sentiments of glory, for it to be possible, when the first excess
of grief was over, that I should remain in indolence. The tender
remembrance of my mother itself, in no long time, furnished a new
stimulus to my ambition. I forgot the melancholy spectacle of the last
struggles of her expiring life; I even became accustomed no longer to
hear her voice, no longer to expect her presence, when I returned to
the château from a short excursion. Her last advice was now all that
survived of the author of my existence.



CHAPTER II.


I was in this state of mind, when early one morning in the beginning
of summer, soon after I rose, I was startled by the sound of trumpets
in the plain near the château. The bugle at the gate was presently
sounded; the drawbridge was let down; and the Marquis de Villeroy
entered the court-yard, accompanied by about thirty knights in complete
armour. I saluted him with respect, and the tenderness excited by
recent grief. He took me by the hand, after a short repast in the hall,
and led me to my closet.

“My son,” said he, “it is time to throw off the effeminacy of sorrow,
and to prove yourself a true soldier of the standard of France.”

“I trust, my lord,” replied I, with modest earnestness, “that you well
know, there is nothing after which my heart so ardently aspires. There
is nothing that I know worth living for but honour. Show me the path
that leads to it, or rather show me the occasion that affords scope for
the love of honour to display itself, and you shall then see whether
I am backward to embrace it. I have a passion pent up within me, that
feeds upon my vitals: it disdains speech; it burns for something more
unambiguous and substantial.”

“It is well,” rejoined my uncle. “I expected to find you thus. Your
reply to my admonition is worthy of the blood of your ancestors, and of
the maternal instructions of my sister. And, were you as dull as the
very stones you tread on, what I have to tell you might even then rouse
you into animation and ardour.”

After this short preface my uncle proceeded to relate a tale, every
word of which inflamed my spirits, and raised all my passions in arms.
I had heard something imperfectly of the state of my country; but my
mother carefully kept me in ignorance, that my ambition might not be
excited too soon, and that, when excited, it might be with the fullest
effect. While I impatiently longed for an occasion of glory, I was far
from apprehending, what I now found to be true, that the occasion which
at this period presented itself, was such, that all the licence of
fiction could scarcely have improved it.

The Marquis de Villeroy described to me the league now subsisting
against France. He revived in my memory, by terms of the most fervent
loyalty, the accomplishments and talents of my royal master. He spoke
with aversion of the phlegmatic and crafty disposition of his imperial
rival[3]; and, with the language of glowing indignation, inveighed
against the fickleness of the capricious Henry.[4] He described the
train of disasters, which had at length induced the king to take
the field in person. He contrasted, with great effect, the story of
the gallant Chevalier Bayard, _the knight without fear and without
reproach_, whose blood was still fresh in the plains of the Milanese,
with that of the Constable of Bourbon, the stain of chivalry, whom
inglorious resentment and ungoverned ambition had urged to join the
enemies of his country, in neglect of his loyalty and his oath. He
stimulated me by the example of the one, and the infamy of the other;
and assured me that there never was an opportunity more favourable for
acquiring immortal renown.

I wanted no prompter in a passion of this sort; and immediately set
about collecting the whole force of my clients and retainers. I shook
off the inglorious softness of my melancholy, and was all activity and
animation. The lessons of my youth were now called into play. I judged
it necessary to invite the assistance of some person of experience to
assist me in marshalling my men; but I did much of what was to be done
myself, and I did it well. It was my first employment in the morning:
and the last that was witnessed by the setting sun. My excellent mother
had left my revenues in the best order, and I spared no expense in the
gratification of my favourite passion.

However eager I felt myself to take the field, the desire to appear
in a manner worthy of a Count de St. Leon restrained me; and I did
not join the royal army till the Imperialists, having broken up the
siege of Marseilles, and retreated with precipitation into Italy, the
king had already crossed the Alps, entered the Milanese, and gained
uncontested possession of the capital.

From Milan Francis proceeded to Pavia. Glory was the idol of his heart;
and he was the more powerfully excited to the attack of that place,
because it was the strongest and best fortified post in the whole
duchy. The more he displayed of military prowess, the more firmly he
believed he should fix himself in his newly acquired dominions; the
inhabitants would submit to him the more willingly, and the enemy
be less encouraged to enter into a fresh contention for what he had
acquired. Such at least were the motives that he assigned for his
proceedings: in reality perhaps he was principally induced by the
brilliancy which he conceived would attend on the undertaking.

It was a few weeks after the opening of the siege, that I presented
myself to my royal master. He received me with those winning and
impressive manners by which he was so eminently distinguished. He
recollected immediately all that had passed at our interview in the
Vale of Ardres, and warmly expressed the obligations which France had
at various times owed to my ancestors. He spoke with earnest respect
of the virtues and wisdom of my mother, and commended the resolution
by which she had in former instances held me back from the public
theatre. “Young gentleman,” said the king, “I doubt not the gallantry
of your spirit; I see the impatience of a martial temper written in
your face: I expect you to act in a manner worthy of your illustrious
race, and of the instructions of a woman who deserved to be herself
a pattern to all the matrons of France. Fear not that I shall suffer
your accomplishments to rust in obscurity. I shall employ you. I shall
assign you the post of danger and of renown. Fill it nobly; and from
that hour I shall rank you in the catalogue of my chosen friends.”

The siege of Pavia proved indeed to be a transaction, in the course
of which military honour might well be acquired. It was defended by a
small, but veteran garrison, and by one of the ablest captains that
Europe at that time possessed.[5] He interrupted the approaches of
the besiegers by frequent and furious sallies. In vain, by the aid of
our excellent artillery, did we make wide and repeated breaches in
the fortifications. No sooner did we attempt to enter by the passage
we had opened, than we found ourselves encountered by a body composed
of the choicest and bravest soldiers of the garrison. The governor of
the city, who, though grey-headed and advanced in years, was profuse
of every youthful exertion, was ordinarily at the head of this body.
If we deferred our attack, or, not having succeeded in it, proposed
to commence it anew with the dawn of the following day, we were sure
to find a new wall sprung up in the room of the other, as if by
enchantment. Frequently the governor anticipated the success of our
batteries; and the old fortification was no sooner demolished, than we
beheld, to our astonishment and mortification, a new wall, which his
prudence and skill had erected at a small interval within the line of
the former.

One of these attacks took place on the second day after my arrival at
the camp of our sovereign. Every thing that I saw was new to me, and
inflamed me with ardour. The noise of the cannon, which had preceded
the attack, and which was now hushed; the inspiring sounds of martial
music which succeeded that noise; the standards floating in the air;
the firm and equal tread of the battalion that advanced; the armour of
the knights; the rugged, resolute, and intrepid countenances of the
infantry;--all swelled my soul with transport hitherto unexperienced.
I had beheld the smoke of the artillery, in the midst of which every
thing was lost and confounded; I had waited in awful suspense till
the obscurity should be dissipated; I saw with pleasure and surprise
the ruin of the wall, and the wideness of the breach. All that had
been recorded of the military feats of Christian valour seemed then to
stand crowded in my busy brain; the generosity, the condescension, the
kindness, with which the king had addressed me the day before, urged
me to treble exertion. I was in the foremost rank. We surmounted the
ditch. We were resisted by a chosen body of Spaniards. The contention
was obstinate; brave men, generous and enterprising spirits, fell on
the one side and the other. I seized the cloth of a standard, as, in
the playing of the wind, it was brought near to my hand. Between me
and the Spaniard that held it there ensued an obstinate struggle. I
watched my opportunity, and with my sword severed the flag from its
staff. At this moment the trumpets of the king sounded a retreat. I had
received two severe wounds, one in the shoulder and the other in the
thigh, in the contest. I felt myself faint with the loss of blood. A
French officer, of a rude appearance and gigantic stature, accosting
me with the appellation of boy; commanded me to surrender the standard
to him. I refused; and, to convince him I was in earnest, proceeded
to wrap it round my body, and fastened it under my arm. Soon after I
became insensible, and in this situation was accidentally found by my
uncle and his companions, who immediately took me and my prize under
their care. As soon as I was a little recovered of my wounds, the king
seized an opportunity, after having bestowed loud commendations upon my
gallantry, of conferring the honours of knighthood upon me in the face
of the whole army.

While our tents were pitched under the walls of Pavia, I was
continually extending the circle of my acquaintance among the young
gentry of France, who, like myself, had attended their sovereign
in this memorable expedition. I had some enemies, made such by the
distinctions I obtained during the siege. But they were few; the
greater part courted me the more, the more I showed myself worthy
of their attachment. Envy is not a passion that finds easy root in a
Frenchman’s bosom. I was one of the youngest of those who attended
on the siege; but my brothers in arms were generous rivals, who in
the field obstinately strove with me for superior glory, but over the
convivial board forgot their mutual competitions, and opened their
hearts to benevolence and friendship. “Let us not,” was a sentiment I
heard often repeated, “forget the object that led us from our pleasant
homes to pour from the heights of the Alps upon the fields of Italy. It
is to humble the imperious Spaniard--to punish the disloyal Bourbon--to
vindicate the honour of our beloved and illustrious monarch. Those
walls cover the enemy; yonder mountains serve to hide them from our
assault; let no Frenchman mistake him who marches under the same
standard for an adversary.”

The trenches had not been opened before Pavia till about the beginning
of November. The winter overtook us, and the siege was yet in progress;
with some apparent advantage indeed to our side of the question, but
by no means promising an instant conclusion. The season set in with
unusual severity; and both officer and soldier were glad, as much as
possible, to fence out its rigour by the indulgences of the genial
board. My finances, as I have said, were at the commencement of the
expedition in excellent order: I had brought with me a considerable
sum; and it was not spared upon the present occasion.

There were however other things to be attended to, beside the demands
of conviviality. The king became impatient of the delays of the siege.
The garrison and the inhabitants were reduced to great extremities;
but the governor discovered no symptoms of a purpose to surrender.
In the mean time intelligence was brought, that Bourbon was making
the most extraordinary exertions in Germany, and promised to lead to
the enemy a reinforcement of twelve thousand men from that country;
while the imperial generals, by mortgaging their revenues, and pawning
their jewels, and still more by their eloquence and influence with
those under their command, were able to keep together the remains of a
disheartened and defeated army in expectation of his arrival. There
was some danger therefore, if the siege were not speedily terminated,
that the king might ultimately be obliged to raise it with ignominy, or
to fight the enemy under every disadvantage. Francis however was not to
be deterred from his undertaking. He swore a solemn oath, that Pavia
should be his, or he would perish in the attempt.

Thus circumstanced, he conceived a very extraordinary project. Pavia is
defended on one side by the Tesino, the scene of the first of the four
famous battles by which Hannibal signalised his invasion of Italy. The
king believed that if this river could by the labour of his army be
diverted from its course, the town must instantly fall into his hands.
He was encouraged to the undertaking, by recollecting a stratagem of
a similar nature by which Cyrus formerly made himself master of the
city of Babylon. It was a thought highly flattering to the grandeur of
his soul, to imagine that posterity would in this instance institute a
parallel between him and Cyrus the Great.

The plan for diverting the course of the Tesino produced a new and
extraordinary scene. It was, as may well be believed, a work of
uncommon labour. A new channel was to be scooped out and deepened; and,
while the stream was turned into this channel, piles were to be sunk,
and an immense mound of earth created, as an effectual impediment to
the waters resuming their former course. This was a heavy burthen to
the soldier, in addition to the disadvantage of being encamped during
the course of a winter remarkably severe for the climate in which we
fought. By any other army the task would have been performed with
cloudiness and discontent, if not complained of with repining and
murmurs. But here the gaiety of the French character displayed itself.
The nobility of France, who attended their sovereign in great numbers,
accompanied the infantry in their labour. We laid aside the indulgence
of the marquée, of tapestry and carpets; we threw off our upper
garments; and each seized a spade, a barrow of earth, or a mattock.
We put our hands to the engines, and refused no effort under pretence
that it was sordid or severe. While the trees were leafless, and nature
appeared bound up in frost, sweat ran down our faces and bedewed our
limbs. The army were encouraged by our example. An employment which,
under other circumstances, would have been regarded as rigid, was thus
made a source of new hilarity and amusement. It was a memorable sight
to behold the venerable and grey-headed leaders of the French army
endeavouring to exert the strength and activity of their early years.
To me, who had but lately arrived at the stature of manhood, and who
was accustomed to all the exercises which give strength and vigour to
the frame, this new employment was in no degree burdensome. I felt
in it the satisfaction that a swift man experiences when he enters
the lists of the race; I congratulated myself upon the nature of my
education; if it be a sin to covet honour, that guilt was mine; and,
so great was my appetite for it, that I was inexpressibly rejoiced to
observe the various ways in which it might be gratified.

Strange as it may seem, this scene of a winter-camp, in the midst
of blood and sweat, surrounded with dangers, and called on for
unparalleled exertions, appears to me, through the vista of years
that is now interposed between, to have been one of the happiest of
my life. The gay labours and surprises of the day were succeeded by
a convivial evening, in which we did not the less open our hearts,
though frequently liable to be interrupted in our midnight revels by
the inexhaustible activity and stratagems of the enemy. In this various
and ever-shifting scene, I forgot the disasters that occurred, and
the blood that flowed around me. All sense of a large and impartial
morality was, for the time at least, deadened in my breast. I was ever
upon the alert. The diversity of events neither suffered my spirits
to flag, nor reflection to awake. It is only upon such occasions, or
occasions like these, that a man is able fully to feel what life is,
and to revel in its exuberance. Above all, I was delighted with the
society and friendship of my brother-officers. They honoured me; they
loved me. I seemed to feel what sympathy was; and to have conscious
pleasure in making one in a race of beings like myself. Such were my
sensations.

It must not, however, be imagined, that all about me felt in these
respects as I did. I was deeply indebted in this particular to my youth
and my fortune. The old endeavoured to brace themselves in vain; they
sunk under the continual pressure. The poor soldier from the ranks
laboured incessantly, and I laboured as much as he; but he had little
opportunity to recruit his vigour and renovate his strength. There
was yet another class of persons in the camp, whose gaiety was much
less interrupted than mine. These were, the king, and the generals who
commanded under him. They could not be entirely devoid of thought and
consideration. They suffered much anxiety from the length of the siege;
and felt that every period of delay increased the doubtfulness of the
event.

Antonio de Leyva, governor of the city, necessarily felt himself
alarmed at the extraordinary project in which we were engaged, and
made every exertion to prevent it. One evening the king sent for me to
his tent, and told me in confidence that the enemy intended that very
night to make three several attacks upon our mound, one on each side of
the stream, and one by means of boats in the centre. Two of these, he
said, were merely intended as feints; the west bank of the Tesino was
the point against which their principal exertions would be directed.
On that side he was resolved to command in person; the boats with
which he proposed to resist their flota he confided to one of the most
famous and valuable officers of his army; the detachment on the east
bank he purposed to intrust to my uncle and myself. He observed, that
the detachment he could spare for that purpose, after having formed
the other two bodies, and reserved a sufficient number for the defence
of the camp and the works, would be small; and he warned me to the
exertion of a particular vigilance. It would be doubly unfortunate, if
a body, the attack upon which was to be merely a feigned one, should
nevertheless be routed. “Go,” added he, “fulfil my expectations;
deport yourself answerably to the merit of your first achievement; and
depend upon it that you will prove hereafter one of the most eminent
supporters of the martial glory of France.”

The Marquis de Villeroy divided our little force into two bodies: with
the larger he lay in wait for the enemy near the scene of the expected
attack: the smaller he confided to my direction, and placed so that
we might be able to fall upon the rear of the garrison-troops as soon
as they should be fully engaged with our comrades. In the situation
assigned me I took advantage of the skirts of a wood, which enabled
me to approach very near to the expected route of our assailants,
without being perceived by them. The night was extremely dark, yet
the vicinity of my position was such, that I could count the numbers
of the adversary as they passed along before my hiding-place. I was
alarmed to find that they amounted to at least the triple of what we
had been taught to expect. They were no sooner past, than I despatched
to the king a young knight, my particular friend, who happened to be
with me, to urge the necessity of a reinforcement. At the same time I
sent a messenger to my uncle, by a circuitous route, to inform him of
what I had observed, and the step I had taken, and to entreat him to
defer the attack as long as consistently with propriety it should be
possible. The enemy, however, had no sooner arrived at the place of
his destination, than the troops of the marquis, no longer capable of
restraint, rushed to engage. The Spaniards were at first surprised,
but a short time led them to suspect the weakness of their assailants;
nor was the assistance I brought to my uncle sufficient to turn the
fortune of the fight. We lost many of our men; the rest apparently gave
ground; and it was a vain attempt, amidst the darkness of the night,
to endeavour to restore order and rally them to the assault. We were
already almost completely overpowered, when the succours we expected
reached us. They were, however, unable to distinguish friend from
enemy. A storm of mingled rain and snow had come on, which benumbed our
limbs, drove fiercely in our faces, and rendered every object alike
viewless. The carnage which in this situation took place was terrible.
Our blows were struck at random. A Frenchman was not less dreadful than
a Spaniard. When the battle ceased, scarcely one of the enemy was left
alive; but we observed with astonishment and horror the number of the
besiegers who had probably, in the midst of the confusion, been cut to
pieces by their own countrymen.

I am now arrived at the period which put an end to the festivity and
jocundness of the campaign. All after this was one continued series
of disaster. About the close of January, our work, though not wholly
interrupted, was considerably retarded by a succession of heavy rains.
This was injurious to us in many ways; our project, which was executed
in the midst of waters, rendered additional damp a matter of serious
consideration. We were also seized with an apprehension of still
greater magnitude, which was speedily realised. The snows being at
length completely dissolved, and the quantity of water continually
increasing, we perceived one afternoon strong symptoms that our
mound, the principal subject of our labour and source of our hope,
was giving way in various places. The next morning at daybreak, it
rushed down every where at once with wonderful violence and noise. It
is difficult to describe the sensation of anguish which was instantly
and universally diffused. The labour of many weeks was overthrown in
a moment. As we had proceeded in our work, we every day saw ourselves
nearer the object to which we aspired. At this time our project was
almost completed, and Pavia was in imagination already in our hands,
to gain possession of which had cost us such unremitted exertions, the
display of so much gallantry, and the loss of so many soldiers. We were
confounded at the catastrophe we saw. We gazed at each other, each in
want of encouragement, and every one unable to afford it.

Still, however, we were not destitute of advantages. The garrison began
to be in want both of ammunition and provisions. They were in a general
state of discontent, almost of mutiny, which scarcely all the address
and authority of the governor were able to suppress. If the town
continued longer unrelieved, it was sure to fall into our hands. But
even this our last hope was considerably diminished by the intelligence
we received the very day after the destruction of our mound, that
the imperial army, after having received large reinforcements, was
approaching in considerable force. The king had some time before, in
the height of his confidence, and elation of his heart, sent off a
detachment of six thousand men to invade the kingdom of Naples; for
upon that, as well as the Milanese, he had inherited pretensions from
his immediate predecessors.

But, though the enemy was superior in numbers, and a part perhaps of
their forces better disciplined than ours, they laboured under several
disadvantages to which we were not exposed. The Emperor, though his
dominions were more extensive, did not derive from them a revenue
equal to that of Francis. As he did not take the field in person, the
war appeared to his subjects only a common war, proceeding upon the
ordinary motives of war. But my countrymen were led by their sovereign,
were fresh from the recent insolence of an invasion of their own
territory, and fought at once for personal glory and their country’s
honour. The king, who commanded them, seemed expressly formed to obtain
their attachment and affection. His nobles became enthusiastic by the
example of his enthusiasm, and willingly disbursed their revenues to
give prosperity and éclat to the campaign.

The first question that arose upon the approach of the enemy was,
whether we should break up the siege, and attend in some strong post
the slow, but sure, effect of their want of money, and the consequent
dispersion of their troops, or wait their attack in our present
posture. The former advice was safe; but to the gallant spirit of
Francis it appeared ignominious. He was upon all occasions the partisan
of rapid measures and decisive proceedings; and his temper, with the
exception of a few wary and deliberate counsellors, accorded with
that of our whole army. For some days we congratulated ourselves upon
the wisdom of our choice; we presented to the enemy so formidable an
appearance, that, notwithstanding the cogent motives he had to proceed,
he hesitated long before he ventured to attack us. At length, however,
the day came that was pregnant with so momentous expectation.

If through the whole limits of our camp there was not a man that did
not feel himself roused upon this glorious occasion, to me it was
especially interesting. The scene accorded with the whole purpose of
my education, and novelty made it impressive. I lived only in the
present moment. I had not a thought, a wish, a straggling imagination,
that wandered beyond the circuit of the day. My soul was filled; at one
minute wild with expectation, and at another awed into solemnity. There
is something indescribably delicious in this concentration of the mind.
It raises a man above himself; and makes him feel a certain nobleness
and elevation of character, of the possession of which he was to that
hour unconscious. Fear and pain were ideas that could find no harbour
in my bosom: I regarded this as the most memorable of days, and myself
as the most fortunate of mortals. Far indeed was I from anticipating
the disgraceful event, in which this elation of heart speedily
terminated.

The sun rose bright in a cloudless sky. The cold of the season was
such, as only to give new lightness and elasticity to the muscles and
animal spirits. I saw few of those objects of nature, which in this
delightful climate gave so sacred a pleasure to the human soul. But
in my present temper there was no object of sight so ravishing, as
the firm and equal steps of the martial bands, the impatience of the
war-horse, and the display of military standards; nor any music so
enchanting, as the shrillness of the pipe, the clangor of the trumpet,
the neighing of steeds, and the roaring of cannon. It is thus that man
disguises to himself the real nature of his occupation; and clothes
that which is of all things the most nefarious or most to be lamented,
with the semblance of jubilee and festival.

The Imperialists were at first unable to withstand the efforts of
French valour. They gave way on every side; we pursued our advantage
with impetuosity. To the slaughter of whole ranks mowed down with
tremendous celerity, to the agonies of the dying, I was blind; their
groans had no effect on my organ, for my soul was occupied in another
direction. My horse’s heels spurned their mangled limbs, and were red
with their blood. I fought not merely with valour, but with fury; I
animated those around me by my example and my acclamations. It may seem
contrary to delicacy to speak with this freedom of my own praises;
but I am at my present writing totally changed and removed from what
I was, and I write with the freedom of a general historian. It is
this simplicity and ingenuousness that shall pervade the whole of my
narrative.

The fortune of the day speedily changed. The cowardice and desertion
of our Swiss allies gave the first signal of adversity. The gallant
commander of the garrison of Pavia sallied out in the midst of the
fight, and suddenly attacked us in the rear. A stratagem of the
Imperial general effected the rout of our cavalry. The whole face of
the field was utterly reversed.

It would be in vain for me to attempt to describe even the small part
that I beheld of the calamity and slaughter of the French army. At
this distance of time, the recollection of it opens afresh the almost
obliterated wounds of my heart. I saw my friends cut down, and perish
on every side. Those who, together with myself, had marched out in the
morning, swelled with exultation and hope, now lay weltering in their
blood. Their desires, their thoughts, their existence, were brought to
a fatal termination. The common soldiers were hewed and cut to pieces
by hundreds, without note and observation. Many of the first nobility
of France, made desperate by the change of the battle, rushed into the
thickest of the foe, and became so many voluntary sacrifices; choosing
rather to perish, than to turn their backs with dishonour.

In the battle I had two horses killed under me. The first of them
suffered a sort of gradual destruction. He had already received one
wound in the nostrils, and another in the neck, when a third shot
carried away two of his feet, and laid him prostrate on the earth.
Bernardin, my faithful attendant, observed what was passing, and
immediately brought me a fresh charger; but I had not long mounted him,
when he received a wound which killed him on the spot. I was myself
hurt in several places, and at length the stroke of a sabre brought
me to the ground. Here I remained for a long time insensible. When I
recovered, and looked around me, I found myself in entire solitude,
and could at present perceive no trace either of the enemy or of my
own people. Soon, however, I recollected what had passed, and was but
too well assured of the defeat my countrymen had sustained. Weak
and battered as I was, I attempted to retire to a place of greater
security. I had scarcely changed my ground, before I saw a trooper
of the enemy rushing towards me, with the intention to take away my
life. Fortunately I observed a tree at hand, to the shelter of which I
hastened; and, partly by moving the branches to and fro, and partly by
shifting my position, I baffled my adversary, till he became weary of
the attempt. A moment after, I saw one of my most intimate and familiar
companions killed before my eyes. It was not long, however, before a
party of fugitive French came up to the spot where I stood, and I, like
the rest, was hurried from the field. My uncle perished in the battle.

It is wonderful how men can harden their hearts against such scenes as
I then witnessed. It is wonderful how they can be brought to co-operate
in such demoniac fury, and more than demoniac mischief, barbarity, and
murder. But they are brought to it; and enter, not from a deplorable
necessity, but as to a festival, in which each man is eager to occupy
his place, and share the amusements. It seemed to me at that time, as
it seems to me now, that it should be enough for a man to contemplate
such a field as I saw at Pavia, to induce him to abjure the trade of
violence for ever, and to commit his sword once more to the bowels of
the earth, from which it was torn for so nefarious a purpose.

These sensations, though now finally established in my mind, were, at
the time of which I am writing, but of fleeting duration. The force of
education, and the first bent of my mind, were too strong. The horror
which overwhelmed me in the first moments of this great national defeat
subsided; and the military passion returned upon me in its original
ardour. My convictions, and the moral integrity of my soul, were
temporary; and I became myself a monument of that inconstancy and that
wonder, to which I have just alluded.

Various circumstances, however, prevented this passion from its direct
operation. The character of France was altered by the battle of Pavia,
though mine remained the same. It was in the fullest degree decisive
of the fortune of the war. Milan, and every other place in the
duchy, opened their gates to the conqueror; and, in a fortnight, not
a Frenchman was left in the fields of Italy. Of the whole army only a
small body effected an orderly retreat, under the command of the Duke
of Alençon. Many persons of the highest distinction perished in the
battle: many were made prisoners by the enemy. France by this event
found the list of her noblesse considerably reduced in numbers; add to
which, those whose loss she sustained, were almost all of them taken
from among the most distinguished and meritorious in the catalogue.

But what constituted the principal feature in this memorable event
was, that the king himself was found in the number of the prisoners;
nor was he released by his ungenerous competitor till after more
than a twelvemonth’s confinement. During this period Francis tasted
of the dregs of adversity. Inclined in the first instance to judge
of his rival by himself, he expected a liberal treatment. In this
he was deeply disappointed. After a detention of many months in the
Milanese, the scene of his former successes, he was transferred to
Madrid. He was personally neglected by the emperor, while his disloyal
subject[6] was treated with singular distinction. The most rigorous
terms were proposed to him. All this had the effect, in one instance,
of sinking him into a disease of languor and dejection which he was not
expected to survive; and, in another, of inducing him to execute an
instrument by which he abdicated the crown, and declared his resolution
of remaining a prisoner for life. His confinement was at length
terminated by his solemnly engaging to compulsory articles, which he
was determined to break as soon as he found himself at liberty; an
alternative peculiarly grating to the liberality of his spirit. This
reverse of fortune materially changed his character. The fine spirit
of his ambition was from this time evaporated; and, while he still
retained the indefeasible qualities of his soul, and was gallant,
kind-hearted, and generous, he bartered, as far as was compatible
with his disposition, the enterprising and audacious temper he had
previously manifested, for the wary and phlegmatic system of his
more fortunate competitor. His genius cowered before that of Charles;
and the defeat of Pavia may, perhaps, be considered as having given a
deadly wound to the reign of chivalry, and a secure foundation to that
of craft, dissimulation, corruption, and commerce.



CHAPTER III.


The lists of military ambition then being closed, if not permanently,
at least for a time, my mind took a new bias; and, without dismissing
its most cherished and darling passion, pursued a path in the present
emergency, to which the accidents of my youth had also guided me. If my
mother had survived, she would probably either not have consented to
my serving at the siege of Pavia, or at least would have recalled me
to the obscurity of my paternal château as soon as the campaign was at
an end. I had not fully completed the twentieth year of my age, at the
period of the memorable battle in which my sovereign was made prisoner.
I was left without adviser or guide; even the Marquis de Villeroy, my
mother’s brother, of whatever consequence his admonitions to me might
have proved, was taken from me in this fatal engagement. The king
himself, perhaps, had it not been for the dreadful calamities in which
he was now involved, might have condescended to interest himself in
some degree in my welfare. By the course of events, I was left, yet a
minor, and with an ample revenue at my disposition, to be wholly guided
by the suggestions of my own mind.

In the portion of his reign already elapsed, the splendid and
interesting qualities of Francis had given a new spring to the
sentiments of the nation. He was the most accomplished and amiable
prince of the time in which he lived. There was but one of all the
sovereigns of Christendom that could cope with him in power,--the
Emperor Charles; and as Charles’s peculiarities were of a sort that
Frenchmen were accustomed to regard with aversion and contempt, so
there had not been a doubt among my compatriots, of the side upon which
the superiority would ultimately rest. By the events of the day of
Pavia they were confounded and overwhelmed. They did not despair of
their country; they soon felt, and felt to its utmost extent, the rank
which France held among the European states. But the chain of their
ideas was interrupted; they could not but be conscious that the fortune
of the kingdom had received a grievous check. The illustrious career
which they had in fancy already traversed, was postponed to a distant
period.

The consequences which flow from a suppressed ambition may easily be
imagined. The nobility of France exchanged the activity of the field
for the indulgences of the table: that concentrated spirit which had
sought to expand itself upon the widest stage, now found vent in the
exhibition of individual expense: and, above all, the sordid and
inglorious passion for gaming, a vice eminently characteristic of the
age, now especially gained strength, and drew multitudes into its
destructive vortex. It was, perhaps, impossible for a young man to have
entered the theatre of the world under less favourable auspices.

In what I have already written, I felt myself prompted to enlarge with
complacency upon the sentiments and scenes of my youth; and I have
yielded to the suggestion. The same internal admonition makes me shrink
from entering with minuteness into the detail of my ruin. I recollect
my infatuation with abhorrence; I fly from the memory with sensations
inexpressibly painful; I regard it as a cloud that overshadowed and
blackened for ever the fair prospects of my earlier years.

I shall not enumerate all my youthful companions, or all my youthful
follies. I committed a mistake obvious enough, at this immature
period of my existence, when I mistook profusion and extravagance
for splendour and dignity; and the prudent economy which my mother
had practised, served, in the present instance, as the pander to my
vices. The whole tendency of my education had been to inspire me with
a proud and restless desire of distinction; and I was not content to
play a second part in the career of my vices, as I should not have been
content to play a second part in the genuine theatre of honour and
fame. In all that was thoughtlessly spirited and gaily profligate, I
led the way to my compeers, and was constantly held up by them as an
example. By this conduct I incurred the censure of the rigorous and the
old; but the voice of censure reached me much seldomer than that of
adulation. My person and demeanour were the topics of general applause.
I was tall and well-proportioned; my frame was slender and agile, but
with an appearance of the fullest health; my countenance was open,
commanding, and animated: my rank and situation in the world gave me
confidence; the fire and impetuosity of my temper rendered my gestures
easy, rapid, expressive, and graceful. The consequence of all this was,
to confirm me in a plan of life which I early laid down to myself, and
from which I never in any instance deviated. I put aside those rules,
as splenetic and hypercritical, which confessors preach, and with which
the preceptors of young men are accustomed to weary and alienate the
minds of their pupils. The charge of being disorderly and unthinking
I despised; that of imprudence, even when meant for blame, sounded in
my ear like the voice of encomium. But, accustomed from education to
sentiments of honour, and from habit to the language of eulogy, it is
difficult for any man to be more firmly bent than I was to incur no
breath of dishonour, or to draw the line more peremptorily between the
follies of youth and the aberrations of a gross and unprincipled spirit.

It may be alleged, indeed, and with considerable justice, that the
habit of gaming is an exception to this statement. It was with
hesitation and reluctance that I entered into this habit. I saw it as
it was, and as every ingenuous and undebauched mind must see it, base
and sordid. The possession of some degree of wealth I regarded, indeed,
as indispensable to a man who would fill a lofty and respectable
character in the world; a character that, by uniting the advantages
of exterior appearance with the actions of a hero, should extort the
homage of his species. But, in the picture I drew of this man in my
mind, I considered wealth as an accident, the attendant on his birth,
to be dispensed with dignity, not to be adverted to with minuteness
of attention. Deep play is certainly sufficiently inconsistent with
this character. The direct purpose of the gamester is to transfer
money from the pocket of his neighbour into his own. He rouses his
sleepy and wearied attention by the most sordid of all motives. The
fear of losing pierces his heart with anguish; and to gain--to obtain
an advantage for himself which can scarcely exceed, and which seldom
equals, the injury his competitor suffers,--is the circumstance which
most transports his heart with delight. For this he watches; for this
he calculates. An honourable gamester does not seize with premeditation
the moment when his adversary is deprived, by wine or any other cause,
of his usual self-possession. He does not seek with sober malice to
play upon his passions. He does not enter with avidity into the contest
with an unpractised but presuming rival: but he cannot avoid rejoicing,
when he finds that accident has given him an unusual advantage. I have
often thought that I could better understand how a man of honour could
reconcile himself to the accursed and murderous trade of war, than to
the system of the gaming table. In war, he fights with a stranger,
a man with whom he has no habits of kindness, and who is fairly
apprised that he comes against him with ruinous intent. But in play,
he robs, perhaps, his brother, his friend, the partner of his bosom;
or, in every event, a man seduced into the snare with all the arts of
courtesy, and whom he smiles upon, even while he stabs.

I am talking here the mere reason and common sense of the question
as it relates to mankind in general. But it is with other feelings
that I reflect upon the concern I have myself individually in the
subject. Years roll on in vain; ages themselves are useless here;
looking forward, as I do, to an existence that shall endure till time
shall be no more; no time can wipe away the remembrance of the bitter
anguish that I have endured, the consequence of gaming. It is torture!
It is madness! Poverty, I have drained thy cup to the dregs! I have
seen my wife and my children looking to me in vain for bread! Which
is the most intolerable distress?--that of the period, in which all
the comforts of life gradually left me; in which I caught at every
fragment of promise, and every fragment failed; in which I rose every
morning to pamper myself with empty delusions; in which I ate the
apples of purgatory, fair without, but within bitterness and ashes; in
which I tossed, through endless, sightless nights, upon the couch of
disappointment and despair?--or the period, when at length all my hopes
were at an end; when I fled with horror to a foreign climate; when my
family, that should have been my comfort, gave me my most poignant
agony; when I looked upon them, naked, destitute, and exiles, with the
tremendous thought, what and who it was that had caused their ruin?
Adversity, without consolation,--adversity, when its sting is remorse,
self-abhorrence and self-contempt,--hell has no misery by which it can
be thrown into shade or exceeded!

Why do I dwell upon, or at least why do I anticipate, this detested
circumstance of my story? Let me add one remark in this place, and
pass on to the other particulars of this epoch of my prodigality. It
is true, I must take this shameful appellation to myself--I was a
gamester. But, in the beginning, I took no concern in that species of
science which is often implied in the appellation. My games were games
of hazard, not of skill. It appeared to my distempered apprehension
to be only a mode in which for a man to display his fortitude and
philosophy; I was flattered with the practice of gaming, because I saw
in it, when gracefully pursued, the magnanimity of the stoic, combined
with the manners of a man of the world; a magnanimity that no success
is able to intoxicate, and no vicissitude to subvert. I committed my
property to the hazard of the die; and I placed my ambition in laughing
alike at the favours of fortune and her frowns. In the sequel, however,
I found myself deceived. The fickle goddess sufficiently proved that
she had the power of making me serious. But in her most tremendous
reverses, I was never influenced to do any thing that the most
scrupulous gamester regards as dishonourable. I say not this for the
purpose of giving colour and speciousness to my tale. I say it, because
I have laid it down to myself in this narrative as a sacred principle,
to relate the simple, unaltered truth.

Another characteristic of the reign of Francis the First, is its
gallantries. It is well known how much the king was himself occupied
with attachments of this sort; his government was rather the government
of women than of politicians; and the manners of the sovereign strongly
tended to fix the habits of his subjects. A very young man rather
takes the tone of his passions from those about him, than forms one
that is properly his own; and this was my case in the present instance
as well as in the preceding. Originally of an amorous constitution, I
should perhaps have quieted the restlessness of my appetites without
ostentation and éclat, had not the conduct of my youthful associates in
general led me to regard gallantry as an accomplishment indispensably
necessary in a young man of rank. It must be confessed, indeed, that
this offence against the rigour of discipline has a thousand advantages
over that of gaming. Few women of regular and reputable lives have that
ease of manners, that flow of fancy, and that graceful intrepidity
of thinking and expressing themselves, that is sometimes to be found
among those who have discharged themselves from the tyranny of custom.
There is something irresistibly captivating in that voluptuousness
which, while it assumes a certain air of freedom, uniformly and
with preference conforms itself to the dictates of unsophisticated
delicacy. A judicious and limited voluptuousness is necessary to the
cultivation of the mind, to the polishing of the manners, to the
refining of sentiment and the developement of the understanding; and
a woman deficient in this respect may be of use for the government
of our families, but can neither add to the enjoyments, nor fix the
partiality, of a man of animation and taste.

But whatever there may be in these considerations, certain it is that
the conduct I pursued in matters of gallantry led me into great and
serious expenses. The mistresses with whom I chanced to associate had
neither the inexpressible captivation of madame de Chateaubriant,
nor the aspiring and impressive manners of the duchess d’Etampes[7].
They had, however, beauty and vivacity, frolic without rudeness,
and softness without timidity. They had paid some regard to points
of knowledge and taste, considering these as additional means for
fixing the partiality of their paramours, and knowing that they had
no security for the permanence of their prosperity but in the variety
of their attractions. In their society I was led into new trains of
reflection, a nicer consideration of human passion and the varieties of
human character, and, above all, into a greater quickness and delicacy
in matters of intellectual taste. My hours, for the most part, rolled
swiftly and easily away, sometimes in the society of the young, the gay
and the ambitious of my own sex, and sometimes in the softer and more
delicious intercourse of the fair. I lived in the midst of all that
Paris could at that time furnish of splendid and luxurious. This system
of living was calculated to lull me in pleasing dreams, and to waste
away existence in delirious softness. It sufficiently accorded with
the sad period of our sovereign’s captivity, when my young compatriots
sought to drown the sense of public and patriotic considerations in
copious draughts of pleasure; nor did the monarch’s return immediately
restore to France her former haughtiness and pride.

The course of sensuality in which I was now engaged, though it did not
absolutely sink into grossness, may well be supposed to have trodden
upon the very edge of licence. I and my companions were young; we
were made fearless and presuming by fortune and by rank; we had laid
aside those more rigorous restraints which render the soberer part of
mankind plausible and decent, by making them timid and trite. I will
not contaminate the minds of my innocent and inexperienced readers by
entering into the detail of the follies in which I engaged.

One thing it is necessary to remark, as essential to the main
thread of my story. My expenses of all kinds, during this period of
self-desertion, drained my resources, but did not tarnish my good
name. My excesses were regarded by some as ornamental and becoming,
but by all were admitted as venial. The laurels I had won in the field
of military honour were not obscured by my subsequent conduct. I was
universally ranked among the most promising and honourable of the
young noblemen of France. I had some rivals; I did not pass through
this turbulent and diversified scene without disputes; but no one
cast a reflection upon my name, no one ventured to speak of me with
superciliousness and opprobrium. Nor was my temper more injured than
my reputation. From every dispute I extricated myself with grace
and propriety; I studied the pleasure and ease of all with whom I
associated; and no man enjoyed more extensively than I did the sweets
of friendship, as far as the sweets of friendship can be extensively
enjoyed.



CHAPTER IV.


I had been now two years in habits of life and a mode of expense
extremely injurious to my patrimony, when a circumstance occurred,
which promised completely to deliver me from the ruinous consequences
of my own folly. This was no other than my encounter with that
incomparable woman, who afterwards became the partner of my life, and
the mother of my children. I cannot even now recollect her without
tears: the sentiment which her very name excites in my mind is a
mingled feeling, on the one hand, of the most exquisite and unspeakable
delight, a feeling that elevates and expands and electrifies my
throbbing heart; and, on the other, of the bitterest anguish and
regret. I must develope the source of this feeling.

Marguerite Louise Isabeau de Damville was, at the period of our first
meeting, in the nineteenth year of her age. Her complexion was of
the most perfect transparency, her eyes black and sparkling, and her
eyebrows dark and long. Such were the perfect smoothness and clearness
of her skin, that at nineteen she appeared five years younger than
she was, and she long retained this extreme juvenility of form. Her
step was airy and light as that of a young fawn, yet at the same
time firm, and indicative of strength of body and vigour of mind.
Her voice, like the whole of her external appearance, was expressive
of undesigning, I had almost said childish, simplicity. Yet, with
all this playfulness of appearance, her understanding was bold and
correct. Her mind was well furnished with every thing that could add
to her accomplishments as a wife or a mother. Her indulgent parents
had procured her every advantage of education, and circumstances had
been uncommonly favourable to her improvement. She was encouraged
and assisted in the art of drawing, for which she discovered a very
early talent, by Leonardo da Vinci; and she formed her poetical taste
from the conversation and instructions of Clement Marot. But, amidst
the singular assemblage of her intellectual accomplishments, there
was nothing by which she was so much distinguished, as the uncommon
prudence of her judgments, and the unalterable amiableness of her
manners. This was the woman destined to crown my happiness, and
consummate my misery. If I had never known her, I should never have
tasted true pleasure; if I had been guided by her counsels, I should
not have drained to the very dregs the cup of anguish.

The house of her father, the Marquis de Damville, was the resort of
all the most eminent wits and scholars of that period, particularly of
Marot, Rabelais, Erasmus and Scaliger. This was my first inducement to
frequent it. My education had inspired me with an inextinguishable love
of literature; and the dissipation in which I was at this time involved
could not entirely interrupt the propensity. The most thoughtless and
extravagant period of my life had occasional intervals of study and
reflection; and the gay, animated, and ingenious conversation of the
men I have mentioned, had always peculiar charms for me.

I had continued for some time to visit at the Marquis’s hotel, before
I encountered the beautiful Marguerite. The first time I saw her, she
made a deep impression upon me. The Marquis, who was one of the most
benevolent and enlightened of mankind, had been led by my character and
manners to conceive a warm friendship for me. He saw the ruin in which
I was heedlessly involving myself, and believed that it was not yet
too late to save me. As he thought that there was no method so likely
to effect my reformation as the interposition of domestic affections,
he was not unwilling to encourage the attachment I began to feel for
his daughter. On my part I wanted but little encouragement. I no sooner
observed her manners, and became acquainted with her merits, than my
heart was unalterably fixed. I became as it were a new man. I was like
one, who, after his eyes had grown imperceptibly dim till at length
every object appeared indistinct and of a gloomy general hue, has his
sight instantaneously restored, and beholds the fabric of the universe
in its genuine clearness, brilliancy, and truth. I was astonished at my
own folly, that I could so long have found gratification in pleasures
mean and sensual. I was ashamed of my own degradation. I could not
endure the comparison between the showy, unsubstantial attractions of
the women I had hitherto frequented, and the charms of the adorable
Marguerite. The purity of her mind seemed to give a celestial
brilliancy and softness to the beauties of her person. The gross and
brutal pursuits of the debauchee are often indeed described by the same
epithets as the virtuous and refined passion with which I was now for
the first time inspired; but experience convinced me that they differed
in their most essential features.

The Marquis saw the state of my mind, and addressed me thus. “Count,”
said he, “I feel the most ardent friendship for you. I am inexpressibly
concerned for your welfare. You will be convinced of this, when I have
furnished you with a clue to my late conduct towards you. I regard you,
if not as a ruined man, at least as a man in the high road to ruin.
Your present habits are of the most dangerous sort; they appear to
you perfectly conformable to principles of the strictest honour; nay,
they come recommended to you by a certain éclat and dignity with which
they seem to be surrounded. I could say to you, Recollect yourself.
Be not misled by delusive appearances. Consider the present state of
your fortune, and the state in which your mother left it. You cannot be
ignorant how greatly it is impaired. How has this circumstance arisen?
Have your revenues been expended in the service of your country?
Have you purchased any thing by them that will confer on you lasting
renown? Put together the sum of actions, which, piece by piece, you
have been willing to regard as indifferent and innocent, if not as
graceful and becoming. You cannot but be struck with their monstrous
deformity. Is it possible that you can be ignorant of the nature of
poverty? There is such a thing as honourable poverty. The poverty of
Cincinnatus was honourable, who impoverished himself by paying the fine
which was factiously imposed on his son, and then was contented to
pass his time alternately between the highest situations and the most
rigid simplicity. The poverty of a man of genius, such as Rabelais,
if not honourable, is interesting, when we compare his merits and
worth with that of many of those persons upon whom fortune has blindly
lavished her favours. It is honourable, if he have declined the means
of enriching himself by the sacrifice of his independence and his
principles. But of all earthly things the most contemptible is the
man who, having wasted his goods in riotous living, yet hungers after
the luxuries that have proved his bane, and feasts himself upon the
steam of dainties of which he has lost the substance. Poverty, always
sufficiently disadvantageous in a degenerate age, where attention and
courtship are doled forth with scales of gold, is tremendous to him.
He is the scorn of all mankind. Wherever he is a guest, he is invited
only to be trampled upon and insulted. He is capable of nothing, and is
a burden to society and mankind. The helplessness of age advances upon
him with stealing steps, and he is destined to gather all its miseries
and none of its consolations.

“I might have talked to you thus, but I refused it. I apprehend
something of the nature of advice. I know that it can seldom be
attended with its genuine effect, and will never be received
with deference and pleasure, where its motives are capable of
misconstruction. If I had talked to you thus, I might have appeared
to be indulging the tyranny of age; I might have seemed to assume an
unbecoming air of superiority and command: it could not have been clear
that I was honestly interested in that, about which I affected so much
concern. I doubt not the ingenuousness of your nature. I doubt not that
you would have been struck with the picture. But I must be permitted to
doubt the adequate and lasting effect of my expostulation. I was not
willing by my forwardness and loquacity to wear out one of the great
springs of human improvement.

“I have determined on your reform. For that purpose I think it
necessary to combine my remonstrances and advice, with a change of your
habits and situation. You have tasted largely of what are commonly
called the pleasures of life, but there are pleasures that you have not
tasted. At this moment you anticipate them; and anticipate them with
the ardour of a lover. But you know not yet all the gratifications that
attend upon domestic affections.

“I am willing to bestow upon you my daughter. I consent to prove the
purity of my advice, and the sincerity of my regard, by committing her
happiness to the risk. She is a treasure, the equal of which perhaps
the world does not hold. I speak not of her personal attractions.
But in understanding, accomplishments, and virtue, I firmly believe
no woman living can compare with her. In possessing her, you will
be blessed beyond the lot of princes. But, at the same time that I
shall thus put happiness within your grasp, remember that I commit
to your disposal the happiness of Marguerite. You are a worthy and
an honourable man; your talents and your virtues will constitute her
felicity. Her portion will redeem the injury which your patrimony has
suffered from your excesses, and you will have enough for yourselves,
and for your mutual offspring. I cannot believe that, with such a
deposit intrusted to you, you will consent to bring her to misery and
ruin.

“I have one condition, however, to stipulate with you. I require of
you, as the pledge of her happiness, that you break off your present
modes of life; that you separate yourself from your connections, and
retire into the country upon your paternal estate. You are yet too
young to be in danger from that tyranny of custom, which often renders
men more advanced in life incapable of relishing the simple and
genuine pleasures. You will find contentment and joy in the society
of my daughter, and in the bosom of your rising family. You will be
happy in the circle of your own hearth, and have little to ask of the
rest of mankind. If, in any ill-omened and inauspicious moment, the
allurements of your present vices (forgive the plainness of my speech)
should resume their power over you, I hope at least that I shall never
live to see it; that I shall not be taught by bitter experience, that I
have sacrificed to the disinterestedness of my friendship the happiness
of my daughter and of my posterity!”

My heart weeps blood, while I record the admonitions of this noble
and generous man. A nobler France did not contain through all her
boundaries. Refined by literature, polished by the best society his
age could afford, grown grey in the field of honour, and particularly
distinguished by the personal attachment and confidence of his
sovereign. What was all this advice to me? What return did I make to
this unparalleled kindness and friendship? I ruined this admirable
woman! I involved her in poverty and shame! With the most savage
barbarity I prepared for her an immature grave! Can I forget this? Of
what avail to me are immortal life and immortal youth? Oh, Marguerite,
Marguerite! For ever thy image haunts me! For ever thy ghost upbraids
me! How little have I proved myself worthy of such a partner! Rather
what punishment, what plagues, what shame and detestation have I not
deserved! Praised be Heaven, the last prayer of the Marquis of Damville
at least was granted! He did not live to witness my relapse, my
profligacy, and insanity.

I resume the thread of my story.--I listened to the address of the
Marquis with reverence and admiration. I accepted his conditions with
joy. I married his adorable daughter, and conducted her to my paternal
estate in the Bourdelois. Now only it was that I tasted of perfect
happiness. To judge from my own experience in this situation, I should
say, that nature has atoned for all the disasters and miseries she so
copiously and incessantly pours upon her sons, by this one gift, the
transcendent enjoyment and nameless delights which, wherever the heart
is pure and the soul is refined, wait on the attachment of two persons
of opposite sexes. My beloved Marguerite guided and directed me, at the
same time that she was ever studying my gratification. I instructed
her by my experience, while she enlightened me by the rectitude and
decision of her taste. Ours was a sober and dignified happiness, and
its very sobriety served to give it additional voluptuousness. We
had each our separate pursuits, whether for the cultivation of our
minds, or the promotion of our mutual interests. Separation gave us
respectability in each other’s eyes, while it prepared us to enter
with fresh ardour into society and conversation. In company with each
other, hours passed over us, and appeared but minutes. It has been said
to be a peculiar felicity for any one to be praised by a man who is
himself eminently a subject of praise: how much happier to be prized
and loved by a person worthy of love? A man may be prized and valued by
his friend; but in how different a style of sentiment from the regard
and attachment that may reign in the bosom of his mistress or his wife?
Self-complacency and self-satisfaction may perhaps be numbered among
the principal sources of contentment. It is necessary for him who would
endure existence with patience, that he should conceive himself to
be something,--that he should be persuaded he is not a cipher in the
muster-roll of man. How bitter is the anguish we are sometimes doomed
to sustain in this respect from the marks we receive of other men’s
indifference and contempt? To feel that we are loved by one whose
love we have deserved, to be employed in the mutual interchange of
the marks of this love, habitually to study the happiness of one by
whom our happiness is studied in return, this is the most desirable,
as it is the genuine and unadulterated condition of human nature. I
must have some one to sympathise with; I cannot bear to be cut off
from all relations: I desire to experience a confidence, a concord,
an attachment, that cannot rise between common acquaintance. In every
state we long for some fond bosom on which to rest our weary head; some
speaking eye with which to exchange the glances of intelligence and
affection. Then the soul warms and expands itself; then it shuns the
observation of every other beholder; then it melts with feelings that
are inexpressible, but that the heart understands without the aid of
words; then the eyes swim with rapture; then the frame languishes with
enjoyment; then the soul burns with fire; then the two persons thus
blest are no longer two; distance vanishes, one thought animates, one
mind informs them. Thus love acts; thus it is ripened to perfection;
never does man feel himself so much alive, so truly etherial, as when,
bursting the bonds of diffidence, uncertainty and reserve, he pours
himself entire into the bosom of the woman he adores.

Marguerite de Damville was particularly distinguished from every other
woman I ever knew by the justness of her taste and the vividness of
her feelings. This circumstance was a fund of inexhaustible delight
and improvement to me. We were both of us well acquainted with the
most eminent poets and fine writers of modern times. But when we came
to read them together, they presented themselves in a point of view
in which they had never been seen by us before. It is, perhaps, more
important that poetry, and every thing that excites the imagination
or appeals to the heart, should be read in solitude, than in society.
But the true way to understand our author in these cases, is to employ
each of these modes in succession. The terrible, the majestic, the
voluptuous and the melting, are all of them, in a considerable degree,
affairs of sympathy; and we never judge of them so infallibly, or with
so much satisfaction, as when, in the presence of each other, the
emotion is kindled in either bosom at the same instant, the eye-beams,
pregnant with sentiment and meaning, involuntarily meet and mingle; the
voice of the reader becomes modulated by the ideas of his author, and
that of the hearer, by an accidental interjection of momentary comment
or applause, confesses its accord. It was in this manner that we read
together the admirable sonnets of Petrarch, and passed in review the
sublime effusions of Dante. The letters of Eloisa to Abelard afforded
us singular delight. We searched into the effusions of the Troubadours,
and, among all their absurdities and inequality, we found a wildness, a
daring pouring forth of the soul, an unpruned richness of imagination,
and, from time to time, a grandeur of conception and audacious
eccentricity of thought, that filled us with unlooked for transport.
At other times, when not regularly engaged in this species of reading,
we would repeat passages to each other, communicate the discoveries of
this sort that either had made in solitude, and point out unobserved
beauties, that perhaps neither of us would have remarked, but for
the suggestions of the other. It is impossible for two persons to be
constituted so much alike, but that one of them should have a more
genuine and instantaneous relish for one sort of excellence, and
another for another. Thus we added to each other’s stores, and acquired
a largeness of conception and liberality of judgment that neither of
us would have arrived at if separate. It is difficult to imagine how
prolific this kind of amusement proved of true happiness. We were
mutually delighted to remark the accord of our feelings, and still
more so, as we perceived that accord to be hourly increasing, and what
struck either as a blemish in the other, wearing out and disappearing.
We were also led by the same means to advert to the powers of mind
existing in each, the rectitude of judgment and delicacy of feeling. As
our attachment hourly increased, we rejoiced in this reciprocation of
benefits, while each gave or received something that added to value of
mind and worth of character. Mutual esteem was incessantly kept alive,
and mutual esteem is the only substantial basis of love. Each of us
hourly blessed our common lot, while each believed it impracticable
elsewhere to have found so much worth blended with so much sweetness.

But we did not confine ourselves to the library and fireside. We
walked, we rode, we travelled together; we observed together the
beauties of nature, and the system of the universe; we traversed many
provinces of France, and some parts of Italy and Spain; we examined
the characters of mankind, as they are modified by the varieties of
natural descent, or the diversities of political government. In all
this we found peculiar gratification. There is something in the scent
and impression of a balmy atmosphere, in the lustre of sunshine, in
the azure heaven and the purple clouds, in the opening of prospects on
this side and on that, in the contemplation of verdure and fertility,
and industry and simplicity and cheerfulness, in all their variations,
in the very act and exercise of travelling, peculiarly congenial to
the human frame. It expands the heart, it makes the spirit dance,
and exquisitely disposes us for social enjoyment. The mind becomes
more elevated and refined, it assumes a microscopical and unwonted
sensibility; it feels things which, in ordinary moments, are unheeded
and unknown; it enjoys things too evanescent for a name, and too minute
to be arrested; it trembles with pleasure through every fibre and every
articulation.

One thing is necessary to be mentioned in this place, though, while it
adds to the fidelity of delineation, I am aware it breaks the tone of
feeling, and the harmony of the picture. But it is not my intention
in this history to pass myself for better than I am. I have laid down
to myself the sacred maxim of absolute truth and impartiality. I must
confess, therefore, with whatever anguish, my extreme inferiority to
my incomparable partner. She had all the simplicity of genuine taste.
The more she delivered herself up to nature, the greater was her
content. All superfluous appendages and show appeared to her as so
many obstacles to enjoyment. She derived her happiness from the tone
of her own mind, and stood in no need of the gaping admiration and
stupid wonder of others to make her feel herself happy. But I retained
the original vice of my mind. The gestures of worship and the voice
of applause were necessary to me. I did not suffice to myself. I was
not satisfied with the tranquil and inglorious fruition of genuine
pleasures, forgetting the vain and anxious tumult of the world,
and forgotten by those who figured on its theatre. It may be, that
Marguerite could, and ought, by insensible degrees, to have rooted out
this disease of my mind. But I am concerned only with the statement of
facts; and I know that no such thing was the effect of our intercourse.

This absurd passion did not, however, at this time, lead me to any
fatal extremities. It contented itself with the frivolous gratification
resulting from a certain portion of ostentation and expense. I
maintained a considerable train of servants: my apartments were
magnificent, and my furniture splendid. When we travelled, it was
with an attendance little short of princely. Idiot that I was, to
regard this as an addition to the genuine pleasures which I have above
enumerated! When we were at home, every accidental guest was received
and entertained with extraordinary pomp, a pomp not directed to add to
his accommodation, but that was designed to leave him impressed with
astonishment and admiration at the spirit of his host. Often, indeed,
did I feel this ostentation an encumbrance: often did I languish for
the ease and freedom which result from a mediocrity of circumstances.
But this I called, doing honour to my ancestors and my country, and
vindicating the consideration due to the house of St. Leon.

To quit this painful recollection.--A circumstance which tended at this
time to fill the measure of my happiness, consisted in the dear pledges
which Marguerite bore me of our mutual affection. It is impossible for
him who has not experienced it, to conceive the accumulation which
a genuine tenderness derives from this source. The difficulties are
many that attend upon pregnancy; trifles are at that period sources
of fatigue and injury; it is necessary that the person should be
protected, and the mind tranquil. We love to watch over a delicate
plant, that appears to call for all our anxiety and attention. There
is in this case the sentiment, without the repulsive circumstances
that attends upon our sympathy with a dangerous and alarming disease.
Marguerite, by her sensibility and growing attachment, abundantly
rewarded my cares. At length the critical period arrives, when an event
so extraordinary occurs, as cannot fail to put the human frame in
considerable jeopardy. Never shall I forget the interview between us
immediately subsequent to her first parturition, the effusion of soul
with which we met each other after all danger seemed to have subsided,
the kindness which animated us, increased as it was by ideas of peril
and suffering, the sacred sensation with which the mother presented her
infant to her husband, or the complacency with which we read in each
other’s eyes a common sentiment of melting tenderness and inviolable
attachment!

This, she seemed to say, is the joint result of our common affection.
It partakes equally of both, and is the shrine in which our sympathies
and our life have been poured together, never to be separated. Let
other lovers testify their engagements by presents and tokens; we
record and stamp our attachment in this precious creature, a creature
of that species which is more admirable than any thing else the world
has to boast, a creature susceptible of pleasure and pain, of affection
and love, of sentiment and fancy, of wisdom and virtue. This creature
will daily stand in need of an aid we shall delight to afford; will
require our meditations and exertions to forward its improvement, and
confirm its merits and its worth. We shall each blend our exertions,
for that purpose, and our union, confirmed by this common object
of our labour and affection, will every day become more sacred and
indissoluble.--All this the present weakness of my beloved Marguerite
would not allow her to say. But all this occurred to my reflections;
and, when we had time tranquilly to compare our recollection of the
event, it plainly appeared that in all this our hearts and conceptions
had most truly sympathised.

The possessing a third object, a common centre of anxiety to both, is
far from weakening the regard of such a couple for each other. It does
not separate or divert them; it is a new link of connection. Each is
attached to it the more for the sake of either; each regards it as a
sort of branch or scion, representing the parent; each rejoices in its
health, its good humour, its smiles, its increase in size, in strength,
and in faculties, principally from the idea of the gratification
they will communicate to the other. Were it not for this idea, were
it possible the pleasure should not be mutual, the sentiment would
be stripped of its principal elevation and refinement; it would be
comparatively cold, selfish, solitary, and inane.

In the first ten years of our marriage my wife brought me five
children, two sons and three daughters. The second son only died in
his infancy. My predominant passion at this time was that of domestic
pleasures and employments, and I devoted myself, jointly with the
mother, to the cultivation of the minds of my children. They all
in a considerable degree rewarded our care; they were all amiable.
Taught by the example of their parents, they lived in uncommon
harmony and affection. Charles, the eldest, was a lad of a bold and
active disposition; but the sentiments of virtue and honour that were
infused into him, both by Marguerite and myself, found a favourable
reception, and promised to render those qualities, which, if left to
themselves, might have been turbulent and dangerous, productive of
the happiest consequences. Julia, his eldest sister, was uncommonly
mild and affectionate, alive to the slightest variations of treatment,
profoundly depressed by every mark of unkindness, but exquisitely
sensible to demonstrations of sympathy and attachment. She appeared
little formed to struggle with the difficulties of life and the frowns
of the world; but, in periods of quietness and tranquillity nothing
could exceed the sweetness of her character and the fascination of
her manners. Her chief attachment was to her mother, though she was
by no means capable of her mother’s active beneficence and heroic
fortitude. Louisa, the second daughter, resembled her mother in person,
and promised to resemble her in character. Marguerite, the youngest,
differed from the whole family, in the playfulness and frolic of her
disposition. Her vivacity was inexhaustible, and was continually
displaying itself in innocent tricks, and smart, unexpected sallies.
Nothing could possibly be more ingenuous than this admirable infant;
nothing more kind, considerate, and enthusiastic in her tenderness and
grief, when an occasion occurred to call forth these sentiments. But
the moment the sorrowful occasion was over, she would resume all her
vivacity; and even sometimes, in the midst of her tears, some trait of
her native humour would escape. I know not whether all the family were
not more attached to the little Marguerite than to any other individual
member, as she certainly oftenest contributed to their amusement and
pleasure.--Such was the amiable circle, one and all of whom have been
involved by me in the most tremendous ruin and disgrace.



CHAPTER V.


Charles was now nine years of age. His mother and myself had delighted
ourselves with observing and forwarding the opening of his infant mind,
and had hitherto been contented with the assistance of a neighbouring
priest by way of preceptor. But, as he was our only son, we were
desirous that he should obtain every advantage of education. We were
neither of us illiterate; but, in the course of twenty-three years,
which had elapsed since I was myself of Charles’s age, the progress of
literature and the literary passion in Europe had been astonishingly
great, and I was anxious that he should realise in his own person every
benefit which the fortunate and illustrious period of human affairs in
which he began to exist seemed to hold out to him. Beside, there was
an impetuosity and forwardness in his character, that seemed ill to
brook the profound solitude and retirement in which his mother and I
were contented to live. His case demanded companions of his own age, a
little world of fellow-beings, with whom he might engage in their petty
business and cares, with whose passions his own might jostle or might
sympathise, who might kindle his emulation, and open to him the field
of fraternal associations and amity.

There was, however, a considerable difficulty attendant on this
question. The schools of real literature in France, where languages
were properly taught, and science might be acquired, were at this time
exceedingly few. The nearest university was that of Toulouse, at the
distance of twenty-six leagues. This was, practically speaking, as far
from us as Paris itself. Was then our darling child to be torn from
his parents, from all he was accustomed to see, and all by whom he
was loved, to be planted in the midst of strangers, to have his mind
excited to observation, and the spirit of generous contention roused,
at the risk of suppressing the tender affections of his soul, and the
sentiments of duty, reliance, and love? There seemed, however, to be
no alternative. It was necessary that a temporary separation should
take place. Intellectual improvement was a point by all means to be
pursued; and we must direct our efforts to keep alive along with
it those winning qualities, and that softness of heart, which had
hitherto rendered Charles so eminently our delight. Such were our fond
speculations and projects for the future.

It was at length determined that I should proceed along with him to
Paris. I could there observe upon the spot the state of the university,
and the means of learning that existed in the metropolis; and could
consult with some of those eminent luminaries with whom I had become
acquainted at the house of the Marquis de Damville. Marguerite declined
accompanying me upon this occasion. Her father was dead: she could
not think of quitting her daughters for any considerable time; and
our nuptial engagement of residing always in the country gave her a
repugnance to the removing with her whole family to Paris. It was left
probable that she might come to me when the business was settled, if at
that time it was determined to leave her son at the capital; and that
she might then reconduct me to the place, which had been the scene of
all my happiness, but which I was destined never to revisit in peace.

Preliminaries being at length fully adjusted in the manner that
appeared suitable to the importance of the occasion, I set off for
the metropolis of my country, which I had seen only once, and that
for a very short period, in the course of ten years. That visit had
been produced by a very melancholy circumstance, the death of the
Marquis de Damville. Marguerite and myself had then been summoned,
and arrived at his hotel but a few days before he expired. Though
extremely weakened by the mortal disease under which he laboured, he
retained all the faculties of his mind, and conversed with us in the
most affectionate and endearing terms. He congratulated us upon our
mutual felicity; nor could the situation in which we found him, upon
the brink of an everlasting oblivion of all earthly things, abate the
sincerity and fervour of his delight. He thanked me for my carriage
and conduct as a husband, which, he said, might with propriety be
held up as a model to the human species. He applauded himself for
that mingled discernment and determination, which, as he affirmed,
had so opportunely secured my virtue and his daughter’s happiness. He
trusted that I was now sufficiently weaned from those habits which had
formerly given him so much alarm. At the same time he conjured me, by
every motive that an overflowing enthusiasm could suggest, to persist
in my good resolutions, and never to change that residence, where I
had found every degree of delight of which the human mind is in its
present condition susceptible. “Do not,” said he, “be drawn aside by
ambition; do not be dazzled by the glitter of idle pomp and decoration;
do not enter the remotest circle of the vortex of dissipation! Live in
the midst of your family; cultivate domestic affection; be the solace
and joy of your wife; watch for the present and future welfare of your
children; and be assured that you will then be found no contemptible or
unbeneficial member of the community at large!”

Such were the last advices of the Marquis de Damville. Excellent
man! how ill were your lessons remembered! how ill your kindness
remunerated! He died in the sixth year of our marriage. The serious
impression which this event produced in my mind gave me small
inclination to enter into any species of society, and disposed me to
quit Paris as soon as every respect had been paid to the obsequies of
the deceased.

Upon my arrival in the metropolis on the present occasion, I
immediately sought to renew my acquaintance with those amiable and
eminent persons, who had for the most part constituted the circle
of the Marquis de Damville. They received me with that interest and
attention that I have usually found attendant on a cultivated mind. The
pleasure was considerable, that resulted from meeting them thus again,
after ten years’ cessation of intercourse. A few of them, indeed, were
dead, and others dispersed by various accidents in different parts
of France or of Europe. The greater part, however, I still found in
that celebrated city, which might well be considered as the metropolis
of the civilised world. The king had early been distinguished by his
love of letters and the arts; and added years, while they abated in
his mind the eagerness of ambition and glory, gave new strength to
his more cultivated propensities. The liberality of his conduct, and
the polished ease that characterised his manners, produced a general
predilection in favour of the capital in which he resided.

I found all my former friends matured and improved by the silent
influence of time. Their knowledge was increased; their views rendered
wider; their conversation was more amusing and instructive, their
manners more bland and unaffected. But, if their characters had
experienced revolution, mine was more materially changed. I had before
encountered them with all the heat and presumption of youth, with no
views so much present to my mind as those of chivalry and a factitious
honour, with no experience but that of a camp. I was impetuous,
volatile, and dissipated. I had not rested long enough upon any one of
the flowers of intellect to extract its honey; and my mind was kept in
a state of preternatural agitation by the passions of a gamester. It
was now become cool, moderate, and tranquil. The society of Marguerite
had contributed much to the improvement of my character; I had lived
in no idle and brutish solitude, but in the midst of contemplation
and letters; and I had the passions of a husband and a father, in the
extremest degree attached to his family. These passions will be found,
perhaps, to be the true school of humanity: the man, whose situation
continually exercises in him the softest and most amiable charities of
our nature, will almost infallibly surpass his brethren in kindness to
sympathise with, and promptness to relieve, the distresses of others.

Will it be accounted strange that, in Paris, surrounded by persons of
various knowledge and liberal benevolence, I found myself under the
influence of other feelings, than any I had lately experienced? I was
like a man who had suffered long calamity in a famished vessel or a
town besieged, and is immediately after introduced into the midst of
luxury, to a table loaded with the most costly dainties. Every viand
has to his apprehension an exquisite relish, and every wine a delicious
flavour, that he never perceived in them before. Let no one infer that
my love for Marguerite was diminished; it has already sufficiently
appeared in the course of my narrative, that no happiness could be more
consummate than mine was with this admirable woman. Had I been called
upon to choose for the seat of my future life, between my paternal
château in the Bordelois, with Marguerite to grace my abode, on the
one hand; and all the gratifications that Paris could afford, on the
other, I should not have hesitated even for an instant. But the mind
of man is made capacious of various pleasures; and a person of sound
and uncorrupted judgment will perhaps always enjoy with emotion the
delights which for a long time before he had not encountered, however
enviable his content may have been under their absence. I delighted
to converse with the men of genius and refinement with whom Paris
at this time abounded. It was a feast of soul of which I had rarely
partaken in my rural retreat. I delighted to combine excellence with
number, and, to a considerable degree at least, variety of intercourse
with sentiments of regard and friendship. In these select societies I
found no cold suppressions and reserve. Their members were brethren
in disposition, similar in their pursuits, and congenial in their
sentiments. When any one spoke, it was that the person to whom he
addressed himself might apprehend what was passing in his thoughts.
They participated with sincerity and a liberal mind in each other’s
feelings, whether of gay delight or melancholy disappointment.

Thus situated, I forgot for a time my engagements with Marguerite. The
scenes of St. Leon, its fields, its walks, its woods and its streams,
faded from my mind. I forgot the pleasure with which I had viewed my
children sporting on the green, and the delicious, rural suppers which
I had so often partaken with my wife beneath my vines and my fig-trees
at the period of the setting sun. When I set out for Paris, these
images had dwelt upon my mind, and saddened my fancy. At every stage
I felt myself removed still further from the scene where my treasures
and my affections were deposited. But, shortly after, new scenes and
new employments engaged my thoughts. The pleasures which I sought but
weakly at first, every time they were tasted increased my partiality
for them. I seemed for a time to be under the influence of an oblivion
of my former life. Thus circumstanced, the folly which had so deep a
root in my character, took hold of me. I hired a magnificent hotel,
and entertained at my own expense those persons in whose society I
principally delighted. My circles became more numerous than those of
the Marquis de Damville, and were conducted in a very different style
of splendour and profusion. I corresponded with Marguerite; but I
continually found some new pretext for lengthening my stay; and she
on her part, though the kindest and most indulgent of women, became
seriously alarmed and unhappy.

As my parties were more numerous than those of the Marquis de Damville
had been, they were more mixed. Among others, I occasionally associated
with some of those noblemen who had been the companions of my former
dissipation and gaming. An obvious consequence resulted from this.
Parties of play were occasionally proposed to me. I resisted--I
yielded. My first compliances were timid, hesitating, and painful. I
recollected the lessons and exhortations of my excellent father-in-law.
At length, however, my alarms abated. I reproached myself with the want
of an honourable confidence in my own firmness, and the cowardice of
supposing that I was not to be trusted with the direction of my conduct.

One evening I ventured beyond the cautious limits I had at first
prescribed myself, and won a considerable sum. This incident produced
a strong impression upon me, and filled my mind with tumult and
agitation. There was a secret that I had concealed almost from myself,
but which now recurred to me with tenfold violence. I was living beyond
the means I had to discharge my expenses. My propensity of this sort
seemed to be fatal and irresistible. My marriage with Marguerite had
occurred opportunely, to heal the breaches I had at that time made in
my fortune, and to take from me the consciousness of embarrassments
which I should otherwise have deeply felt. The death of the Marquis,
however deplorable in other respects, happened at a period when the
spirit of profusion and magnificence which characterised me had again
involved my affairs in considerable difficulty. It might be supposed
that these two cases of experience would have sufficed to extirpate
my folly; but they had rather the contrary effect. In each of them
the event was such as to prevent extravagance and thoughtlessness
from producing their genuine results; and, of consequence, they
appeared less criminal and mischievous in my eyes than otherwise they
probably would have appeared. I rather increased than diminished my
establishment upon the death of my father-in-law. I had no reasonable
prospect of any property hereafter to descend to me, that should
exonerate me from the consequences of further prodigality. But I did
not advert to this. I saw myself surrounded by my children; they were
the delight and solace of my life; and yet I was needless of their
interests. Sometimes I resolved upon a more rigid economy: but economy
is a principle that does not easily lay hold of any but a heart framed
to receive it. It is a business of attentive and vigilant detail. It
easily escapes the mind, amidst the impetuosity of the passions, the
obstinacy of rooted propensities, and the seduction of long established
habits. Marguerite, indeed, did not share with me in these follies; the
simplicity and ingenuousness of her mind were such, that she would have
been as happy in a cottage as a palace; but, though she did not partake
my vices, an ill-judged forbearance and tenderness for my feelings did
not permit her effectually to counteract them. This is, perhaps, the
only defect of character I am able to impute to her.

After I had won the sum to which I have alluded, I retired to my
hotel full of anxious thoughts. It produced upon me, in some degree,
the same effect as ordinarily belongs to a great calamity. I lay all
night sleepless and disturbed. Ruin and despair presented themselves
to my mind in a thousand forms. Heedless prodigality and dilapidated
revenues passed in review before me. I counted the years of my life.
I had completed the thirty-second year of my age: this was scarcely
half the probable duration of human existence. How was I to support
the remaining period, a period little assorted to difficulties and
expedients; and which, in the close of it, seems imperiously to call
for every indulgence? Hitherto, an interval of four or five years had
repeatedly sufficed to involve me in serious embarrassment. My children
were growing up around me; my family was likely to become still larger;
as my offspring increased in years, their demands upon my revenues
would be more considerable. Were these demands to be slighted? Were my
daughters, nay, was the heir of my rank and my name, to be committed to
the compassion of the world, unprovided and forlorn? What a cheerless
prospect! What a gloomy and disconsolate hue did these ideas spread
upon that future, which the health of the human mind requires to have
gilded with the beams of hope and expectation? I had already tried the
expedient of economy; and I had uniformly found this inestimable and
only sheet-anchor of prudence gliding from my deluded grasp. Could I
promise myself better success in future? There seemed to be something
in my habits, whether of inattention, ostentation, or inconsistency,
that baffled the strongest motives by which parsimony and frugality can
be enforced.

Why did these thoughts importunately recur to me in the present
moment? They were the suggestions of a malignant genius,--thoughts,
the destination of which was to lead me into a gulf of misery and
guilt! While I was going on in a regular train of expense, while I was
scooping the mine that was to swallow me and my hopes together, I had
the art to keep these reflections at bay. Now that I had met with an
unexpected piece of good fortune, they rushed upon me with irresistible
violence. Unfortunate coincidence! Miserable,--rather let me say,
guilty, abandoned miscreant!

As soon as I rose in the morning, I went to the closet where, the
evening before, I had deposited my recent acquisitions. I spread out
the gold before me. I gazed upon it with intentness. My eyes, a moment
after, rolled in vacancy. I traversed the apartment with impatient
steps. All the demon seemed to make his descent upon my soul. This was
the first time that I had ever felt the struggle of conscious guilt and
dishonour. I was far indeed from anticipating that species of guilt,
and that species of ruin, which soon after overwhelmed me. My mind did
not once recur to the possibility of any serious mischief. I dwelt
only, as gamesters perhaps usually do, upon the alternative between
acquisition and no acquisition. I did not take into the account the
ungovernableness of my own passions. I assumed it as unquestionable,
that I could stop when I pleased. The thoughts that tortured me were,
in the first place, those of a sanguine and unexperienced adventurer
in a lottery, whose mind rests not for a moment upon the sum he has
risked, but who, having in fancy the principal prize already in his
possession, and having distributed it to various objects and purposes,
sometimes fearfully recurs to the possibility of his disappointment,
and anticipates with terror what will be his situation, if deprived of
this imaginary wealth. I had now, for the first time, opened my eyes to
the real state of my affairs, and I clung with proportionable vehemence
to this plank which was to bear me from the storm. In the second place,
I felt, though darkly and unwillingly, the immorality of my conception.
To game may, in some instances, not be in diametrical opposition
to liberality of mind; but he who games for the express purpose of
improving his circumstances must be an idiot, if he does not sometimes
recollect that the money lost may be as serious a mischief to his
neighbour, as the money gained can possibly be a benefit to himself.
It is past a question, that he who thus turns his amusement into his
business loses the dignity of a man of honour, and puts himself upon a
level with the most avaricious and usurious merchant.

Though I was far from having digested a specific plan of enriching
myself by these discreditable means, yet the very tumult of my thoughts
operated strongly to lead me once more to the gaming-table. I was in no
humour to busy myself with my own thoughts; the calmness of literary
discussion, and the polished interchange of wit, which had lately so
much delighted me, had now no attraction for my heart; the turbulence
of a scene of high play alone had power to distract my attention
from the storm within. I won a second time. I felt the rapidity and
intenseness of my contemplations still further accelerated. I will not
over again detail what they were. Suffice it to say, that my hopes
became more ardent, my conception of the necessity of this resource
more impressive, and my alarm lest this last expedient should fail me
more tormenting.

The next time I lost half as much as the sum of my winnings. I then
proceeded for several days in a nearly regular alternation of gain
and loss. This, as soon as the fact unavoidably forced itself upon my
mind, only served to render my thoughts more desperate. No, exclaimed
I, it was not for this that I entered upon so tormenting a pursuit.
It is not for this that I have deserted the learned societies which
were lately my delight, and committed myself to a sea of disquiet and
anxiety. I came not here, like a boy, for amusement; or, like one who
has been bred in the lap of ignorance and wealth, to seek a relief from
the burden of existence, and to find a stimulus to animate my torpid
spirits. Am I then to be for ever baffled? Am I to cultivate a tract of
land, which is to present me nothing in return but unvaried barenness?
Am I continually to wind up my passions, and new-string my attention
in vain? Am I a mere instrument to be played upon by endless hopes and
fears and tormenting wishes? Am I to be the sport of events, the fool
of promise, always agitated with near approaching good, yet always
deluded?

This frame of mind led me on insensibly to the most extravagant
adventures. It threw me in the first place into the hands of notorious
gamblers. Men of real property shrunk from the stakes I proposed; as,
though they were in some degree infected with the venom of gaming,
their infection was not so deep as mine, nor with my desperation of
thought. The players with whom I engaged were for the most part well
known to every one but myself, not to be able to pay the sums they
played for, if they lost; nay, this fact might be said in some sense
to be known to me as well as the rest, though I obstinately steeled
myself against the recollection of it. One evening I won of one of
these persons a very large sum, for which I suffered him to play with
me upon honour. The consequence was simple. The next morning he took
his departure from Paris, and I heard of him no more.

Before this, however, the tide of success had set strongly against me.
I had sustained some serious vicissitudes; and, while I was playing
with the wretch I have just mentioned, my eagerness increased as my
good luck began, and I flattered myself that I should now avenge myself
of fortune for some of her late unkindnesses. My anguish--why should
I call the thing by a disproportionate and trivial appellation?--my
agony--was by so much the greater, when I found that this person, the
very individual who had already stripped me of considerable sums, had
disappeared, and left me without the smallest benefit from my imaginary
winnings.

No man who has not felt, can possibly image to himself the tortures of
a gamester, of a gamester like me, who played for the improvement of
his fortune, who played with the recollection of a wife and children
dearer to him than the blood that bubbled through the arteries of his
heart, who might be said, like the savages of ancient Germany, to
make these relations the stake for which he threw, who saw all my own
happiness and all theirs through the long vista of life, depending
on the turn of a card! Hell is but the chimera of priests, to bubble
idiots and cowards. What have they invented, to come into competition
with what I felt! Their alternate interchange of flames and ice is but
a feeble image of the eternal varieties of hope and fear. All bodily
racks and torments are nothing compared with certain states of the
human mind. The gamester would be the most pitiable, if he were not the
most despicable creature that exists. Arrange ten bits of painted paper
in a certain order, and he is ready to go wild with the extravagance of
his joy. He is only restrained by some remains of shame, from dancing
about the room, and displaying the vileness of his spirit by every
sort of freak and absurdity. At another time, when his hopes have been
gradually worked up into a paroxysm, an unexpected turn arrives, and
he is made the most miserable of men. Never shall I cease to recollect
the sensation I have repeatedly felt, in the instantaneous sinking of
the spirits, the conscious fire that spread over my visage, the anger
in my eye, the burning dryness of my throat, the sentiment that in a
moment was ready to overwhelm with curses the cards, the stake, my
own existence, and all mankind. How every malignant and insufferable
passion seemed to rush upon my soul! What nights of dreadful solitude
and despair did I repeatedly pass during the progress of my ruin!
It was the night of the soul! My mind was wrapped in a gloom that
could not be pierced! My heart was oppressed with a weight that no
power human or divine was equal to remove! My eyelids seemed to press
downward with an invincible burden! My eyeballs were ready to start and
crack their sockets! I lay motionless, the victim of ineffable horror!
The whole endless night seemed to be filled with one vast, appalling,
immovable idea! It was a stupor, more insupportable and tremendous than
the utmost whirl of pain, or the fiercest agony of exquisite perception!

One day that my mind was in a state of excessive anguish and remorse
(I had already contrived by this infernal means to dispossess myself
of the half of my property), my son came unexpectedly into my chamber.
For some time I had scarcely ever seen him: such is a gamester! All the
night, while he slept, I was engaged in these haunts of demons. All
the day, while he was awake, and studying with his masters, or amusing
himself, I was in my bed-chamber, endeavouring to court a few broken
hours of sleep. When, notwithstanding the opposition of our habits, I
had the opportunity of seeing him, I rather shunned to use, than sought
to embrace it. The sight of him had a savour of bitterness in it, that
more than balanced all the solace of natural affection. It brought
before me the image of his mother and his sisters; it presented to
my soul a frightful tale of deserted duties; it was more galling and
envenomed than the sting of scorpions.

Starting at the sound of the opening door, I called out abruptly, and
with some harshness, “Who is there? What do you want?”

“It is I, sir,” replied the boy; “it is Charles, come to pay his duty
to you!”

“I do not want you now; you should not come, but when you know I am at
leisure,” answered I somewhat disturbed.

“Very well, sir; very well: I am going.” As he spoke his voice seemed
suffocated with tears. He was on the point of shutting the door, and
leaving me to myself.

“Charles!” said I, not well knowing what it was I intended to do.

He returned.

“Come here, my dear boy!”

I took his hand, I drew him between my knees, I hid my face in his
neck, I shook with the violence of my emotion.

“Go, go, boy: you perceive I cannot talk to you.”

I pushed him gently from me.

“Papa!” cried he, “I do not like to leave you. I know I am but a boy,
and can be but of little use to you. If mamma were with you, I would
not be troublesome. I should cry when I saw you were grieved, but I
would ask no questions, and would leave you, because you desired it. I
hope you have not had any bad news?”

“No, my boy, no. Come to me to-morrow, and I will be at leisure, and
will talk a great deal to you.”

“Ah, papa, to-morrow! Every day that I did not see you, I thought it
would be to-morrow! And there was one to-morrow, and another to-morrow,
and so many, that it seemed as if you had forgotten to speak to me at
all.”

“Why, Charles, you do not doubt my word? I tell you that to-morrow you
shall see me as long as you please.”

“Well, well, I will wait! But do then let it be all day! I will not go
to college, and it shall be a holiday. Papa, I do not like my lessons
half so well as I did, since I have neither you nor mamma that I can
tell what they are about.”

“Good-bye, Charles! Be a good boy! remember to-morrow! Good-bye!”

“Papa! now I am sure you look a good deal better than you did at first.
Let me tell you something about the lesson I read this morning. It was
a story of Zaleucus the Locrian, who put out one of his own eyes, that
he might preserve eye-sight to his son.”

This artless story, thus innocently introduced, cut me to the soul. I
started in my chair, and hid my face upon the table.

“Papa, what is the matter? Indeed you frighten me!”

“Zaleucus was a father! What then am I?”

“Yes, Zaleucus was very good indeed! But, do you know, his son was very
naughty. It was his disobedience and wickedness that made him liable to
such a punishment. I would not for the world be like Zaleucus’s son. I
hope, papa, you will never suffer from my wilfulness. You shall not,
papa, indeed, indeed!”

I caught the boy in my arms. “No, you are very good! you are too good!
I cannot bear it!”

“Well, papa, I wish I were able to show you that I love you as well as
ever Zaleucus loved his son!”

I was melted with the ingenuousness of the boy’s expression. I quitted
him. I paced up and down the room. Suddenly, as if by paroxysm of
insanity, I seized my child by the arm, I seated myself, I drew him
towards me, I put my eye upon him.

“Boy, how dare you talk to me of Zaleucus? Do you mean to insinuate
a reproach? Do I not discharge a father’s duty? If I do not, know,
urchin, I will not be insulted by my child!”

The boy was astonished. He burst into tears, and was silent.

I was moved by his evident distress. “No, child, you have no father. I
am afraid you have not. You do not know my baseness. You do not know
that I am the deadliest foe you have in the world.”

“Dear papa, do not talk thus! Do not I know that you are the best
of men? Do not I love you and mamma better than every body else put
together?”

“Well, Charles,” cried I, endeavouring to compose myself, “we will talk
no more now. Did not I tell you, you should not come to me but when you
knew it was a proper time? I hope you will never have reason to hate
me.”

“I never will hate you, papa, do to me what you will!”

He saw I wished to be alone, and left me.



CHAPTER VI.


In the evening of the same day, my beloved Marguerite arrived
unexpectedly at Paris. In the beginning of our separation, I had
been to the last degree punctual in my letters. I had no pleasure
so great, as retiring to my closet, and pouring out my soul to the
most adorable of women. By degrees I relaxed in punctuality. Ordinary
occupations, however closely pursued, have a method in them, that
easily combines with regularity in points of an incidental nature. But
gaming, when pursued with avidity, subverts all order, and forces
every avocation from the place assigned it. When my insane project of
supplying the inadequateness of my fortune by this expedient began
to produce an effect exactly opposite, I could not, but with the
extremest difficulty, string my mind to write to the mistress of my
soul. I endeavoured not to think, with distinctness and attention, of
the persons whose happiness was most nearly involved with mine. I said
to myself, Yet another venture must be tried; fortune shall change
the animosity with which she has lately pursued me; I will repair the
breaches that have been sustained; and I shall then return with tenfold
avidity to subjects that at present I dare not fix my mind upon. My
letters were accordingly short, unfrequent, and unsatisfactory; and
those of Marguerite discovered increasing anguish, perturbation, and
anxiety. What a change in the minds of both had the lapse of a few
months produced! Not that my attachment had suffered the diminution
of a single particle; but that attachment, which had lately been the
source of our mutual felicity, was now fraught only with distress.
My mind was filled with horrors; and Marguerite expected from me an
encouragement and consolation in absence, which, alas, I had it not in
my power to give!

I had now continued in Paris for a time vastly greater than I had
originally proposed. After having remained more than ten days without
receiving one word of intelligence, a letter of mine was delivered to
Marguerite, more short, mysterious, and distressing to her feelings,
than any that had preceded. The ten days’ silence, from me who at
first had never missed an opportunity of pouring out my soul to her,
and contributing to her pleasure, was exquisitely painful. There
is scarcely any thing that produces such a sickness of the heart
as the repeated prorogation of hope. But, when the letter arrived
that had been so anxiously looked for, when the hand-writing of the
superscription was recognised, when the letter was treasured up for the
impatiently desired moment of solitude, that the sacred emotions of
the heart might suffer no interruption, and when it at last appeared
so cold, so ominous, so withering to the buds of affection, the
determination of Marguerite was speedily formed. The relations that
bound us together were of too mighty a value to be dispensed or to be
trifled with. She felt them as the very cords of existence. For ten
years she had known no solace that was disconnected from my idea, no
care but of our own happiness and that of our offspring. Benevolent
she was almost beyond human example, and interested for the welfare of
all she knew; but these were brief and mutable concerns; they were not
incorporated with the stamina of her existence. I was the whole world
to her; she had no idea of satisfaction without me. Her firmness had
been sufficiently tried by the interposal of separation and absence.
How was she to interpret the obscurity that had now arisen? Had I
forgotten my family and my wife? Had I been corrupted and debauched by
that Paris, the effects of which upon my character her father had so
deeply apprehended? Had I, in contempt of every thing sacred, entered
into some new attachment? Had the attractions of some new beauty in the
metropolis made me indifferent to the virtue of my children, and the
life of their mother? Perhaps the length of our attachment had infected
me with satiety, and the inconstancy of my temper had been roused by
the charms of novelty. Perhaps the certainty of her kindness and regard
had no longer allurements for me; and I might be excited to the pursuit
of another by the pleasures of hope combined with uncertainty, and of
a coyness, that seemed to promise compliance hereafter, even while it
pronounced a present denial. These were the images that haunted her
mind; they engendered all the wildness, and all the torments, of a
delirious paroxysm; she resolved that no time should be sacrificed to
needless uncertainty, and that no effort of hers should be unexerted to
prevent the mischief she feared.

It was evening when she arrived. I was upon the point of repairing to
that scene of nightly resort, the source of all my guilt and all my
miseries. I enquired of my son’s valet where he was, and how he had
been in the course of the day. He was gone to bed: he had appeared
unusually sad, sometimes in tears; and, while he was undressing, had
sighed deeply two or three times. While I was collecting this account
in my own apartment, the gates of the hotel opened, and a number of
horsemen entered the court-yard. I was somewhat surprised; because,
though I was accustomed to see much company, few of my acquaintance
visited me at so late an hour, except on the evenings appropriated to
receive them. I crossed the saloon to enquire. One of the servants
exclaimed, “It is Bernardin’s voice: it must be my mistress that is
come!”

Nothing could be further from my mind than the thought of her arrival.
I flew through the passage; I was on the spot the moment that the
servant prepared to conduct his mistress from the litter; I received
Marguerite in my arms, and led her into the house. If I had expected
her arrival, I should infallibly have met her at this moment with
anxiety and confusion; I should have gone round the circle of my
thoughts, and should not have had confidence to encounter the beam of
her eye. But the event was so unexpected as to drive all other ideas
from my mind; and, in consequence, I enjoyed several minutes,--ages,
rather let me say,--of the sincerest transport. I kissed the mistress
of my soul with ecstasy; I gazed upon her well known lineaments and
features; I listened to the pleasing melody of her voice; I was
intoxicated with delight. Upon occasions like this, it seems as if
every former joy that had marked the various periods of intercourse
distilled its very spirit and essence, to compose a draught, ten times
more delicious and refined than had ever before been tasted. Our
meeting was like awaking from the dead; it was the emancipation of the
weary captive, who exchanges the dungeon’s gloom for the lustre of the
morning, and who feels a celestial exhilaration of heart, the very
memory of which had been insensibly wearing away from his treacherous
brain. All my senses partook of the rapture. Marguerite seemed to shed
ambrosial odours round her; her touch was thrilling; her lips were
nectar; her figure was that of a descended deity!

Her pleasure was not less than mine. It is indeed absurd, it may
be termed profanation, to talk of solitary pleasure. No sensation
ordinarily distinguished by that epithet can endure the test of a
moment’s inspection, when compared with a social enjoyment. It is then
only that a man is truly pleased, when pulse replies to pulse, when
the eyes discourse eloquently to each other, when in responsive tones
and words the soul is communicated. Altogether, we are conscious of a
sober, a chaste, and dignified intoxication, an elevation of spirit,
that does not bereave the mind of itself, and that endures long enough
for us to analyse and savour the causes of our joy.

For some time we rested on a sofa, each filled and occupied with the
observation of the other. My eyes assured Marguerite of the constancy
of my affection; my kisses were those of chaste, undivided, entire
attachment.

Our words were insignificant and idle, the broken and incoherent
phrases of a happiness that could not be silent. At length Marguerite
exclaimed, “It is enough; my fears are vanished; I have no questions
to ask, no doubts to remove. Yet why, my Reginald, did you suffer
those doubts to gather, those fears to accumulate? Surely you knew the
singleness of my affection! How many painful days and hours might you
have saved me, almost by a word!”

“Forgive me, my love,” replied I. “Waste not the golden hour of meeting
in recrimination! Feeling, as your angelic goodness now makes me feel,
I wonder at myself, that I could for one moment have consented to
separation; that I could have thought any thing but this existence; or
that, having experienced the joys that you have bestowed, I could lose
all image of the past, and, dwelling in a desert, imagine it paradise!”

“Recrimination!” rejoined Marguerite. “No, my love; you make me too
happy to leave room for any thing but gratitude and affection! Forgive
me, Reginald, if I pretend that, in meeting you thus, I find myself
your superior in happiness and love. You only awake from lethargy,
forgetfulness of yourself and--of me; but I awake from anguish, a
separation, that I desired not at first, and of which I hourly wished
to see an end, from doubts that would intrude, and refused to be
expelled, from the incessant contemplation and regret of a felicity,
once possessed, but possessed no longer! Melancholy ideas, gloomy
prognostics overspread my sleepless nights, and bedewed my pillow
with tears! This it is, that, at last, has driven me from my family
and daughters, resolved to obtain the certainty of despair, or the
dispersion of my fears! Have I known all this, and think you that I do
not enjoy with rapture this blissful moment?”

While we were thus conversing, Charles entered the room. He was not
yet asleep when his mother arrived: he heard her voice; and hastened
to put on his clothes, that he might rush into her arms. The pleasure
Marguerite had conceived from our meeting, and the affectionate
serenity that had taken possession of her soul, infused double ardour
into the embraces she bestowed on her son. He gazed earnestly in her
face; he kissed her with fervency; but was silent.

“Why, Charles!” said she, “what is the matter with you? Are not you
glad to see me?”

“That I am, mamma! So glad, that I do not know what to do with myself!
I was afraid I never should have been glad again!”

“Pooh, boy! what do you mean? You were not mother-sick, were you?”

“Yes, indeed, I was sick, sick at heart! Not that I am a coward! I
think that I could have been satisfied to have been without either my
father or you for a little while. But papa is so altered, you cannot
think! He never smiles and looks happy; and, when I see him, instead of
making me joyful, as it used to do, it makes me sad!”

“Dear Reginald!” replied the mother, looking at me, “is it possible
that, while my heart was haunted with fear and suspicions, separation
alone should have had such an effect on you?”

“I dare say it was that,” interposed the boy. “I could not make papa
smile, all I could do: but, now you are come, he will soon be well! How
much he must love you, mamma!”

The artless prattle of my son struck anguish to my soul; and awakened a
whole train of tormenting thoughts. Alas! thought I, can it indeed be
love, that thus contrives against the peace of its object? Would to
God, my child! that my thoughts were as simple and pure as thy innocent
bosom!

“And yet,” added the boy, as if recollecting himself, “if he could not
see you, sure that was no reason for him to avoid me? He seemed as
much afraid of me, as I have seen some of my play-fellows of a snake!
Indeed, mamma, it was a sad thing that, when I wanted him to kiss me
and press me to his bosom, he shrunk away from me! There now! it was
just so, as he looks now, that papa used to frown upon me, I cannot
tell how often! Now is not that ugly, mamma?”

I could no longer govern the tumult of my thoughts. “Peace, urchin!”
cried I. “Why did you come to mar the transport of our meeting? Just
now, Marguerite, I forgot myself, and was happy! Now all the villain
rises in my soul!”

My wife was so astonished at the perturbation of my manner, and at the
words I uttered, that she was scarcely able to articulate. “Reginald!”
in broken accents she exclaimed--“my love!--my husband!”

“No matter,” said I. “It shall yet be well! My heart assures me it
shall!--Be not disturbed, my love! I will never cause you a moment’s
anguish! I would sooner die a thousand deaths!--Forget the odious
thoughts that poor Charles has excited in me so unseasonably! They were
mere idle words! Depend upon it they were!”

While I was speaking, Marguerite hid her face upon the sofa. I took
her hand, and by my caresses endeavoured to soothe and compose her. At
length, turning to me,--“Reginald!” said she, in a voice of anguish,
“do you then endeavour to hide from me the real state of your thoughts?
Was the joy that attended our meeting perishable and deceitful? After
ten years of unbounded affection and confidence, am I denied to be the
partner of your bosom?”

“No, Marguerite, no! this was but the thought of a moment! By
to-morrow’s dawn it shall have no existence in my bosom. Why should
I torment you with what so soon shall have no existence to myself?
Meanwhile, be assured, my love (instead of suffering diminution) is
more full, more fervent and entire, than it ever was!”

At this instant my mind experienced an extraordinary impression.
Instead of being weaned, by the presence of this admirable woman, from
my passion for gaming, it became stronger than ever. If Charles had
not entered at the critical moment he did, I should have remained with
Marguerite, and, amidst the so long untasted solace of love, have,
at least for this night, forgotten my cares. But that occurrence had
overturned every thing, had uncovered the wounds of my bosom, and
awakened conceptions that refused to be laid to sleep again. The arms
of my wife, that were about to embrace me, suddenly became to me a
nest of scorpions. I could as soon have rested and enjoyed myself upon
the top of Vesuvius, when it flamed. New as I was to this species of
anguish, tranquilly and full of virtuous contentment as I had hitherto
passed the years of my married state, the pangs of a guilty conscience
I was wholly unable to bear. I rose from my seat, and was upon the
point of quitting the room.

Marguerite perceived by my manner that there was something
extraordinary passing in my mind. “Where are you going, Reginald?” said
she.

I answered with a slight nod. “Not far,” I replied, attempting an air
of apathy and unconcern.

She was not satisfied. “You are not going out?” she enquired.

I returned to where I had been sitting. “My love, I was going out at
the moment of your arrival. It is necessary, I assure you. I hope I
shall soon be back. I am sorry I am obliged to leave you. Compose
yourself. You are in want of rest, and had better go to bed.”

“Stop, Reginald! Afford me a minute’s leisure before you depart! Leave
us, Charles! Good night, my dear boy! Kiss me; remember that your
mother is now in the same house with you; and sleep in peace.”

The boy quitted the room.

“Reginald!” said the mother, “I have no wish to control your desires,
or be a spy upon your actions; but your conduct seems so extraordinary
in this instance, as to dispense me from the observation of common
rules. I have always been a complying wife; I have never set myself
in contradiction to your will; I appeal to yourself for the truth
of this. I despise, however, those delicacies, an adherence to which
would entail upon us the sacrifice of all that is most valuable in
human life. Can I shut my ears upon the mysterious expressions which
Charles’s complaints have extorted from you? Can I be insensible to the
extraordinary purpose you declare of leaving me, when I have yet been
scarcely half an hour under the roof with you? Before Charles came in,
you seem to have entertained no such design.”

“My love,” replied I, “how seriously you comment upon the most
insignificant incident! Is it extraordinary that your unexpected
arrival should at first have made me forget an engagement that I now
recollect?”

“St. Leon,” answered my wife, “before you indulge in surprise at my
earnestness, recollect the circumstances that immediately preceded
it. Through successive weeks I have waited for some satisfactory and
agreeable intelligence from you. I had a right before this to have
expected your return. Uncertainty and a thousand fearful apprehensions
have at length driven me from my home, and brought me to Paris. I
am come here for satisfaction to my doubts, and peace to my anxious
heart. Wonder not, therefore, if you find something more earnest and
determined in my proceedings now, than upon ordinary occasions. Give
me, I conjure you, give me ease and relief, if you are able! If not, at
least allow me this consolation, to know the worst!”

“Be pacified, Marguerite!” I rejoined. “I am grieved, Heaven knows how
deeply grieved, to have occasioned you a moment’s pain. But, since
you lay so much stress upon this circumstance, depend upon it, I will
postpone the business I was going about, and stay with you.”

This concession, voluntary and sincere, produced an effect that I had
not foreseen. Marguerite gazed for a moment in my face, and then threw
herself upon my neck.

“Forgive me, my beloved husband!” she cried. “You indeed make me
ashamed of myself. I feel myself inexcusable. I feel that I have been
brooding over imaginary evils, and creating the misery that corroded my
heart. How inexpressibly you rise my superior! But I will conquer my
weakness. I insist upon your going to the engagement you have made, and
will henceforth place the most entire confidence in your prudence and
honour.”

Every word of this speech was a dagger to my heart. What were my
feelings, while this admirable woman was taking shame to herself
for her suspicions, and pouring out her soul in commendation of my
integrity! I looked inward, and found every thing there the reverse
of her apprehension, a scene of desolation and remorse. I embraced
her in silence. My heart panted upon her bosom, and seemed bursting
with a secret that it was death to reveal. I ought, in return for her
generosity, to have given up my feigned engagement, and devoted this
night at least to console and pacify her. But I could not, and I dared
not. The wound of my bosom was opened, and would not be closed. The
more I loved her for her confidence, the less I could endure myself in
her presence. To play the hypocrite for so many hours, to assume a face
of tranquillity and joy while all within was tumult and horror, was a
task too mighty for human powers to execute. I accepted of Marguerite’s
permission, and left her. Even in the short interval before I quitted
the house, my carriage was near to betraying me. I could perceive her
watchful of my countenance, as if again suspicious that some fatal
secret lurked in my mind. She said nothing further upon the subject
however, and I presently escaped the inquisition of her eye.

It is scarcely necessary to describe the state of my mind as I passed
along the streets. It is sufficient to say that every thing I had felt
before from the passion of gaming was trivial to the sensations that
now occupied me. Now first it stood confessed before me, a demon that
poisoned all my joys, that changed the transport of a meeting with
the adored of my soul into anguish, that drove me forth from her yet
untasted charms a solitary wanderer on the face of the earth. My busy
soul drew forth at length the picture of what this encounter would have
been, if it had been sanctified with the stamp of conscious innocence.
At one moment I felt myself the most accursed of mankind; I believed
that he who could find, as I did, barrenness and blasting in the
choicest of Heaven’s blessings, must be miserable beyond precedent
or hope. Shortly after, however, I reviewed again the image of my
poison, and found in it the promise of a cure. The more desperate my
case appeared to me, with the greater insanity of expectation did I
assure myself that this one night should retrieve all my misfortunes.
In giving to it this destination indeed, I should afflict the gentle
bosom of my wife but too probably with some hours of uneasiness. But
the event would richly repay her for so transitory a suffering; I would
then open my whole mind to her. I would practise no more reserves; I
should no longer be driven to the refuge of a vile hypocrisy. I would
bid farewell to the frowns and the caresses of fortune. I would require
of her no further kindnesses. If I were incapable myself of a rigid
economy, I would commit implicitly to Marguerite the disposal of my
income, whom I knew to be every way qualified for the office. With
these reflections I nerved my mind to the most decisive adventures.

Why should I enter into a long detail of the incidents of this crisis?
Soon, though not immediately, I began to lose considerable sums. I
brought with me in the first instance a penetrating eye, a collected
mind, an intellect prepared for unintermitted exertion. Misfortune
subverted all this. My eye grew wild, my soul tempestuous, my thoughts
incoherent and distracted. I was incapable of any thing judicious;
but I was determined to persevere. I played till morning, nor could
the light of morning induce me to desist. The setting sun of that day
beheld me a beggar!

There is a degree of misery, which, as it admits of no description,
so does it leave no distinct traces in the memory. It seems as if
the weakness of the human mind alike incapacitated it to support the
delirium of joy, and the extremity of sorrow. Of what immediately
succeeded the period to which I have conducted my narrative I have
no recollection, but a horror beyond all names of horror, wild,
inexplicable, unintelligible. Let no one, however, imagine, that the
temporary desertion of the soul is any alleviation of its misery. The
mind that sinks under its suffering does not by that conduct shake
off its burden. Rather, ten thousand times rather, would I endure all
the calamities that have ever yet received a name, the sensations and
history of which are capable of being delineated, than sustain that
which has no words by which to express itself, and the conception of
which must be trusted solely to the faculties and sympathy of the
reader. Where is the cold and inapprehensive spirit that talks of
madness as a refuge from sorrow? Oh, dull and unconceiving beyond all
belief! I cannot speak of every species of madness; but I also have
been mad! This I know, that there is a vacancy of soul, where all
appears buried in stupidity, and scarcely deserves the name of thought,
that is more intolerable than the bitterest reflections. This I know,
that there is an incoherence, in which the mind seems to wander without
rudder and pilot, that laughs to scorn the superstitious fictions
of designing priests. Oh, how many sleepless days and weeks did I
endure! the thoughts frantic, the tongue raving! While we can still
adhere, if I may so express myself, to the method of misery, there
is a sort of nameless complacency that lurks under all that we can
endure. We are still conscious that we are men; we wonder at and admire
our powers of being miserable; but, when the masts and tackle of the
intellectual vessel are all swept away, then is the true sadness. We
have no consciousness to sustain us, no sentiment of dignity, no secret
admiration of what we are, still clinging to our hearts.

All this I venture to affirm, with the full recollection of what I
suffered, when restored to my senses, present to my mind.

When the account was closed, and the loss of my last stake had
finished the scene, I rose, and, quitting the fatal spot where these
transactions had passed, entered the street, with a heart oppressed,
and a bursting head. My eyes glared, but I saw nothing, and could think
of nothing. It was already nearly dark; and the day which had been
tempestuous, was succeeded by a heavy and settled rain. I wandered for
some time, not knowing whither I went. My pace, which had at first
been slow, gradually increased, and I traversed the whole city with
a hurried and impatient step. The streets which had contained few
persons at first, gradually lost those few. I was almost alone. I saw
occasionally ragged and houseless misery shrinking under the cover of a
miserable shed; I saw the midnight robber, watching for his prey, and
ready to start upon the unwary passenger. From me he fled; there was
something in my air that impelled even desperate violation to shrink
from the encounter. I continued this incessant, unmeaning exertion for
hours. At length, by an accidental glance of the eye, I found myself at
the gate of my own hotel. Heedless of what I did, I entered; and, as
nature was now completely exhausted within me, sunk down in a sort of
insensibility at the foot of the grand staircase.

This stupor, after a considerable interval, gradually subsided. I
opened my eyes, and saw various figures flitting about me; but I seemed
to myself equally incapable of collecting my thoughts, and of speech.
My understanding indeed shortly became clearer, but an insuperable
reluctance to voluntary exertion hung upon me. I explained myself only
in monosyllables; a sort of instinctive terror of disclosing what had
passed to the admirable woman I had sacrificed maintained in me this
perpetual reserve. For several days together I sat from morning till
night in one immovable posture, nor was any thing of force enough to
awaken me to exertion.



CHAPTER VII.


It was not long before the unhappy partner of my fortunes was informed
of what had passed. The wretches who had stripped me of my all soon
made their appearance to claim what was no longer mine. What would
have been their reception, if I had sufficiently possessed myself to
parley with them on the subject, I am unable to determine. I could
not have preserved the wreck of my property from their grasp, but at
the expense of an indelible stain upon my honour; yet my desperation
would probably have led me to a conduct equally extravagant and
useless. In the condition in which I was, the whole direction of the
business devolved upon Marguerite; and never did human creature demean
herself with greater magnanimity and propriety. She saw at once that
she could not resist their claims but at the expense of my reputation;
for herself she valued not riches, and had no dread of poverty; and,
thus circumstanced, she had the courage herself to bring to me the
papers they offered, the object of which I scarcely understood, and
to cause me to annex that signature which was to strip her and her
children of all earthly fortune. Her purpose was, as soon as this
business was over, to cause us to quit France, and retire into some
scene of virtuous obscurity. But she would not leave behind her for
the last descendants of the counts de St. Leon any avoidable disgrace.
Her mode of reasoning upon the subject was extremely simple. Obscurity
she regarded as no misfortune; and eminent situation, where it fairly
presented itself, as a responsibility it would be base to shrink from:
ignominy alone she considered as the proper theme of abhorrence. For
the fickleness and inconstancy of fortune it is impossible to answer;
by one of those reverses in which she appears to delight, she might yet
restore us to the lustre of our former condition; but, if the name of
St. Leon was henceforth to disappear from the annals of France, she was
desirous at least, as far as depended on her, that it should expire,
like the far famed bird of Arabia, in the midst of perfumes.

When the whole situation of Marguerite is taken into consideration,
the reader, like myself, will stand astonished at the fortitude of
her conduct. She had come to Paris, unable any longer to tranquillise
the agitation of her mind, and exhausted with fears, suspicions,
and alarms. When she arrived, she experienced indeed one delusive
moment of transport and joy. But that was soon over. It was succeeded
by reflections and conjectures respecting the mysteriousness of my
behaviour; it was succeeded by my unexpected departure, and the
hourly expectation of my return. After the lapse of a night and a
day, I returned indeed, but in what a condition! Drenched with rain,
trembling with inanition, speechless and alone. Scarcely had she
received notice of my arrival, and come forward to meet me, than she
saw me fall, motionless and insensible, at her feet. She watched my
recovery, and hung with indescribable expectation over my couch.
She was only called away by the wretches, who came to advance their
accursed claims, and to visit her with the intelligence of our ruin, as
with a thunderbolt. Already enfeebled and alarmed by all the preceding
circumstances, they spoke with no consideration to her weakness, they
stooped to no qualifications and palliatives, but disclosed the whole
in the most abrupt and shocking manner. Any other woman would have sunk
under this accumulation of ill. Marguerite only borrowed vigour from
her situation, and rose in proportion to the pressure of the calamity.
She took her resolution at once, and answered them in the most firm and
decisive language.

The period of inactivity and stupor that at first seized me was
succeeded by a period of frenzy. It was in this condition that
Marguerite conducted me and my children to an obscure retreat in
the canton of Soleure, in the republic of Switzerland. Cheapness
was the first object; for the most miserable pittance was all she
had saved from the wreck of our fortune. She had not chosen for
beauty of situation, or magnificence of prospects. The shock her
mind had sustained was not so great as to destroy her activity and
fortitude, but it left her little leisure for the wantonness of studied
indulgence. The scene was remote and somewhat sterile. She conceived
that, when I recovered my senses, an event which she did not cease to
promise herself, solitude would be most grateful, at least to the first
stage of my returning reason.

Hither then it was that she led me, our son, and three daughters.
Immediately upon our arrival she purchased a small and obscure, but
neat, cottage, and attired herself and her children in habits similar
to those of the neighbouring peasants. My paternal estates, as well as
those which had fallen to me by marriage, had all been swallowed up in
the gulf, which my accursed conduct had prepared. Marguerite made a
general sale of our moveables, our ornaments, and even our clothes.
A few books, guided by the attachment to literature which had always
attended me, were all that she saved from the wreck. A considerable
part of the sum thus produced was appropriated by my creditors.
Marguerite had the prudence and skill to satisfy them all, and was
contented to retain that only which remained when their demands were
discharged. This was the last dictate of her pride and the high-born
integrity of her nature, at the time that she thus departed a voluntary
exile from her native country. Two servants accompanied us in our
flight, whose attachment was so great, that even if their attendance
had not been necessary, it would have been found somewhat difficult
to shake them off. Marguerite, however, was governed by the strictest
principles of economy; and, whatever the struggle might have been with
the importunity of humble affection in dismissing these last remains
of our profuse and luxurious household, she would have thought herself
obliged to proceed even to this extreme, if judicious parsimony had
demanded it from her. But it did not. Our youngest daughter was at this
time only twelve months old, and it would have been scarcely possible
for the mother, however resolute in her exertions, to have discharged
the cares due to such a family, at a time when the father of it was
suffering under so heavy an affliction. One female servant she retained
to assist her in these offices. She could not dispense herself from a
very assiduous attention to me. She could never otherwise have been
satisfied, that every thing was done that ought to be done, that every
tenderness was exercised that might be demanded by my humiliating
situation, or that sufficient sagacity and skill were employed in
watching and encouraging the gleams of returning reason. The violence
of my paroxysms, however, was frequently such as to render a manual
force greater than hers necessary to prevent me from effecting some
desperate mischief. Bernardin, a trusty servant, nearly of my own age,
and who had attended upon my person almost from infancy, was retained
by Marguerite for this purpose. I was greatly indebted for the recovery
which speedily followed to the affectionate anxiety and enlightened
care of this incomparable woman. It is inconceivable to those who have
never been led to a practical examination of the subject, how much may
be effected in this respect by an attachment ever on the watch, and
an understanding judicious to combine, where hired attendance would
sleep, and the coarseness of a blunt insensibility would irritate, nay,
perhaps, mortally injure.

It is scarcely possible to imagine a wife more interesting and
admirable than Marguerite appeared upon the present occasion. Fallen
from the highest rank to the lowest poverty, she did not allow
herself a mean and pitiful regret. No reverse could be more complete
and abrupt, but she did not sink under it. She proved, in the most
convincing manner, that her elevation was not the offspring of wealth
or rank, but was properly her own. She gave a grace, even a lustre, to
poverty, which it can only receive from the emanations of a cultivated
mind. Her children were reconciled and encouraged by her example, and
soon forgot those indulgences which had not yet had time to emasculate
their spirits. The deplorable situation to which the father of the
family was reduced was far from inducing her to cease from her efforts
in the bitterness of despair. She determined for the present to be
both a father and a mother to her children. She looked forward with
confidence to my speedy recovery. Though I was the author of her
calamities, she did not permit this consideration to subtract from
the purity of her affection, or the tenderness of her anxiety. She
resolved that no word or look of hers should ever reproach me with my
misconduct. She had been accustomed to desire rank, and affluence, and
indulgence for her children; that her son might run the career of glory
which his forefathers ran, and that her daughters might unite their
fates with what was most illustrious and honourable in their native
country. But, if she were disappointed in this, she determined, as far
as it should be in her power, to give them virtue and cheerfulness and
content, a mind that should find resources within itself, and call
forth regard and esteem from the rest of mankind.

My recovery was fitful and precarious, sometimes appearing to be
rapidly on the advance, and at others to threaten a total relapse.
Among the expedients that Marguerite employed to re-excite the
slumbering spark of reason was that of paternal affection. Ever on
the watch for a favourable opportunity, she sometimes brought to me
her own little namesake, who, though only twelve months old, did not
fail to discover unequivocal marks of that playfulness and gaiety
which made so considerable a part of her constitutional character.
Her innocent smiles, her frolic and careless laughter, produced a
responsive vibration that reached to my inmost heart. They were, not
unfrequently, powerful enough to check the career of my fury, or to
raise me from the lowest pitch of despondence. Julia wept for me, and
Louisa endeavoured to copy the offices of kindness she was accustomed
to see her mother perform: Charles, who conceived more fully than the
rest the nature of my indisposition, was upon all occasions solicitous
to be admitted into my presence, and attended me for the most part
with speechless anxiety, while his watchful, glistening eye uttered
volumes, without the assistance of words. His mother at length yielded
to his importunity, and he became established the regular assistant of
Bernardin in the care of my person. The restlessness and impetuosity he
had hitherto manifested seemed upon this occasion entirely to subside:
hour after hour he willingly continued shut up in my chamber, eager for
every opportunity of usefulness, and gratified with that complaisance
with which the human mind never fails to be impressed, when it regards
its actions as beneficent, or approves its temper as compassionate.

The restoration of my health was greatly retarded by the melancholy
impressions which necessarily offered themselves to my mind when
recollection resumed her seat. It was fortunate for me that this sort
of retrospection appears not to be the first thing that occurs after
a paroxysm of insanity. When the tide of incoherent ideas subsides,
the soul is left in a state of exhaustion; and seems, by a sort of
instinct, to shun the influx of tumultuous emotions, and to dwell upon
such feelings as are mild, tranquil, and restorative. Once, however,
when I was nearly recovered, the thought of what I had been, and the
recollection of what I was, violently suggesting themselves to my mind,
brought on a relapse, attended with more alarming and discouraging
symptoms than my original alienation. At that moment Marguerite was,
for the first time, irresistibly struck with the conception that mine
was an incurable lunacy; and, as she afterwards assured me, at no
period down to that instant had she felt herself so truly inconsolable.
But even a sentiment of the last despair was incapable of superseding
the active beneficence of Marguerite. Her assiduities, so far as
related to this fatal calamity, were at length crowned with success.
Her gloomy prognostics were not realised, and the distemper of my
understanding quitted me for ever.

Wretched, however, as I have already remarked, beyond all common
notions of wretchedness, were my thoughts, when my soul returned to its
proper bias, and I fully surveyed the nature of my present situation.
Marguerite, who, by her sagacity and patience, had recovered me from
a state of the most dreadful disease, now exerted herself to effect
the more arduous task of reconciling me to myself. She assured me
that she forgave me from her inmost heart; nay, that she was thankful
to Providence, which, in the midst of what the world calls great
calamities, had preserved to her what she most valued, my affection,
entire. She contrasted what had been the subject of her apprehensions
before she came to Paris, with what had proved to be the state of the
case afterwards. She averred, that the worst that had happened was
trivial and tolerable, compared with the image that her fears had
delineated. She had feared to find my heart alienated from her, and
herself a widowed mother to orphan children. She dreaded lest I should
have proved myself worthless in her eyes, lest I should have been
found to have committed to oblivion the most sacred of all duties;
and, for the gratification of a low and contemptible caprice, to have
sacrificed all pretensions to honour and character. For that, indeed,
her heart would have bled; against that, all the pride she derived from
her ancestry and my own would have revolted; that would have produced
a revulsion of her frame, snapping the chain of all her habits, and
putting a violent close upon all the sentiments she had most fondly
nourished. She dreaded, indeed, that she should not have survived
it. But the mistake I had committed was of a very different nature.
I had neither forgotten that I was a husband nor a father; I had only
made an injudicious and unfortunate choice of the way of discharging
what was due to these characters. What had passed was incapable of
impeaching either the constancy of my affections or the integrity of
my principles. She forgave me, and it was incumbent upon me to forgive
myself.

She assured me that poverty, in her apprehension, was a very slight
evil; and she appealed to my own understanding for the soundness
of her judgment. She bid me look round upon the peasantry of the
neighbourhood, upon a footing with whom we were now placed, and ask my
own heart whether they were not happy. One disadvantage, indeed, they
were subjected to,--the absence of cultivation and learning. She could
never bring herself to believe that ignorance was a benefit; she saw
the contrary of this practically illustrated in her own case, in mine,
and in that of all the persons to whom, through life, she had been
most ardently attached. She wished her children to attain intellectual
refinement, possess fully the attributes of a rational nature, and to
be as far removed as possible from the condition of stocks and stones,
by accumulating a magazine of thoughts, and by a rich and cultivated
sensibility. But the want of fortune did not in our case, as in the
case of so many others, shut them out from this advantage: it was in
our own power to bestow it upon them.

It was the part of a reasonable man, she told me, not to waste his
strength in useless regrets for what was past, and had already eluded
his grasp; but to advert to the blessings he had still in possession.
If we did this in our present situation, we should find every reason
for contentment and joy. Our pleasure in each other, and the constancy
of our attachment, was unassailed and unimpaired. Where were there
two married persons, she would venture to ask, who had more reason to
applaud their connection, or to whom their connection was pregnant
with so various gratifications? From ourselves we had only to turn our
thoughts to our children; and we were surely as singularly fortunate
in this respect as in each other. Charles, who had always been the
subject of our pride, had lately exhibited such an example of patient
sympathy and filial affection, as perhaps had never been equalled in a
child so young. The sensibility of Julia, the understanding of Louisa,
and the vivacity of Marguerite, were all of them so many growing
sources of inexhaustible delight. Our children were intelligent,
affectionate, and virtuous. Thus circumstanced, she entreated me not
to indulge that jaundice of the imagination, which should create to
itself a sentiment of melancholy and discontent in the midst of this
terrestrial paradise.

Most virtuous of women, now perhaps the purest and the brightest
among the saints in heaven! why was I deaf to the soundness of your
exhortations, and the generosity of your sentiments? Deaf, indeed, I
was! A prey to the deepest dejection, they appeared to me the offspring
of misapprehension and paradox! Supposing, in the mean time, that they
were reasonable and just in the mouth of her who uttered them, I felt
them as totally foreign to my own situation. The language, as they
were, of innocence; it was not wonderful that to an innocent heart
they spoke tranquillity and peace. Marguerite looked round upon the
present rusticity and plainness of our condition, and every thing that
she saw talked to her of her merit and her worth. If we were reduced,
she was in no way accountable for that reduction; it had been the
test of her magnanimity, her patience, and the immutableness of her
virtue. She smiled at the assaults of adversity, and felt a merit in
her smiles. How different was my situation! Every thing that I saw
reminded me of my guilt, and upbraided me with crimes that it was
hell to recollect. My own garb, and that of my wife and children, the
desertion in which we lived, the simple benches, the unhewn rafters,
the naked walls, all told me what it was I had done, and were so many
echoes to my conscience, repeating, without intermission and without
end, its heart-breaking reproaches. Sleep was almost a stranger to me;
these incessant monitors confounded my senses in a degree scarcely
short of madness itself. It is the property of vice to convert every
thing that should be consolation into an additional source of anguish.
The beauty, the capacity, and the virtue of my children, the affection
with which they regarded me, the patience and attentiveness and
forbearance of their excellent mother, were all so many aggravations
of the mischief I had perpetrated. I could almost have wished to have
been the object of their taunts and execration. I could have wished to
have been disengaged from the dearest charities of our nature, and to
have borne the weight of my crimes alone. It would have been a relief
to me if my children had been covered with the most loathsome diseases,
deformed and monstrous. It would have been a relief to me, if they had
been abortive in understanding, and odious in propensities, if their
hearts had teemed with every vice, and every day had marked them the
predestined victims of infamy. The guilt of having stripped them of
every external advantage would then have sat light upon me. But thus
to have ruined the most lovely family perhaps that existed on the
face of the earth, the most exemplary of women, and children in whom
I distinctly marked the bud of every excellence and every virtue, was
a conduct that I could never forgive even to myself. Oh, Damville,
Damville! best of men! truest of friends! why didst thou put thy trust
in such a wretch as I am! Hadst thou no presentiment of the fatal
consequences? Wert thou empowered to commit thy only child and all her
possible offspring to so dreadful a risk? Indeed, it was not well done!
It was meant in kindness; but it was the cruellest mischief that could
have been inflicted on me. I was not a creature qualified for such dear
and tender connections. I was destined by nature to wander a solitary
outcast on the face of the earth. For that only, that fearful misery,
was I fitted. Why, misguided, misjudging man! didst thou not leave me
to my fate? Even that would have been less dreadful than what I have
experienced!--Wretch that I am! Why do I reproach my best benefactor?
No, let me turn the whole current of my invective upon myself! Damville
was actuated by the noblest and most generous sentiment that ever
entered the human mind. What a return then have I made, and to what a
benefit!

All the previous habits of my mind had taught me to feel my present
circumstances with the utmost acuteness. Marguerite, the generous
Marguerite, stood, with a soul almost indifferent, between the opposite
ideas of riches and poverty. Not so her husband. I had been formed,
by every accident of my life, to the love of splendour. High heroic
feats, and not the tranquillity of rural retirement, or the pursuits of
a character professedly literary, had been the food of my imagination,
ever since the faculty of imagination was unfolded in my mind. The
field of the cloth of gold, the siege and the battle of Pavia, were
for ever present to my recollection. Francis the First, Bayard, and
Bourbon, eternally formed the subject of my visions and reveries.
These propensities had indeed degenerated into an infantine taste for
magnificence and expense; but the roots did not embrace their soil the
less forcibly, because the branches were pressed down and diverted from
their genuine perpendicular. That from a lord, descended from some of
the most illustrious houses in France, and myself amply imbued with
the high and disdainful spirit incident to my rank, I should become a
peasant, was itself a sufficient degradation. But I call the heavens to
witness that I could have endured this with patience, if I had endured
it alone. I should have regarded it as the just retribution of my
follies, and submitted with the most exemplary resignation. But I could
not, with an equal mind, behold my wife and children involved in my
punishment. I turned my eyes upon the partner of my life, and recalled
with genuine anguish the magnificence to which she was accustomed,
and the hopes to which she was born. I looked upon my children, the
fruit of my loins, and once the pride of my heart, and recollected
that they were paupers, rustics, exiles. I could foresee no return
to rank, but for them and their posterity an interminable succession
of obscurity and meanness. A real parent can support the calamity of
personal degradation, but he cannot bear to witness and anticipate this
corruption of his blood. At some times I honoured Marguerite for her
equanimity. At others I almost despised her for this integrity of her
virtues. I accused her in my heart of being destitute of the spark of
true nobility. Her patience I considered as little less than meanness
and vulgarity of spirit. It would have become her better, I thought,
like me, to have cursed her fate, and the author of that fate; like me,
to have spurned indignant at the slavery to which we were condemned;
to have refused to be pacified; and to have wasted the last dregs of
existence in impatience and regret. I could act that which had involved
us in this dire reverse; but I could not encounter the consequences of
my act.

The state of my mind was in the utmost degree dejected and forlorn.
I carried an arrow in my heart, which the kindness of my wife and
children proved inadequate to extract, and the ranklings of which
time itself had not the power to assuage. The wound was not mortal;
but, like the wound of Philoctetes, poisoned with the blood of the
Lernean hydra, I dragged it about with me from year to year, and it
rendered my existence a galling burden hardly to be supported. A great
portion of my time was passed in a deep and mournful silence, which
all the soothings that were addressed to me could not prevail on me to
break. Not that in this silence there was the least particle of ill
humour or sullenness. It was a mild and passive situation of the mind;
affectionate, as far as it was any thing, to the persons around me; but
it was a species of disability; my soul had not force enough to give
motion to the organs of speech, or scarcely to raise a finger. My eye
only, and that only for a moment at a time, pleaded for forbearance and
pardon. I seemed like a man in that species of distemper, in which the
patient suffers a wasting of the bones, and at length presents to us
the shadow, without the powers, of a human body.

This was at some times my condition. But my stupor would at others
suddenly subside. Mechanically, and in a moment, as it were, I shook
off my supineness, and sought the mountains. The wildness of an
untamed and savage scene best accorded with the temper of my mind. I
sprung from cliff to cliff among the points of the rock. I rushed down
precipices that to my sobered sense appeared in a manner perpendicular,
and only preserved my life, with a sort of inborn and unelective care,
by catching at the roots and shrubs which occasionally broke the
steepness of the descent. I hung over the tops of rocks still more
fearful in their declivities, and courted the giddiness and whirl of
spirit which such spectacles are accustomed to produce. I could not
resolve to die: death had too many charms to suit the self-condemnation
that pursued me. I found a horrible satisfaction in determining to
live, and to avenge upon myself the guilt I had incurred. I was far
from imagining that the evils I had yet suffered were a mere sport and
ostentation of misery, compared with those that were in reserve for me.

The state of mind I am here describing was not madness, nor such as
could be mistaken for madness. I never forgot myself, and what I
was. I was never in that delirium of thought, in which the patient
is restless and active without knowing what it is that he does, and
from which, when roused, he suddenly starts, shakes off the dream
that engaged him, and stands astonished at himself. Mine was a rage,
guided and methodised by the discipline of despair. I burst into no
fits of raving; I attempted no injury to any one. Marguerite therefore
could not reconcile herself to the placing me under any restraint.
I frequently returned home, with my clothes smeared with the soil,
and torn by the briars. But my family soon became accustomed to
my returning in personal safety; and therefore, whatever was the
uneasiness my wife felt from my excursions, she preferred the enduring
it, to the idea of imposing on me any species of violence.

The state of my family presented a singular contrast with that of its
head. Marguerite was certainly not insensible to the opposition between
her former and her present mode of life; but she submitted to the
change with such an unaffected cheerfulness and composure, as might
have extorted admiration from malignity itself. She would perhaps have
dismissed from her thoughts all retrospect to our former grandeur, had
not the dejection and despair that seemed to have taken possession of
my mind forcibly and continually recalled it to her memory. For my
sufferings I am well assured she felt the truest sympathy; but there
was one consideration attending them that imperiously compelled her
to task her fortitude. They deprived me of the ability of in any
degree providing for and superintending my family; it became therefore
incumbent upon her to exert herself for the welfare of all. Had we
never fallen under this astonishing reverse, I might have spent my
whole life in daily intercourse with this admirable woman, without
becoming acquainted with half the treasures of her mind. She was my
steward; and from the result of her own reflections made the most
judicious disposition of my property. She was my physician; not by
administering medicines to my body, but by carefully studying and
exerting herself to remove the distemper of mind. Unfortunately no
distempers are so obstinate as mental ones; yet, had my distemper had
any lighter source than an upbraiding conscience, I am persuaded the
wisdom of Marguerite would have banished it. She was the instructor of
my children; her daughters felt no want of a governess; and I am even
ready to doubt whether the lessons of his mother did not amply supply
to Charles his loss of an education in the university of Paris. The
love of order, the activity, the industry, the cheerfulness of, let me
say, this illustrious matron, became contagious to all the inhabitants
of my roof. Once and again have I stolen a glance at them, or viewed
them from a distance busied, sometimes gravely, sometimes gaily, in
the plain, and have whispered to my bursting heart, “How miserable
am I! how happy they! So insurmountable is the barrier that divides
innocence from guilt. They may breathe the same air; they may dwell
under the same roof; they may be of one family and one blood; they may
associate with each other every day and every hour; but they can never
assimilate, never have any genuine contact. Is there a happier family
than mine in all the valley of this far-famed republic? Is there a
family more virtuous, or more cultivated with all the refinements that
conduce to the true dignity of man? I, I only am its burden and its
stain! The pleasure with which I am surrounded on every side finds a
repellent quality in my heart that will not suffer its approach. To
whatever is connected with me I communicate misfortune. Whenever I
make my appearance, those countenances that at all other times spoke
contentment and hilarity fall into sadness. Like a pestilential wind,
I appear to breathe blast to the fruits of nature, and sickliness to
its aspect.”

Marguerite expostulated with me in the most soothing manner upon the
obstinacy of my malady. “My Reginald! my love!” said she, “cease to be
unhappy, or to reproach yourself! You were rash in the experiment you
made upon the resources of your family. But have you done us mischief,
or have you conferred a benefit? I more than half incline to the latter
opinion. Let us at length dismiss artificial tastes, and idle and
visionary pursuits, that do not flow in a direct line from any of the
genuine principles of our nature! Here we are surrounded with sources
of happiness. Here we may live in true patriarchal simplicity. What is
chivalry, what are military prowess and glory? Believe me, they are the
passions of a mind depraved, that with ambitious refinement seeks to be
wise beyond the dictates of sentiment or reason! There is no happiness
so solid, or so perfect, as that which disdains these refinements. You,
like me, are fond of the luxuriant and romantic scenes of nature. Here
we are placed in the midst of them. How idle it would be, to wish to
change our arbours, our verdant lanes and thickets, for vaulted roofs,
and gloomy halls, and massy plate! Alas, Reginald! it is, I fear, too
true, that the splendour in which we lately lived has its basis in
oppression; and that the superfluities of the rich are a boon extorted
from the hunger and misery of the poor! Here we see a peasantry more
peaceful and less oppressed than perhaps any other tract of the earth
can exhibit. They are erect and independent, at once friendly and
fearless. Is not this a refreshing spectacle? I now begin practically
to perceive that the cultivators of the fields and the vineyards are
my brethren and my sisters; and my heart bounds with joy, as I feel
my relations to society multiply. How cumbrous is magnificence! The
moderate man is the only free. He who reduces all beneath him to a
state of servitude becomes himself the slave of his establishment, and
of all his domestics. To diminish the cases in which the assistance
of others is felt absolutely necessary is the only genuine road to
independence. We can now move wherever we please without waiting the
leisure of others. Our simple repasts require no tedious preparation,
and do not imprison us in saloons and eating rooms. Yet we partake
of them with a more genuine appetite, and rise from them more truly
refreshed, than from the most sumptuous feast. I prepare for my meal
by industry and exercise; and when it is over, amuse myself with my
children in the fields and the shade.--Though I love the sight of the
peasants, I would not be a peasant. I would have a larger stock of
ideas, and a wider field of activity. I love the sight of peasants
only for their accessories, or by comparison. They are comparatively
more secure than any other large masses of men, and the scenes in the
midst of which they are placed are delightful to sense. But I would
not sacrifice in prone oblivion the best characteristics of my nature.
I put in my claim for refinements and luxuries; but they are the
refinements and purifying of intellect, and the luxuries of uncostly,
simple taste. I would incite the whole world, if I knew how to do it,
to put in a similar claim. I would improve my mind; I would enlarge my
understanding; I would contribute to the instruction of all connected
with me, and to the mass of human knowledge. The pleasures I would
pursue and disseminate, though not dependent on a large property, are
such as could not be understood by the rustic and the savage.--Our
son, bred in these fields, indeed, will probably never become a
_preux chevalier_, or figure in the roll of military heroes; but he
may become something happier and better. He may improve his mind, and
cultivate his taste. He may be the counsellor and protector of his
sisters. He may be the ornament of the district in which he resides.
He may institute in his adoptive country new defences for liberty, new
systems of public benefit, and new improvements of life. There is no
character more admirable than the patriot-yeoman, who unites with the
utmost simplicity of garb and manners an understanding fraught with
information and sentiment and a heart burning with the love of mankind.
Such were Fabricius and Regulus among the ancients, and such was Tell,
the founder of the Helvetic liberty. For my part, I am inclined to be
thankful, that this unexpected reverse in our circumstances has made
me acquainted with new pleasures, and opened to my mind an invaluable
lesson. If you could but be prevailed on to enter into our pleasures,
to dismiss idle reproaches and pernicious propensities, our happiness
would then be complete.”

The expostulations of Marguerite often excited my attention, often my
respect, and sometimes produced a sort of imperfect conviction. But the
conviction was transient, and the feelings I have already described
as properly my own returned, when the fresh and vivid impression of
what I had heard was gone. It was in vain that I heard the praises of
simplicity and innocence. I was well pleased to see those who were
nearest to me not affecting contentment, but really contented with
these things. But I could not be contented for them. The lessons of
my education had left too deep an impression. I could myself have
surrendered my claim to admiration and homage, as a penance for my
misdeeds; but I could not figure to myself a genuine satisfaction
unaccompanied by these accessories: and this satisfaction I obstinately
and impatiently coveted for those I loved.



CHAPTER VIII.


While I murmured in bitterness of soul at the lowness to which my
family was reduced, a still heavier calamity impended, as if in
vengeance against the fantastic refinements of distress over which I
brooded.

I was wandering, as I had often done, with a gloomy and rebellious
spirit, among the rocks, a few miles distant from the place of
our habitation. It was the middle of summer. The weather had been
remarkably fine; but I disdained to allow the gratifications which
arise from a pure atmosphere and a serene sky to find entrance in
my soul. My excursions had for some days been incessant; and the
sun, which matured the corn and blackened the grapes around, had
imbrowned my visage, and boiled in my blood. I drank in fierceness and
desperation from the fervour of his beams. One night, as in sullen
mood I watched his setting from a point of the rock, I perceived the
clearness of the day subsiding in a threatening evening. The clouds
gathered in the west; and, as night approached, were overspread with a
deep dye of the fiercest crimson. The wind rose; and, during the hours
of darkness, its roarings were hollow and tempestuous.

In the morning the clouds were hurried rapidly along, and the air was
changed from a long series of sultriness to a nipping cold. This change
of the atmosphere I disregarded, and pursued my rambles. A little
before noon, however, the air suddenly grew so dark, as to produce a
sensation perfectly tremendous. I felt as if the darkest night had
never exceeded it. The impetuous motion to which I had been impelled,
partly by the fever in my blood, and partly by the turbulence of the
season, was suspended. Mechanically I looked round me for shelter.
But I could ill distinguish the objects that were near me, when a
flash of lightning, blue and sulphureous, came directly in my face,
with a brightness that threatened to extinguish the organ of vision.
The thunder that followed was of a length and loudness to admit of
no comparison from any object with which I am acquainted. The bursts
were so frequent as almost to confound themselves with each other. At
present I thought only of myself; and the recent habits of my mind
were not calculated to make me peculiarly accessible to fear. I stood
awe-struck; but rather with the awe that inheres to a cultivated
imagination, than that which consists in apprehension. I seemed ready
to mount amidst the clouds, and penetrate the veil with which nature
conceals her operations. I would have plunged into the recesses in
which the storm was engendered, and bared my bosom to the streaming
fire. Meanwhile my thoughts were solemnised and fixed by observing
the diversified dance of the lightnings upon the points of the rocks,
contrasting as they did in the strongest manner with the darkness in
which the rest of the scene was enveloped. This added contention of the
elements did not, however, suspend the raging of the wind. Presently a
storm of mingled hail and rain poured from the clouds, and was driven
with inconceivable impetuosity. The hailstones were of so astonishing
a magnitude, that, before I was aware, I was beaten by them to the
ground. Not daring to attempt to rise again, I simply endeavoured to
place myself in such a manner as might best protect me from their
violence. I therefore remained prostrate, listening to the force with
which they struck upon the earth, and feeling the rebound of their
blows from different parts of my body.

In about twenty minutes the shower abated, and in half an hour was
entirely over. When I began to move, I was surprised at the sensation
of soreness which I felt in every part of me. I raised myself upon
my elbow, and saw the hailstones, in some places lying in heaps like
hillocks of ice, while in others they had ploughed up the surface,
and buried themselves in the earth. As I looked further, I perceived
immense trees torn from their roots, and thrown to a great distance
upon the declivity. To the noise that they made in their descent, which
must have been astonishingly great, I had been at the time insensible.
Such were the marks which the tempest had left upon the mountains. In
the plain it was still worse. I could perceive the soil for long spaces
together converted into a morass, the standing corn beaten down and
buried in the mud, the vines torn into a thousand pieces, the fruit
trees demolished, and even in some places the animals themselves,
lambs, sheep, and cows, strewing the fields with their mangled
carcasses. The whole hopes of the year over which my eyes had glanced
a few minutes before, for it was near the period of harvest, were
converted into the most barren and dreary scene that any quarter of the
globe ever witnessed. I was mounted upon a considerable eminence, and
had an extensive prospect of this horrible devastation.

As I stood gazing in mute astonishment, suddenly a fear came over me
that struck dampness to my very heart. What was the situation of my
own family and their little remaining property, amidst this dreadful
ruin? I was in a position where, though I nearly faced our habitation,
a point of the rock intercepted it from my sight. The obstacle was but
a small one, yet it would require a considerable circuit to overcome. I
flew along the path with a speed that scarcely permitted me to breathe.
When I had passed the upper rock, the whole extensive scene opened upon
me in an instant. What were my sensations, when I perceived that the
devastation had been even more complete here than on the side where I
first viewed it! My own cottage in particular, which that very morning
had contained, and I hoped continued to contain, all that was most dear
to my heart, seemed to stand an entire solitude in the midst of an
immense swamp.

Marguerite, whose idea, upon our retreat into Switzerland, had been
that of conforming without reserve to the new situation that was
allotted us, had immediately expended the whole of what remained
from the shipwreck of our fortune, in the purchase of the cottage in
which we dwelt, and a small portion of land around it, sufficient
with economy for the support of our family. Under her direction the
hills had been covered with vines, and the fields with corn. She
had purchased cows to furnish us with milk, and sheep with their
fleeces, and had formed her establishment upon the model of the Swiss
peasantry in our neighbourhood. Reverting to the simplicity of nature,
appeared to her like building upon an immovable basis, which the clash
of nations could not destroy, and which was too humble to fear the
treachery of courts, or the caprice of artificial refinement.

It was all swept away in a moment. Our little property looked as if it
had been particularly a mark for the vengeance of Heaven, and was more
utterly destroyed than any of the surrounding scenes. There was not
a tree left standing; there was not a hedge or a limit that remained
within or around it; chaos had here resumed his empire, and avenged
himself of the extraordinary order and beauty it had lately displayed.

I was not overwhelmed with this astonishing spectacle. At that moment
nature found her way to my heart, and made a man of me. I made light
of these petty accessories of our existence; and the thought of my
wife and my children, simply as they were in themselves, filled every
avenue of my heart. For them, and them alone, I was interested: it was
a question for their lives. To conceive what they might personally
have sustained was a horror that seemed to freeze up all the arteries
of my heart. I descended from the mountain. It was with the greatest
difficulty, and not without many circuitous deviations, that I
proceeded; so much was the surface changed, and so deep and miry the
swamps. My terror increased, as I passed near to the carcasses of the
animals who had fallen victims to this convulsion of the elements. I
observed, with inconceivable alarm, that the dead or wounded bodies
of some human beings were intermingled with the brute destruction.
I stayed not to enquire whether they were yet in a state to require
assistance; the idea that had taken possession of me left no room for
the sentiment of general humanity.

A little further on I distinctly remarked the body of a woman at some
distance from any habitation, who appeared to be dead, destroyed by
the storm. Near her lay a female infant, apparently about six years of
age. My attention was involuntarily arrested; I thought of Louisa, that
sweet and amiable child, so like her admirable mother. The figure was
hers; the colour of the robe corresponded to that in which I last saw
her. The child was lying on her face. With all the impatient emotions
of a father, I stooped down. I turned over the body, that I might
identify my child. It was still warm; life had scarcely deserted it. I
gazed upon the visage; it was distorted with the agonies of death: but
enough to convince me still remained discernible; it was not Louisa!

I can scarcely recollect a period through all the strange vicissitudes
of my existence to be compared with this. If I had not felt what I then
felt, I could never have conceived it. Human nature is so constituted,
that the highest degree of anguish, an anguish in which the heart
stretches itself to take in the mightiness of its woe, can be felt but
for a few instants. When the calamity we feared is already arrived, or
when the expectation of it is so certain as to shut out hope, there
seems to be a principle within us by which we look with misanthropic
composure on the state to which we are reduced, and the heart sullenly
contracts and accommodates itself to what it most abhorred. Our hopes
wither; and our pride, our self-complacence, all that taught us to
rejoice in existence, wither along with them. But, when hope yet
struggles with despair, or when the calamity abruptly announces itself,
then is the true contention, the tempest and uproar of the soul too
vast to be endured.

This sentiment of ineffable wretchedness I experienced, when I stooped
down over the body of the imaginary Louisa, and when I hastened to
obtain the certainty which was of all things most terrible to me. The
termination of such a moment of horror is scarcely less memorable than
its intrinsic greatness. In an instant the soul recovers its balance,
and the thought is as if it has never been. I clapped my hands in an
ecstasy at once of joy and astonishment, so sure did I seem to have
made myself of my misfortune; I quitted the body with an unburdened
heart; I flew towards my home, that I might ascertain whether I was
prematurely speaking comfort to my spirit.

At length I reached it. I saw the happy group assembled at the door.
Marguerite had entertained the same terrors for me, with which I had
myself so lately been impressed. We flew into each other’s arms. She
hid her face in my neck, and sobbed audibly. I embraced each of the
children in turn, but Louisa with the most heartfelt delight. “Are you
safe, papa?”--“Are you safe, my child?” were echoed on every side. A
spectator, unacquainted with what was passing in our hearts, would
certainly have stood astonished to see the transport with which we
exulted, surrounded as we were with desolation and ruin.

After an interval, however, we opened our eyes, and began to ruminate
upon the new condition in which we were placed. Marguerite and myself
watched each other’s countenances with anxiety, to discover what were
likely to be the feelings of either in this terrible crisis. “Be of
good heart, my love,” said Marguerite; “do not suffer the accident
which has happened entirely to overcome you.” There was a mixed
compassion, tenderness, and anxiety in the tone of voice with which she
uttered these words, that was inexpressibly delightful.

“No, Marguerite,” replied I, with enthusiastic impetuosity, “I am not
cast down; I never shall be cast down again. Ruin is nothing to me,
so long as I am surrounded with you and our dear children. I have for
some time been a fool. In the midst of every real blessing, I have
fashioned for myself imaginary evils. But my eyes are now opened. How
easily is the human mind induced to forget those benefits with which
we are constantly surrounded, and our possession of which we regard as
secure! The feelings of this morning have awakened me. I am now cured
of my folly. I have learned to value my domestic blessings as I ought.
Having preserved them, I esteem myself to have lost nothing. What are
gold and jewels and precious utensils? Mere dross and dirt. The human
face and the human heart, reciprocations of kindness and love, and all
the nameless sympathies of our nature,--these are the only objects
worth being attached to. What are rank and station?--the homage of the
multitude and the applause of fools. Let me judge for myself! The value
of a man is in his intrinsic qualities; in that of which power cannot
strip him, and which adverse fortune cannot take away. That for which
he is indebted to circumstances, is mere trapping and tinsel. I should
love these precious and ingenuous creatures before me better, though
in rags, than the children of kings in all the pomp of ornament. I am
proud to be their father. Whatever may be my personal faults, the world
is my debtor for having been the occasion of their existence. But they
are endeared to me by a better principle than pride. I love them for
their qualities. He that loves, and is loved by, a race of pure and
virtuous creatures, and that lives continually in the midst of them, is
an idiot, if he does not think himself happy. Surrounded as I am now
surrounded, I feel as irremovable as the pillars of creation. Nothing
that does not strike at their existence can affect me with terror.”

Marguerite viewed me with surprise and joy. “Now indeed,” said she,
“you are the man I took you for, and the man I shall henceforth be
prouder than ever to call my husband. The sorrow in which you lately
indulged was a luxury; and we must have done with luxuries. You will be
our protector and our support.”

Thus saying, she took me by the hand, and motioned me to view with
her the devastation that had been committed. There was one path I had
discovered, in which we might proceed some way with tolerable ease.
The scene was terrible. We were indeed beggars. A whole province had
been destroyed: all the corn and the fruits of the earth; most of the
trees; in many places cattle; in some places men. Persons who had been
rich in the morning saw all the produce of their fields annihilated,
and were unable even to guess by what process fertility was to be
re-established. The comparatively wealthy scarcely knew how they were
to obtain immediate subsistence; the humbler class, who always live by
the expedients of the day, saw nothing before them but the prospect
of perishing with hunger. We witnessed, in one or two instances, the
anguish of their despair.

Our prospect was scarcely in any respect better than theirs; yet we
felt differently. We were more impressed with the joy of our personal
escape. As my error respecting the value of externals had been
uncommonly great, the sudden revolution of opinion I experienced was
equally memorable. The survey, indeed, that we took of the general
distress somewhat saddened our hearts; but the sadness it gave was that
of sobriety, not of dejection.

It was incumbent upon us to make a strict examination into the amount
of our property, and our immediate resources; and in this office I
united myself with Marguerite, not only with a degree of cheerfulness
and application, the perfect contrast of my whole conduct ever since
our arrival in Switzerland, but which greatly exceeded any thing I
had ever before exhibited in a business of this nature. We found
that, though all our hopes of a harvest were annihilated, yet we were
not destitute of the instant means of subsistence. The resources we
possessed, whether in money or provisions, that were our dependence
till the period when the new produce should supply their place, were
uninjured. Our implements of husbandry remained as before. The land was
not impoverished, but had rather derived additional fertility from the
effects of the storm. What we had lost was chiefly the produce of our
capital for one year, together with a part of that capital itself in
the live stock that had been destroyed. This was a loss which a certain
degree of care and scope in our external circumstances might easily
have enabled us to supply. But the principle of supply was denied us.
It was with considerable difficulty that all the economy of Marguerite
had enabled her to support our family establishment, while every thing
of this kind had gone on prosperously. Such a shock as the present we
were totally disqualified to surmount. It compelled us to a complete
revolution of our affairs.

Many indeed of our neighbours had scarcely any greater advantage
in their private affairs than ourselves. But they possessed one
superiority that proved of the greatest importance in this conjuncture;
they were natives of the state in which they resided. In the cantons
of Switzerland, the destruction of the fruits of the earth, occasioned
by inclement seasons and tempests, is by no means unfrequent; and it
is therefore customary, in plentiful years, to lay up corn in public
magazines, that the people may not perish in periods of scarcity.
These magazines are placed under the inspection and disposal of the
magistracy; and the inhabitants looked to them with confidence for the
supply of their need. No storm, however, had occurred in the memory of
man so terrible and ruinous as the present; and it became evident that
the magazines would prove a resource too feeble for the extent of the
emergency.

The storm had spread itself over a space of many leagues in
circumference, not only in the canton of Soleure, but in the
neighbouring cantons, particularly that of Berne. The sufferers, in our
own canton only, amounted to scarcely less than ten thousand. While the
women and children, for the most part, remained at home, the houses
having in general suffered little other damage than the destruction
of their windows, the fathers of families repaired to the seat of
government to put in their claims for national relief; and these alone
formed an immense troop, that threatened little less than to besiege
the public magazines and the magistrates. An accurate investigation was
entered into of the losses of each, it being the purpose of government,
as far as its power extended, not only to supply the people with the
means of immediate subsistence, but also, by disbursements from the
public treasury, to recruit the stock of cattle, and to assist every
one to return, with revived hopes and expectation, to the sphere of his
industry. The purpose was no doubt benevolent; but, in the mean time,
the unhappy victims found in uncertainty and expectation a real and
corroding anguish.

I advanced my claim with the rest, but met with a peremptory refusal.
The harsh and rigorous answer I received was, that they had not enough
for their own people, and could spare nothing to strangers. Upon this
occasion I was compelled to feel what it was to be an alien, and how
different the condition in which I was now placed from that I had
filled in my native country. There I had lived in the midst of a
people, to whom the veneration of my ancestry and name seemed a part
of their nature. They had witnessed for several years the respectable
manner in which I lived; the virtues of Marguerite were familiar to
them; and they took an interest in every thing that concerned us, a
sentiment that confessed us at once for kindred and patrons. It was
the turn of mind only which is generated by rank, that had compelled
us to quit their vicinity; we might have continued in it, if not
in affluence, at least enjoying the gratifications that arise from
general affection and respect. But here we were beheld with an eye
of jealousy and distaste. We had no prejudice of birth and habit
in our favour; indeed, in the reverse of fortune which had brought
us hither, Marguerite had been less desirous of obtruding, than of
withdrawing from the public eye, the circumstance of our rank. We
were too recent inmates to have secured, by any thing of a personal
nature, an advantageous opinion among our neighbours. They saw only
a miserable and distracted father of a family, and a mother who, in
spite of the simplicity she cultivated, sufficiently evinced that she
had been accustomed to a more elevated situation. The prepossessions
of mankind are clearly unfavourable to a new-comer, an emigrant who
has quitted his former connections and the scenes of his youth. They
are unavoidably impelled to believe, that his taking up his abode in
another country must be owing to a weak and discreditable caprice,
if it be not owing to something still more disadvantageous to his
character.

The calamity therefore which we had suffered in common with most of the
inhabitants of the province, finally reduced us to the necessity of
a second emigration. The jealousy with which we were regarded, daily
became more visible and threatening. Though, in consequence of the
distribution made by order of the state, the price of commodities was
not so much increased as might have been expected, we were considered
as interlopers upon the portion of the natives; the sellers could
with difficulty be persuaded to accommodate us, and the bystanders
treated us with murmurs and reviling. While we were deliberating what
course to pursue in this emergency, certain officers of government one
morning entered our habitation, producing an order of the senate for
our immediate removal out of the territory. It is of the essence of
coercive regulations, to expel, to imprison, and turn out of prison,
the individuals it is thought proper to control, without any care as
to the mischiefs they may suffer, and whether they perish under or
survive the evil inflicted on them. We were accordingly allowed only
from six in the morning till noon, to prepare for our departure. Our
guards indeed offered to permit me to remain three days to wind up
my affairs, upon condition that my wife and children were instantly
removed into another country, as a sort of hostages for my own
departure. This indulgence however would have been useless. In the
present state of the country no purchaser could be found for the little
estate I possessed; and if there could, it must doubtless have been
disposed of to great disadvantage at such an emergency. I know not
how we should have extricated ourselves out of these difficulties,
if a member of the senate, who, being one of my nearest neighbours,
had been struck with admiration of the virtues of Marguerite, and
with compassion for my family, had not paid me a visit shortly after
the arrival of the officers, and generously offered to take upon
himself the care of my property, and to advance me what money might
be necessary for my emigration. This offer, which at any other time
might have been regarded as purely a matter of course, under the
present circumstances, when capital was so necessary for the revival
of agriculture in the desolated country, implied a liberal and
disinterested spirit. I accepted the kindness of my neighbour in both
its parts, but for the reimbursement of his loan referred him to the
French minister to the United Cantons, who, under all the circumstances
of the case, and taking my estate as security for the money advanced, I
thought it reasonable to believe would attend to my application.



CHAPTER IX.


My affairs being thus far adjusted, I took leave of my late habitation,
and set off with my wife and children the same afternoon. In the
evening we arrived at Basle, where we were permitted to remain that
night; and the next morning were conducted in form out at the north
gate of the city, where our attendants quitted us, with a fresh
prohibition under the severest penalties, if we were found within
the ensuing twelve months in any of the territories of the Helvetic
republic.

Marguerite and myself had already formed our plan. We began with
dismissing both our servants. An attendant was no longer necessary
to me, nor a nurse for the infant. The suggestion of this measure
originated in myself. My temper at this time, as I have already said,
underwent a striking change. I was resolved to be happy; I was resolved
to be active. It was hard to part with persons so long familiar to
us, and who appeared rather in the character of humble friends than
domestics; but an imperious necessity demanded it. “Let us,” said I
to Marguerite, “increase and secure our happiness by diminishing our
wants. I will be your husbandman and your labourer; you may depend
upon my perseverance. My education has fitted me to endure hardship
and fatigue, though the hardships then thought of were of a different
nature. You have ever delighted in active usefulness; and will not, I
know, repine at this accumulation of employment. Let us accommodate
ourselves to our circumstances. Our children, I perceive, are fated to
be peasants, and will therefore be eminently benefited by the example
of patience and independence we shall set before them.”

The next object of our plan related to the choice of our future place
of residence. This originated with Marguerite. She had heard much
of the beauty and richness of the country bordering on the lake of
Constance, and she thought that, while we denied ourselves expensive
pleasures, or rather while they were placed out of our reach, there
would be a propriety in our procuring for ourselves a stock of those
pleasures which would cost us nothing. This was a refinement beyond
me, and serves to evince the superiority which Marguerite’s virtue and
force of mind still retained over mine. The virtue I had so recently
adopted was a strenuous effort. I rather resolved to be happy, than
could strictly be said to be happy. I loved my children indeed with an
unfeigned affection. It was with sincerity that I professed to prefer
them to all earthly possessions. But vanity and ostentation were habits
wrought into my soul, and might be said to form part of its essence.
I could not, but by the force of constant recollection, keep them out
of my wishes and hopes for the future. I could not, like Marguerite,
suffer my thoughts, as it were, to riot and wanton in the pleasures of
poverty. I could only reconcile myself to my fate by a sort of gloomy
firmness. The tranquillity I seemed to have attained, was an unnatural
state of my soul, to which it was necessary that I should resolutely
hold myself down, and from which my thoughts appeared ever upon the
alert to escape. Bitter experience had at length taught me a hard
lesson; and that lesson I was determined to practise, whatever pangs my
resignation might cost me.

We proceeded without hesitation in the direction we had resolved to
pursue. Our whole journey exceeded the space of forty leagues in
extent, and the expense necessarily attendant upon it (our family,
even after its reduction, consisting of no less than six persons),
drained our purse of a great part of the money which had been supplied
to us by the benevolent senator. But he had agreed to undertake the
disposing of the property we were obliged to leave behind us, and in
the mean time, if any considerable interval occurred before that was
accomplished, to furnish us with the sums that should be necessary for
our subsistence. We placed the utmost reliance upon his fidelity, and
dismissed from our minds all anxiety respecting the interval which our
banishment had interposed between us and the resources necessary for
our future settlement.

Upon our arrival at Constance, we found a letter from our friend; and
though he transmitted to us no fresh supply, the complexion of his
communication was upon the whole so encouraging, as to determine us,
with no other delay than that of four days’ rest from our journey,
to pass to the other side of the lake, and explore for ourselves a
situation suitable to our design. The western bank of the lake, with
the exception only of the city of Constance, was part of the _pays
conquis_ of the United Cantons; the eastern bank was a territory
dependent on the government of that city. It was in this territory that
we purposed fixing our residence; and we trusted, that our affairs
would shortly be put in a train to enable us to take possession of the
spot we should select.

Thus driven once more into flight by the pressure of misfortune, and
compelled to exchange for a land unknown the scenes which familiarity
might have endeared, or tender recollections have made interesting, we
did not sink under the weight of our adversity. This removal was not
like our last. Switzerland was to none of us endeared like the vales of
St. Leon. I was not now goaded and tormented by conscious guilt in the
degree I had then been; Marguerite was not afflicted by the spectacle
of my misery. Our present change, though it might be denominated a
fall, was light in comparison with the former. The composure I had
gained was new to me, and had to my own mind all the gloss of novelty.
To my companions it proved contagious; they were astonished at my
serenity, and drew from it an unwonted lightness of heart.

Thus circumstanced, our tour had its charms for us all; and there
are few passages of my life that I have felt more agreeably. The
lake itself is uncommonly beautiful, and its environs are fertile and
interesting. It is surrounded with an abundance of towns, villages,
country seats, and monasteries, sufficient to adorn and diversify the
view, but not to exclude the sweetness of a rural scenery, or the
grand features of nature. We coasted a considerable part of the lake,
that we might judge in some degree, previously to our landing, which
part of the shore promised best to yield us the object we sought. The
autumn was now commencing; the air was liquid and sweet; the foliage
was rich and varied; and the vine-covered hills exhibited a warmth and
luxuriance of colouring, that no other object of nature or art is able
to cope with. Surrounded with these objects, I sat in my boat in the
midst of my children; and, as I was but just awakened to an observation
of their worth and my own happiness, I viewed them with a transport
that would be ill illustrated by being compared with the transport of a
miser over his new-recovered treasure from the bowels of the deep.

O poverty! exclaimed I, with elevated and unconquerable emotion, if
these are the delights that attend thee, willingly will I resign the
pomp of palaces and the splendour of rank to whoever shall deem them
worth his acceptance! Henceforth I desire only to dedicate myself to
the simplicity of nature and the genuine sentiments of the heart. I
will enjoy the beauty of scenes cultivated by other hands than mine,
or that are spread out before me by the Author of the universe. I will
sit in the midst of my children, and revel in the luxury of domestic
affections; pleasures these, that may be incumbered, but cannot be
heightened, by all that wealth has in its power to bestow! Wealth
serves no other purpose than to deprave the soul, and adulterate the
fountains of genuine delight.

Such was the spirit of exultation with which my mind was at this time
filled. I am sensible that it was only calculated to be transitory.
I might learn to be contented; I was not formed to be satisfied in
obscurity and a low estate.

Thus happy, and thus amused, we spent two days in coasting the lake,
landing frequently for the purposes either of variety or enquiry, and
regularly passing the night on shore. On the evening of the second day
we were struck with the neat appearance and pleasing situation of a
cottage, which we discovered in our rambles, about a mile and a half
from the lake. We found that it was to be sold, and it seemed precisely
to correspond with the wishes we had formed. It was at a considerable
distance from any populous neighbourhood, the nearest town being that
of Merspurg, the usual residence of the bishops of Constance, which was
distant from this spot not less than three leagues.

The cottage was situated in a valley; the hills being for the most
part crowned with rich and verdant foliage, their sides covered with
vineyards and corn, and a clear transparent rivulet murmuring along
from east to west. In the distance a few similar cottages discovered
themselves, and in front there was an opening between the hills, just
wide enough to show us a few sails as they floated along the now even
surface of the lake. We approached the cottage, and found in it only
one person, an interesting girl of nineteen, who had resided there from
her birth, and had been employed for the last four years in attendance
upon the closing scene of her mother. Her mother had been dead only a
few weeks, and she was upon the point of removing, as she told us, to
the house of a brother, the best creature in the world, who was already
married, and had a family of children. While we were talking with her,
we perceived a fine boy of about eleven years of age skipping along the
meadow. He proved to be her nephew, and hastened to say that his father
and Mr. Henry were just behind, and would be with her in a few minutes.
We waited their arrival; and it was easy to see that Mr. Henry was by
no means an indifferent object in the eyes of the beautiful orphan: she
had probably conditioned that he should permit her to remain single as
long as she could be of any use to her mother. The lovers were well
satisfied that the girl’s brother should be taken aside, that I might
talk over with him the affair of the cottage. We made a tour of the
fields that were part of the property of the deceased, and the terms of
our intended purchase were easily adjusted.

Though we had now accomplished the immediate purpose of our
expedition, yet, as we had found unusual exhilaration and sweetness in
the objects it presented to us, we came to a resolution of continuing
it still further, and completing the circuit of the lake. We were aware
that it would be vain as yet to expect to receive the money requisite
for completing our purchase; and as no pleasure, merely in the way of
relaxation, could be more delightful than that we were now enjoying,
so was it impossible that we could fill up our time in a more frugal
manner than in this little voyage. Our gratification was not less, but
more perfect, because it consisted of simple, inartificial, unbought
amusements. The scenes around us were refreshing and invigorating; they
were calculated, temporarily at least, to inspire gaiety and youth into
decrepitude itself. Amidst these scenes we forgot our sorrows; they
were a kind of stream, in which weariness and dejection plunged their
limbs, and came forth untired and alert. They awakened in the mind all
its most pleasing associations. Having already, as we believed, chosen
the place of our future residence, we busied ourselves in imagining
all the accompaniments that would grow out of it. We determined that
poverty with health would not fail to be attended with its portion of
pleasures. The scenes of nature were all our own; nor could wealth
give them a more perfect, or a firmer, appropriation. The affections
and charities of habitude and consanguinity we trusted we should feel
uninterrupted; unincumbered with the ceremonies and trappings of life,
and in that rural plainness which is their genial soil.

After a leisurely and delightful voyage of six days, we returned
to Constance. We expected to have found on our return some further
intelligence from the beneficent senator, but in this we were
disappointed. The imagination however easily suggested to us a
variety of circumstances that might have delayed the business he had
undertaken; and it was no forced inference to suppose that he deferred
writing, because he had nothing important to communicate. At first
therefore we suffered little uneasiness from the delay; but as time
proceeded, and the silence of our protector continued, the affair began
to assume a more serious aspect. The little stock we had brought
with us in our exile was in a rapid progress of decay. We had managed
it with frugality; though not at first with that anxious solicitude,
the necessity of which we now began to apprehend. We had procured for
ourselves two small and inconvenient apartments in an obscure alley
of the city of Constance. We were in the act of meditating what steps
it would be necessary to take in this unfortunate emergency, when
intelligence was brought us of the sudden decease of the person upon
whose kindness and exertions we depended.

He was succeeded in his estate by his nephew, a man of whom we had
heard something during our residence in the neighbourhood, and
whose habits we understood to be diametrically the reverse of his
predecessor’s. In short, he had been represented to us as illiberal,
morose, selfish, and litigious; a man who, having suffered in one part
of his life the hardships of poverty, scrupled no means, honourable or
otherwise, of removing it to the greatest practicable distance. He had
already reaped the succession some weeks, when we heard of the event
that put him in possession of it; and the letters which I had more than
once addressed to our protector had probably fallen into his hands.
These circumstances afforded no favourable augury of the treatment
we might expect from him. The first thing which seemed proper was to
write to him, which I accordingly did. I acquainted him with the nature
of the transaction between myself and his uncle, and signified how
necessary it was that we should come to a conclusion as speedily as
possible. I represented to him pathetically the condition to which I
was born, and the opulence in which I had passed many years of my life,
together with the contrast afforded by the present reduced and urgent
circumstances of my family. I entreated him to exert his generosity and
justice in behalf of an unfortunate exile, whom untoward events had
deprived of the power of doing justice to himself.

To this letter I received no answer. Uncertain as to the cause of my
correspondent’s silence, or even whether my letter had been received,
I wrote again. My heart was wrung with this new adversity. I was
forbidden, under pain of perpetual imprisonment, to return to the
territories of the republic, and I had no friend to solicit in my
behalf. In Constance I was utterly a stranger. In Switzerland, my
unfortunate habits of life, the depression and solitude in which I had
been merged, deprived me of the opportunity of forming connections. The
deceased was the only person who had been disposed to interfere for me.
It was too probable that the silence of his successor was an indication
of the hostility of his views. I saw nothing before me but the prospect
of my family perishing with want, deprived of their last resource,
exiles and pennyless. Thus destitute and forlorn, what could we do? to
what plan could we have recourse? We had not so much as the means of
providing ourselves with the implements of the humblest labour. If we
had, could I, under my circumstances, resolve upon this? Could I give
up the last slender pittance of my children while there was a chance of
recovering it; and, by surrendering them to the slavery of perpetual
labour, devote them to the lowest degree of ignorance and degradation?
No; I still clung to this final hope, and was resolved to undertake
any thing, however desperate, rather than part with it. Such were my
feelings; and, in the new letter which I now despatched, I poured out
all the anguish of my soul.

A reply to this letter was at length vouchsafed. The heir of my
protector informed me, that he knew nothing of the business to which
I alluded; that he had come into possession of the lands I described,
together with the other property of his late uncle, and regarded
himself as holding them by the same tenure; that he found in the
accounts of the estate a sum of money advanced to me, which he might
with the strictest justice regard as a debt, and pursue me for it
accordingly. He should be liberal enough however so far to give credit
to my story, and to consider the sum in question as advanced upon a
pledge of land: in that case, I might regard myself as sufficiently
fortunate in having obtained even that amount at a time when, but for
the humanity or weakness of his uncle, my estate would not have sold
for a farthing. Meanwhile, the forbearance which he proffered would,
he observed, depend upon my conduct, and be retracted if I afforded
him cause for resentment. He added, that he despised my menaces and
commands, and that, if I took a single step against him, I should find
it terminate in my utter ruin.

Nothing could be more profligate than the style of his letter. But
its impotence was equal to its wickedness. It was absurd to threaten
to inflict ruin on a man whom ruin had already overtaken. Before the
letter arrived, I had disbursed the whole sum I brought with me from
Switzerland. This entire annihilation of my resources seemed to steal
on me unperceived. Finding that all reply to my importunity was either
refused, or deferred to an uncertain period, I would willingly at
all risks have sought the villain who thus obdurately devoted me and
my family to destruction, and have endeavoured to obtain justice in
person. But it was now too late. Before I felt the case thus desperate,
my finances were so far reduced as to make it impracticable for me to
leave my wife and children enough to support them in my absence, even
if I had determined myself to set out upon this perilous expedition
pennyless. I resolved that, if we did perish, we would perish together.

Penury was now advancing upon us with such rapid strides, that the
lowest and most scanty resources no longer admitted of neglect. Had
a case thus desperate been encountered with timely attention, it is
not improbable that some of the various talents I had acquired in
the course of my education would have furnished me with a means of
subsistence not altogether plebeian or incompetent. But, with the
uncertainty of my situation, and totally unaccustomed as I was to
regard my person or mind as a machine fitted for productive labour, I
had not looked to this question, till the urgency of the case deprived
me of every advantage I might otherwise have seized. I was glad
therefore to have recourse to menial occupation, and sought employment
under the gardener of the episcopal palace, for whose service I was
sufficiently qualified by my ten years’ retreat in the Bordelois. That
I might better adapt myself to the painful necessity of my situation, I
previously exchanged some of my own clothes for garments more suitable
to the business I now solicited. It was not till I had arrived within
a very few days to the end of my resources; that even this expedient,
by a sort of accident, recurred to my mind. Marguerite, though fully
aware of the urgency of the case, had, as she afterwards told me,
imposed on herself a compulsory silence, fearing for the inflamed and
irritated frame of my mind, and aware that the course of events would
ultimately lead me to a point with which she dreaded to intermeddle.
This was for her a trying moment; my lately recovered insanity obliging
her to contemplate in silence our growing distress, and to wait the
attack of hunger and want that threatened to destroy us, with an
apparent tranquillity and cheerfulness.

For me, so entire a revolution had taken place in my sentiments, that
I spurned with contempt, so far as related to myself, that pride of
rank and romantic gallantry of honour, which had formerly been my
idols. I submitted with a sort of gloomy contentment to the situation
upon which my destiny drove me. I regarded it as the natural result of
my former misconduct; and derived a sentiment of ease and relief from
thus expiating, as it were, with the sweat of my brow, the temptations
to which I had yielded. Had I been myself only reduced thus low, or
had the produce of my labour been sufficient to purchase competence
for my wife and the means of instruction for my family, I can safely
affirm that I should have found no consequence so direct from my own
degradation as the means of silencing the reproaches of conscience and
reconciling me to myself. But when I returned in the evening with the
earnings of my day’s labour, and found it incompetent to the procuring
for those who depended on me the simplest means of subsistence, then
indeed my sensations were different. My heart died within me. I did
not return after the fatigues of the day, which, to me who had not
been accustomed to unremitted labour, and who now began to feel that I
was not so young as I had been at the siege of Pavia, were extremely
trying,--I did not return, I say, to a night of repose. I became
a very woman when I looked forward, and endeavoured to picture to
myself the future situation of my family. I watered my pillow with
my tears. Often, when I imagined that my whole family were asleep, I
gave vent to my perturbated and distracted mind in groans: Marguerite
would sometimes overhear me; and with the gentlest suggestions of her
admirable mind would endeavour to soothe my thoughts to peace. For the
present, as I have said, my earnings were incompetent, and we found it
necessary to supply the deficiency by the sale of the few garments,
not in immediate use, that we still possessed. What then would be the
case when these were gone, and when, in addition to this, it would be
necessary to purchase not only food to eat, and a roof to shelter, but
also clothes to cover us?



CHAPTER X.


These deficiencies I anxiously anticipated; but there was another
evil, upon which I had not calculated, that was still nearer and more
overwhelming. The mode of life in which I was now engaged, so different
from any thing to which I had been accustomed, excessive fatigue,
together with the occasional heat of the weather, the uneasiness of my
mind, and the sleeplessness of my nights, all combined to throw me into
a fever, which, though it did not last long, had raged so furiously
during the period of its continuance, as to leave me in a state of the
most complete debility. While the disorder was upon me, I was sensible
of my danger; and, as the brilliant and consolatory prospects of life
seemed for ever closed upon me, I at first regarded my approaching
dissolution with complacency, and longed to be released from a series
of woes, in which I had been originally involved by my own folly.
This frame of mind however was of no great duration; the more nearly
I contemplated the idea of separation from those I loved, the smaller
was my resignation. I was unwilling to quit those dear objects by
which I still held to this mortal scene; I shrunk with aversion from
that barrier which separates us from all that is new, mysterious, and
strange. Another train of ideas succeeded this, and I began to despise
myself for my impatience and cowardice. It was by my vices that my
family was involved in a long train of misfortunes; could I shrink
from partaking what I had not feared to create? The greater were the
adversities for which they were reserved, the more ought I to desire to
suffer with them. I had already committed the evil; in what remained,
it was reasonable to suppose I should prove their benefactor and not
their foe. It was incumbent on me to soothe and to animate them, to
enrich their minds with cheerfulness and courage, and to set before
them an example of philosophy and patience. By my faculties of industry
I was their principal hope; and, whatever we might suffer combined, it
was probable their sufferings would be infinitely greater, if deprived
of my assistance. These reflections gave me energy; and it seemed as if
the resolute predilection I had conceived for life contributed much to
my recovery.

One thing which strongly confirmed the change my mind underwent in
this respect, was a conversation that I overheard at a time when I was
supposed to be completely in a state of insensibility, but when, though
I was too much reduced to give almost any tokens of life, my faculties
of hearing and understanding what passed around me were entire. Charles
came up to my bedside, laid his hand upon mine as if to feel the state
of the skin, and, with a handkerchief that was near, wiped away the
moisture that bedewed my face. He had been fitted for many nurse-like
offices by the unwearied attention he had exerted towards me in the
paroxysm of my insanity. Having finished his task, he withdrew from the
bed, and burst into tears. His mother came up to him, drew him to the
furthest part of the room, and in a low voice began the conversation.

“Do, my dear boy, go down stairs, and get yourself something to eat.
You see, your papa is quiet now.”

“I am afraid that will not last long; and then he will be so restless,
and toss about so, it is dreadful to see him.”

“I will watch, Charles, and let you know.”

“Indeed, mamma, I cannot eat now. I will by and by.”

“You must try to eat, Charles, or else you will make yourself quite
ill. If you were ill too, it would be more than I could support.”

“I will not be ill, mamma. I assure you I will not. But, besides that I
have no stomach, I cannot bear to eat when there is hardly enough for
my sisters.”

“Eat, boy. Do not trouble yourself about that. We shall get more when
that is gone. God is good, and will take care of us.”

“I know that God is good; but for all that, one must not expect to
have every thing one wishes. Though God is good, there are dreadful
misfortunes in the world, and I suppose we shall have our share of
them.”

“Come, Charles, though you are but a boy, you are the best boy in the
world. You are now almost my only comfort; but you will not be able to
comfort me if you do not take care of yourself.”

“Dear mamma!--Do you know, mamma, I heard that naughty man below stairs
count up last night how much rent you owed him for, and swear you
should not stay any longer if you did not pay him. If I were a little
bigger, I would talk to him so that he should not dare to insult us
in our distress. But, not being big enough, I opened the door, and
went into the room, and begged him for God’s sake not to add to your
distress. And, though he is so ugly, I took hold of his hand, and
kissed it. But it felt like iron, which put me in mind of his iron
heart, and I cried ready to burst with mortification. He did not say
hardly a word.”

“He must be paid, Charles: he shall be paid.”

“Do you know, mamma, as soon as I left him I went to the bishop’s
gardens, and spoke to the gardener? I asked him, if he had heard that
my papa was ill, and he said he had. He said, too, he was very sorry,
and wanted to know what hand we made of it for want of the wages. I
told him, we were sadly off, and the man of the house had just been
affronting me about his rent. But, said I, cannot you give me something
to do, to weed or to rake? I can dig a little too, and scatter seed. He
asked, if I knew weeds from flowers. Oh, that I do! said I. Well then,
said he, there is not much you can do; but you are a good boy, and I
will put you on the bishop’s list. But now, mamma, I have not the heart
to work, till I see whether papa will get well again.”

While poor Charles told his artless tale, Marguerite wept over him, and
kissed him again and again. She called him the best child in the world,
and said that, if I were but so fortunate as to recover, with such a
husband and such a son, she should yet be the happiest of women.

“Oh, my poor father!” exclaimed Charles. “Ever since the great
hail-storm, I have every hour loved him better than before. I thought
that was impossible, but he is so gentle, so kind, so good-humoured,
and so patient! I loved him when he was harsh, and when he was out of
his mind; but nothing so well then as I have done since. People that
are kind and smile always do one good; but nobody’s smiles are like my
father’s. It makes me cry with joy sometimes, when I do but think of
them. Pray, papa,” added he, coming up to the bedside, and whispering,
yet with a hurried and passionate accent, “get well! Do but get well,
and we will be so happy! Never was there a family so happy or so loving
as we will be!”

While he spoke thus, I endeavoured to put out my hand, but I could
not; I endeavoured to smile, but I was unable: my heart was in a
feeble, yet soothing, tranquillity. The accents of love I had heard,
dwelt upon my memory. They had talked of distress, but the sentiment
of love was uppermost in my recollection. I was too weak of frame to
suffer intellectual distress; no accents but those which carried balm
to my spirit, seemed capable of resting upon my ear. From this hour
I regularly grew better, and, as I recovered, seemed to feel more
and more vividly how enviable it was to be the head of a loving and
harmonious family.

My recovery however was exceedingly slow, and it was several weeks
before I had so far recruited my strength as to be capable of my
ordinary occupations. In the mean time the pecuniary difficulties
to which we were exposed hourly increased, and the cheerful but
insignificant labours of Charles could contribute little to the support
of a family. The melancholy nature of our situation might perhaps
have been expected to prevent the restoration of my health. At first
however it had not that effect. The debilitated state of my animal
functions led me, by a sort of irresistible instinct, to reject ideas
and reflections which I should then have been unable to endure. I saw
the anxiety and affection of my family, and I was comforted. I saw
the smiles of Marguerite, and I seemed insensible to the languor, the
saddened cheerfulness, they expressed. I did not perceive that, while I
was provided with every thing necessary in my condition, my family were
in want of the very bread that should sustain existence.

My health in the mean time improved, and my perceptions became
proportionably clearer. Symptoms of desolation and famine, though as
much as possible covered from my sight, obtruded themselves, and were
remarked. One day in particular I observed various tokens of this
nature in silence, and with that sort of bewildered understanding which
at once labours for comprehension and resists belief. The day closed;
and what I had perceived pressed upon my mind, and excluded sleep. Now
for the first time I exerted myself to recollect in a methodical way
the state of my affairs; for the severity of my illness had at length
succeeded to banish from me all ideas and feelings but what related to
the sensations it produced, and to the objects around me; and it was
not without effort that I could once more fully call to mind the scenes
in which I had been engaged. The truth then by regular degrees rose
completely to view; and I began to be astonished, that my poor wife
and children had been able in any manner to get through the horrible
evils to which they must have been exposed. This thought I revolved in
my mind for near two hours; and the longer I dwelt upon it, the more
perturbed and restless I grew. At length it became impossible for me to
hold my contemplations pent up in my own bosom. I turned to Marguerite,
and asked her, whether she were asleep.

She answered in the negative: she had been remarking my restlessness,
and tenderly enquired respecting its cause.

“How long,” said I, “is it since I was taken with the fever?”

“A month to-morrow,” replied she. “It was of the most malignant and
distressing kind while it lasted, and I did not expect you to live.
But it has left you a fortnight; and I hope, Reginald, you find
yourself getting strong again.”

“And so we are here in Constance, and we have left Switzerland----?”

“Three months, my love!”

“I remember very well the letter we received from monsieur Grimseld;
has any further intelligence reached us from that quarter?”

“None.”

“None! No supply of any kind has reached you?”

“My dear Reginald, talk of something else! You will soon, I hope,
be well: our children are all alive; and the calamity, that has not
succeeded to separate us, or to diminish our circle of love even by a
single member, we will learn to bear. Let us fix our attention on the
better prospects that open before us!”

“Stay, Marguerite! I have other questions to ask. Before you require
me to bear the calamities that have overtaken us, let me understand
what these calamities are. While we waited for intelligence from
Switzerland, we expended the whole sum that we brought with us, and I
was obliged to hire myself to the episcopal gardener for bread; was it
not so?”

“Indeed, Reginald, you are to blame! Pray question me no further!”

“This was our condition some time ago; and now, for a month past, I
have been incapable of labour. Marguerite, what have you done?”

“Indeed, my love, I have been too anxious for you, to think much of
any thing else. We had still some things, you know, that we could
contrive to do without; and those I have sold. Charles too, our
excellent-hearted son, has lately hired himself to the gardener, and
has every night brought us home a little, though it was but little.”

“Dear boy! What children, what a wife, have I brought to destruction!
Our rent too, surely you have not been able to pay that?”

“Not entirely. In part I have been obliged to pay it.”

“Ah! I well remember how flinty-hearted a wretch has got the power over
us in that respect!”

“He has not turned us out of doors. He threatened hard several times.
At last I saw it was necessary to make an effort, and the day before
yesterday I paid him half his demand. If I could have avoided that, we
might have had a supply of food a little longer. I intreated earnestly
for a little further indulgence, but it was in vain. It went against
the pride and independence of my soul to sue to this man; but it was
for you and for my children!”

“Remorseless wretch! Then every petty resource we had is gone?”

“Indeed I do not know that we have any thing more to sell. I searched
narrowly yesterday; but I will examine again to-day. The poor children
must have something to support them, and their fare has of late been
dreadfully scanty.”

“Their fare! What have they eaten?”

“Bread; nothing else for the last fortnight!”

“And yourself?”

“Oh, Reginald! it was necessary, you know, that I should keep myself
alive. But, I assure you, I have robbed them as little as I could.”

“Horror, horror! Marguerite, what is it you dream of? I see my wife and
children dying of hunger, and you talk to me of hope and of prospects!
Why has this detail of miseries been concealed from me? Why have I been
suffered, with accursed and unnatural appetite, to feed on the vitals
of all I love?”

“Reginald! even selfishness itself would have taught us that! It is to
your recovery that we look for our future support!”

“Mock me not, I adjure you, with senseless words! You talk idly of
the future, while the tremendous present bars all prospect to that
future. We are perishing by inches. We have no provision for the coming
day! No, no; something desperate, something yet unthought of, must be
attempted! I will not sit inactive, and see my offspring around me die
in succession. No, by Heaven! Though I am starving like Ugolino, I am
not, like Ugolino, shut up in a dungeon! The world is open; its scenes
are wide; the resources it offers are, to the bold and despairing,
innumerable! I am a father, and will show myself worthy of the name!”

“Reginald! torture me not by language like this! Think what it is to
be indeed a father, and make yourself that! Be careful of yourself;
complete your recovery,--and leave the rest to me! I have conducted it
thus far, nor am I yet without hope. Eight days ago I applied to the
secretary of the palace, representing your case as a retainer of the
bishop, disabled by sickness, and with a family unprovided for. Till
yesterday I got no answer to my memorial; and then he informed me, that
you had been so short a time in employ, that nothing could be done for
you. But to-day I will throw myself at the feet of the bishop himself,
who arrived last night only from the other side of the lake.”

Every word that Marguerite uttered went to my heart. It was not long
before the dawn of the day, and the truths I had heard were further
confirmed to me by the organ of sight. The sentiments of this night
produced a total revolution in me, and I was no longer the feeble
convalescent that the setting sun of the preceding day had left me. The
film was removed from my eyes, and I surveyed not the objects around
me with a glassy eye and unapprehensive observation. All the powers
I possessed were alert and in motion. To my suspicious and hurried
gaze the apartment appeared stripped of its moveables, and left naked,
a mansion in which for despair to take up his abode. My children
approached me; I seemed to read the wan and emaciated traces of death
in their countenances. This perhaps was in some degree the painting
of my too conscious thoughts. But there needed no exaggeration to
awaken torture in my bosom, when, thus stimulated, I observed for the
first time the dreadful change that had taken place in Marguerite. Her
colour was gone; her cheeks were sunk; her eye had the quickness and
discomposure expressive of debility. I took hold of her hand, and found
it cold, emaciated, and white. I pressed it to my lips with agony; a
tear unbidden fell from my eye, and rested upon it. Having finished
my examination, I took my hat, and was hastening to escape into the
street. Marguerite noted my motions, and anxiously interposed to
prevent my design. She laid her hand on my arm gently, yet in a manner
full of irresistible expostulation.

“Where would you go? What have you purposed? Do not,--Oh, do not,
destroy a family, to whom your life, your sobriety, and prudence, are
indispensable!”

I took her hand within both mine. “Compose yourself, my love! I have
been your enemy too much already, to be capable now, so much as in
thought, of adding to my guilt! I need an interval for musing and
determination. I will return in a very short time, and you shall be the
confidant of my thoughts!”

With wild and impatient spirit I repassed in idea the whole history
of my life. But principally I dwelt in recollection upon the marquis
de Damville, that generous friend, that munificent benefactor, whose
confidence I had so ill repaid. “Damville!” exclaimed I, “you trusted
to me your daughter, the dearest thing you knew on earth; you believed
that the wretch did not live who could be unjust to so rich a pledge.
Look down, look down, O best of men! from the heaven to which your
virtues have raised you, and see of how much baseness man--yes, the
man you disdained not to call your friend--is capable! But, no! a
sight like this might well convert the heaven you dwell in to hell!
You trusted her to me; I have robbed her! You enriched her mind with
the noblest endowments; I have buried them in the mire of the vilest
condition! All her generous, her unwearied exertions are fruitless; by
my evil genius they are blasted! I have made her a mother, only that
she might behold her children perishing with hunger! They stretch out
their hands to me for the smallest portion of that inheritance, which
I have squandered in more than demoniac vice! This, this is the fruit
of my misdeeds! I am now draining the last dregs of that mischief, of
which I have so wickedly, so basely, been the author!”

As I returned I met Marguerite, who was come from her attempt upon the
bishop. He had received her paper, and delivered it to his secretary,
that very secretary who had already disappointed all her expectations
from that quarter. She had attempted to speak, to adjure the bishop,
whatever he did, not to deliver her over to a man by whom her hopes
had been so cruelly frustrated; but the tumult of the scene drowned
her voice, and the hurry and confusion overpowered her efforts.
They, however, drew such a degree of attention on her, that, in the
dissentions which religious broils at that time spread in Constance,
she was suspected of pressing thus earnestly towards the person of the
bishop with no good design, and in fine was rudely thrust out of the
palace. She had not recovered from the agitation into which she had
been thrown, when I met her. I eagerly enquired into the cause of her
apparent distress; but she shook her head mournfully, and was silent. I
easily understood where she had been, and the failure of her experiment.

“All then,” said I, “is at an end. Now, Marguerite, you must give up
your experiments, and leave to me the cure of evils of which I only am
the author. I will return this instant to the garden of the palace, and
resume the situation I formerly occupied.”

“For God’s sake, Reginald, what is it you mean? You have just acquired
strength to seek the benefit of air. The least exertion fatigues you.
At this moment, the little walk you have taken has covered you with
perspiration. You could not dig or stoop for a quarter of an hour
without being utterly exhausted.”

“Marguerite, I will not sit down tamely, and see my family expire.
In many cases it is reasonable to bid a valetudinarian take care
of himself. But our situation is beyond that. I must do something.
Extraordinary circumstances often bring along with them extraordinary
strength. No man knows, till the experiment, what he is capable of
effecting. I feel at this moment no debility; and I doubt not that the
despair of my mind will give redoubled energy to my efforts.”

While I spoke thus, I was conscious that I had little more than the
strength of a new-born child. But I could not endure at such a time
to remain in inactivity. I felt as much ashamed of the debilitated
state in which my fever had left me, as I could have done of the most
inglorious effeminacy and cowardice of soul. I determined to relieve
my family, or perish in the attempt. If all my efforts were vain, I
could not better finish my career, than exhausted, sinking, expiring
under a last exertion, to discharge the duties of my station.

We returned into the house. Marguerite took from a closet the last
remnant of provisions we had, the purchase of poor Charles’s labour of
the preceding day. There was a general contest who should escape from
receiving any part in the distribution. Charles had withdrawn himself,
and was not to be found. Julia endeavoured to abscond, but was stopped
by Louisa and her mother. She had wept so much, that inanition seemed
more dangerous for her, than perhaps for any other of the circle. No
one can conceive, who has not felt it, how affecting a contest of this
kind must appear to me, sensible as I was to the danger that their
virtue and generous affection were the prelude only to their common
destruction. I said, there was a general contest who should avoid all
share in the distribution; but I recollect that the little Marguerite,
two years and a half old, exclaimed at first, “I am so hungry, mamma!”
But watching, as she carefully did, every thing that passed, she
presently laid down her bread upon the table in silence, and almost
untouched; and being asked, Why she did so? she replied, in a tone of
speaking sensibility, “Thank you, I am not hungry now!”

This scene made an impression on my mind never to be forgotten. It
blasted and corrupted all the pulses of my soul. A little before, I had
reconciled myself to poverty; I had even brought myself to regard it
with cheerfulness. But the sentiment was now reversed. I could endure
it, I could steel myself against its attacks; but never from this hour,
in the wildest paroxysms of enthusiasm, has it been the topic of my
exultation or my panegyric. No change of circumstances, no inundation
of wealth, has had the power to obliterate from my recollection what I
then saw. A family perishing with hunger; all that is dearest to you
in the world sinking under the most dreadful of all the scourges with
which this sublunary scene is ever afflicted; no help near; no prospect
but of still accumulating distress; a death, the slowest, yet the most
certain and the most agonising, that can befall us: no, there is
nothing that has power to rend all the strings of the heart like this!
From this moment, the whole set of my feelings was changed. Avarice
descended, and took possession of my soul. Haunted, as I perpetually
was, by images of the plague of famine, nothing appeared to me so
valuable as wealth; nothing so desirable as to be placed at the utmost
possible distance from want. An appetite of this kind is insatiable; no
distance seems sufficiently great; no obstacles, mountains on mountains
of gold, appear an inadequate security to bar from us the approach of
the monster we dread.

While I speak of the sentiments which in the sequel were generated in
my mind by what I now saw, I am suspending my narrative in a crisis at
which a family, interesting, amiable and virtuous, is reduced to the
lowest state of humiliation and distress.

They are moments like these, that harden the human heart, and fill
us with inextinguishable hatred and contempt for our species. They
tear off the trappings and decoration of polished society, and show
it in all its hideousness. The wanton eye of pampered pride pleases
itself with the spectacle of cities and palaces, the stately column
and the swelling arch. It observes at hand the busy scene, where all
are occupied in the various pursuits of pleasure or industry; and
admires the concert, the wide-spreading confederacy, by means of which
each after his mode is unconsciously promoting the objects of others.
Cheated by the outside of things, we denominate this a vast combination
for general benefit. The poor and the famished man contemplates the
scene with other thoughts. Unbribed to admire and applaud, he sees in
it a confederacy of hostility and general oppression. He sees every
man pursuing his selfish ends, regardless of the wants of others. He
sees himself contemptuously driven from the circle where the rest of
his fellow-citizens are busily and profitably engaged. He lives in
the midst of a crowd, without one friend to feel an interest in his
welfare. He lives in the midst of plenty, from the participation of
which he is driven by brutal menaces and violence. No man who has not
been placed in his situation can imagine the sensations, with which,
overwhelmed as he is with domestic ruin and despair, he beholds the
riot, the prodigality, the idiot ostentation, the senseless expense,
with which he is surrounded on every side. What were we to do? Were we
to beg along the streets? Were we to in treat for wretched offals at
rich men’s doors? Alas! this, it was to be feared, even if we stooped
to the miserable attempt, instead of satisfying wants for ever new,
would only prolong in the bitterness of anguish the fate for which we
were reserved!----

An unexpected relief at this time presented itself. While the scanty
meal I have mentioned was yet unfinished, a letter was presented me
inclosing under its cover a bill of one hundred crowns. The letter
was from Bernardin, the faithful servant whom we found it necessary
to dismiss three months before, when we quitted our residence in
Switzerland. It informed us that, as soon as he had parted from us,
he had set out on his return to his native town, next adjacent to my
paternal residence; that he found his father had died a short time
before, and that, from the sale of his effects, he had reaped an
inheritance to triple the amount of the sum he had now forwarded to us.
He had heard by accident of the death of our friend in Switzerland, and
the character of his successor, and dreaded that the consequences might
prove highly injurious to us. He had still some business to settle
with the surviving branches of his family, but that would be over in
a few weeks; and then, if we would allow him, he would return to his
dear master, and afford us every assistance in his power. The little
property that had now fallen to him would prevent him from being a
burthen; and he would hire a spot of land, and remain near us, if we
refused him the consolation of returning to his former employment.

What a reproach was it to me, that, descended from one of the most
illustrious families in Europe, the heir of an ample patrimony, and
receiving a still larger fortune in marriage, I should, by the total
neglect and profligate defiance of the duties incumbent on me, have
reduced myself so low as to be indebted to a peasant and a menial for
the means of saving my family from instant destruction! This was a
deep and fatal wound to the pride of my soul. There was however no
alternative, no possibility of rejecting the supply afforded us at so
eventful a moment. We determined to use it for the present, and to
repay it with the earliest opportunity; and in the following week, in
spite of the remonstrances of Marguerite, the yet feeble state of my
health, and the penalties annexed to the proceeding, I set off for the
canton of Soleure, determined, if possible, to wrest the little staff
of my family from the hand that so basely detained it.

I passed through Zurich and a part of the canton of Basle without
obstacle; these parts of Switzerland had not suffered from the calamity
which had occasioned our exile. In proceeding further, I found it
necessary to assume a disguise, and to avoid large towns and frequented
roads. I reached at length the well known scene in which I had so
lately consumed twelve months of my life; in which I first began to
breathe (to breathe, not to be refreshed) from ruin, beggary, and
exile. There was no pleasing recollection annexed to this spot; it was
a remembrancer of shame, sorrow, and remorse. Yet, such is the power of
objects once familiar, revisited after absence, that my eye ran over
them with delight, I felt lightened from the weariness of the journey,
and found that the recollection of pains past over and subdued was
capable of being made a source of gratification. The mountains among
which I had wandered, and consumed, as it were, the last dregs of my
insanity, surrounded me; the path in which I was travelling led along
one of their ridges. I had performed this part of my journey by night;
and the first gleams of day now began to streak the horizon. I looked
towards the cottage, the distant view of which had so often, in moments
of the deepest despair, awakened in my heart the soothings of sympathy
and affection. I saw that as yet it remained in its forlorn condition,
and had undergone no repair; while the lands around, which had lately
experienced the superintendence of Marguerite, had met with more
attention, and began to resume the marks of culture. I sighed for the
return of those days and that situation, which, while present to me,
had passed unheeded and unenjoyed.

I repaired to the house of my late protector, now the residence of
monsieur Grimseld. He was a meagre shrivelled figure; and, though
scarcely arrived at the middle of human life, exhibited all the marks
of a premature old age. I disclosed myself to him, and began warmly to
expostulate with him upon the profligacy of his conduct. He changed
colour, and betrayed symptoms of confusion, the moment I announced
myself. While I pressed him with the barbarity of his conduct, the
dreadful effects it had already produced, and the incontestible justice
of my claim, he stammered, and began to propose terms of accommodation.
During this conversation we were alone. After some time, however, a
servant entered the room, and the countenance of the master assumed an
expression of satisfaction and confidence. He eagerly seized on the
occasion which presented itself, and, instantly changing his tone,
called on his servant to assist him in securing a criminal against
the state. I at first resisted, but Grimseld perceiving this, applied
to his bell with great vehemence, and three other servants made
their appearance, whose employment was in the field, but who had now
accidentally come into the house for refreshment. I had arms; but I
found it impracticable to effect my escape; and I soon felt that, by
yielding to the impulse of indignation, and punishing Grimseld on the
spot for his perfidy, I might ruin but could not forward the affair in
which I was engaged.

I was conducted to prison; and the thoughts produced in me by this
sudden reverse were extremely melancholy and discouraging. Grimseld
was a man of opulence and power; I was without friends, or the means
of procuring friends. The law expressly condemned my return; and what
had I not to fear from law, when abetted and inforced by the hand of
power? I might be imprisoned for ten years; I might be imprisoned for
life. I began earnestly to wish that I had remained with my family, and
given up at least all present hopes of redress. It would be a dreadful
accumulation of all my calamities, if now at last I and my children
were destined to suffer, perhaps to perish, in a state of separation;
and the last consolations of the wretched, those of suffering,
sympathising, and condoling with each other, were denied us.

Full of these tragical forebodings, I threw myself at first on
the floor of my cell in a state little short of the most absolute
despair. I exclaimed upon my adverse fortune, which was never weary of
persecuting me. I apostrophised, with tender and distracted accents,
my wife and children, from whom I now seemed to be cut off by an
everlasting divorce. I called upon death to put an end to these tumults
and emotions of the soul, which were no longer to be borne.

In a short time however I recovered myself, procured the implements
of writing, and drew up, in the strong and impressive language of
truth, a memorial to the council of the state. I was next to consider
how this was to reach its destination; for there was some danger
that it might be intercepted by the vigilance and malignity of my
adversary. I desired to speak with the keeper of the prison. He had
some recollection of me, and a still more distinct one of my family.
He concurred with the general sentiment, in a strong aversion to the
character of Grimseld. As I pressed upon him the hardship of my case,
and the fatal consequences with which it might be attended, I could
perceive that he fully entered into the feeling with which I wished him
to be impressed. He blamed my rashness in returning to Switzerland in
defiance of the positive prohibition that had been issued; but promised
at all events that my paper should be delivered to the president
to-morrow morning.

I remained three days without an answer, and these days were to me an
eternity. I anticipated every kind of misfortune; I believed that law
and malice had succeeded to the subversion of equity. At length however
I was delivered from my apprehensions and perplexity, and summoned to
appear before the council. It was well for me perhaps that I had to
do with a government so simple and moderate as that of Switzerland. I
obtained redress. It was referred to an arbitration of neighbours to
set a fair price on my property, and then decreed, that if monsieur
Grimseld refused the purchase, the sum should be paid me out of the
coffers of the state. He was also condemned in a certain fine for the
fraud he had attempted to commit. The affair, thus put in train, was
soon completed; and I returned with joy, having effected the object
of my journey, to my anxious and expecting family. Soon after, we
removed to the spot we had chosen on the eastern bank of the lake,
where we remained for the six following years in a state of peace and
tranquillity.



CHAPTER XI.


It was in the evening of a summer’s day in the latter end of the
year fifteen hundred and forty-four, that a stranger arrived at my
habitation. He was feeble, emaciated, and pale, his forehead full of
wrinkles, and his hair and beard as white as snow. Care was written
in his face; it was easy to perceive that he had suffered much from
distress of mind; yet his eye was still quick and lively, with a strong
expression of suspiciousness and anxiety. His garb, which externally
consisted of nothing more than a robe of russet brown, with a girdle
of the same, was coarse, threadbare, and ragged. He supported his
tottering steps with a staff; and, having lost his foreteeth, his
speech was indistinct and difficult to be comprehended. His wretched
appearance excited my compassion, at the same time that I could easily
discern, beneath all its disadvantages, that he was no common beggar or
rustic. Ruined and squalid as he appeared, I thought I could perceive
traces in his countenance of what had formerly been daring enterprise,
profound meditation, and generous humanity.

I saw that he was much fatigued, and I invited him to rest himself upon
the bench before the door. I set before him bread and wine, and he
partook of both. I asked him his name and his country. He told me that
he was a Venetian, and that his name, as nearly as I could collect, was
signor Francesco Zampieri. He seemed however averse to speaking, and he
requested me to suffer him to pass the night in my habitation. There
was nothing singular in the request, a hospitality of this sort being
the practice of the neighbourhood; and humanity would have prompted
my compliance, if I had not been still more strongly urged by an
undefinable curiosity that began to spring up in my bosom. I prepared
for him a camp-bed in a summer-house at the end of my garden. As soon
as it was ready, he desired to be left alone, that he might seek in
rest some relief from the fatigue he had undergone.

He retired early; and therefore, soon after daybreak the next morning,
I waited on him to enquire how he had rested. He led me out into the
fields; the morning was genial and exhilarating. We proceeded, till
we came to a retired spot which had frequently been the scene of my
solitary meditations, and there seated ourselves upon a bank. We had
been mutually silent during the walk. As soon as we were seated, the
stranger began: “You are, I understand, a Frenchman, and your name the
count de St. Leon?” I bowed assent.

“St. Leon,” said he, “there is something in your countenance and manner
that prepossesses me in your favour. The only thing I have left to do
in the world is to die; and what I seek at present, is a friend who
will take care that I shall be suffered to die in peace. Shall I trust
you? Will you be that friend to me?”

I was astonished at this way of commencing his confidence in me; but I
did not hesitate to promise that he should not find me deficient in any
thing that became a man of humanity and honour.

“You do not, I think, live alone? You have a wife and children.”

“I have.”

“Yet none of them were at home when I arrived last night. You brought
yourself to the summer-house every thing that was necessary for my
accommodation.”

“I did so. But I have a wife to whom I have been married seventeen
years, and with whom I have no reserves. I told her of your arrival; I
spoke of your appearance; I mentioned your name.”

“It is no matter. She has not seen me. My name is not Zampieri; I am no
Venetian.”

“Who are you then?”

“That you shall never know. It makes no part of the confidence I design
to repose in you. My name shall be buried with me in the grave; nor
shall any one who has hitherto known me, know how, at what time, or
on what spot of earth, I shall terminate my existence. The cloud of
oblivion shall shelter me from all human curiosity. What I require of
you is that you pledge your honour, and the faith of a man, that you
will never reveal to your wife, your children, or any human being, what
you may hereafter know of me, and that no particular that relates to my
history shall be disclosed, till at least one hundred years after my
decease.”

“Upon these conditions I am sorry that I must decline your confidence.
My wife is a part of myself; for the last six years at least I have had
no thought in which she has not participated; and these have been the
most tranquil and happy years of my life. My heart was formed by nature
for social ties; habit has confirmed their propensity; and I will not
now consent to any thing that shall infringe on the happiness of my
soul.”

While I spoke, I could perceive that my companion grew disturbed and
angry. At length, turning towards me a look of ineffable contempt, he
replied--

“Feeble and effeminate mortal! You are neither a knight nor a
Frenchman! Or rather, having been both, you have forgotten in
inglorious obscurity every thing worthy of either! Was ever gallant
action achieved by him who was incapable of separating himself from a
woman? Was ever a great discovery prosecuted, or an important benefit
conferred upon the human race, by him who was incapable of standing,
and thinking, and feeling, alone? Under the usurping and dishonoured
name of virtue, you have sunk into a slavery baser than that of the
enchantress Alcina. In vain might honour, worth, and immortal renown
proffer their favours to him who has made himself the basest of all
sublunary things--the puppet of a woman, the plaything of her pleasure,
wasting an inglorious life in the gratification of her wishes and the
performance of her commands!”

I felt that I was not wholly unmoved at this expostulation. The
stranger touched upon the first and foremost passions of my soul;
passions the operation of which had long been suspended, but which
were by no means extinguished in my bosom. He proceeded:--

“But it is well! Years have passed over my head in vain, and I have
not learnt to distinguish a man of honour from a slave. This is only
one additional sorrow to those in which my life has been spent. I
have wandered through every region of the earth, and have found
only disappointment. I have entered the courts of princes; I have
accompanied the march of armies; I have pined in the putridity of
dungeons. I have tasted every vicissitude of splendour and meanness;
five times have I been led to the scaffold, and with difficulty
escaped a public execution. Hated by mankind, hunted from the face
of the earth, pursued by every atrocious calumny, without a country,
without a roof, without a friend; the addition that can be made to such
misfortunes scarcely deserves a thought.”

While he spoke, curiosity, resistless curiosity, presented itself as a
new motive, in aid of the sense of shame which the stranger had just
before kindled in my bosom. His manner was inconceivably impressive;
his voice, though inarticulate from age, had an irresistible melody
and volume of sound, which awed, while it won, the heart. His front
appeared open, large, and commanding; and, though he complained, his
complaints seemed to be those of conscious dignity and innocence. He
went on:--

“Farewell, St. Leon! I go, and you shall see me and hear of me no
more. You will repent, when it is too late, the folly of this day’s
determination. I appear mean and insignificant in your eyes. You think
my secrets beneath your curiosity, and my benefits not worth your
acceptance. Know that my benefits are such as kings would barter their
thrones to purchase, and that my wealth exceeds the wealth of empires.
You are degraded from the rank you once held among mankind; your
children are destined to live in the inglorious condition of peasants.
This day you might have redeemed all your misfortunes, and raised
yourself to a station more illustrious than that to which you were
born. Farewell! Destiny has marked out you and yours for obscurity and
oblivion, and you do well to reject magnificence and distinction when
they proffer themselves for your acceptance.”

“Stop,” cried I, “mysterious stranger! Grant me a moment’s leisure to
reflect and determine.”

He had risen to depart, with a gesture of resolution and contempt. At
my exclamation he paused, and again turned himself towards me. My soul
was in tumults.

“Answer me, most ambiguous and impenetrable of mortals! What is thy
story? and what the secrets, the disclosure of which is pregnant with
consequences so extraordinary?”

“Do you recollect the conditions upon which only the disclosure can be
made?”

“What can I say? Shall I determine to part with that which for years
has constituted the only consolation of my life? Shall I suppress the
curiosity which now torments me, and reject the boon you pretend to
have the power to confer?”

“I grant you the interval for reflection you demand. I refuse to place
further confidence in you, till you have maturely examined yourself,
and roused all the energies of your spirit to encounter the task you
undertake.”

“One word more. You know not, indeed you know not, what a woman you
exclude from your confidence. She is more worthy of it than I am.
Referring to my own experience and knowledge of the world, I can safely
pronounce her the first of her sex, perhaps the first of human beings.
Indulge me in this; include her in your confidence; and I am content.”

“Be silent! I have made my determination; do you make yours! Know I
would not if I could, and cannot if I would, repose the secrets that
press upon me in more than a single bosom. It was upon this condition
I received the communication; upon this condition only can I impart
it. I am resolved; to die is the election of my soul--a consummation
for which I impatiently wait. Having determined therefore to withdraw
myself from the powers committed to me, I am at liberty to impart them;
upon the same condition, and no other, you may one day, if you desire
it, seek the relief of confidence.”

Having thus spoken, the stranger rose from his seat. It was yet early
morning, nor was it likely we should meet any one in our walk. He
however employed the precaution of causing me to explore the path,
and to see that we should return uninterrupted. We came back to the
summer-house. The window-shutters were still closed; the stranger
determined they should remain so. When I had come to him as soon as
I rose, I had found the door secured; nor had he admitted me, till
he recognised my voice, and had ascertained that I was alone. These
precautions scarcely excited my attention at the time; but, after the
conversation that had just passed, they returned distinctly to my
memory.

The remainder of the day which had been opened by this extraordinary
scene was passed by me in great anxiety. I ruminated with unceasing
wonder and perturbation upon the words of the stranger. Shall I shut
upon myself the gate of knowledge and information? Is it not the part
of a feeble and effeminate mind to refuse instruction, because he is
not at liberty to communicate that instruction to another--to a wife?
The stranger professes to be able to raise me to the utmost height of
wealth and distinction. Shall I refuse the gift, which in a former
instance I forfeited, but for which, though contemplated as at an
impracticable distance, my whole soul longs? If there is any thing
dishonourable connected with the participation of this wealth, I shall
still be at liberty to refuse it. There can be no crime in hearing
what this man has to communicate. I shall still, and always, be master
of myself; nor can I have any thing personally to fear from a man so
feeble, so decrepit, so emaciated. Yet what can be the gifts worthy of
acceptance of a man who, while he possesses them, is tired of life, and
desires to die? or what the wealth of him who bears about him every
external symptom of poverty and desolation?

The conversation I had just held revived in my mind the true feeling
of my present situation. The wounds of my soul had been lulled into
temporary insensibility; but they were in a state in which the
slightest accident was capable of making them bleed afresh, and
with all their former violence. I had rather steeled my mind to
endure what seemed unavoidable, than reconciled myself to my fate.
The youthful passions of my soul, which my early years had written
there in characters so deep, were by no means effaced. I could not
contemplate the splendour of rank with an impartial eye. I could not
think of the alternative of distinction or obscurity for my children
with indifference. But, most of all, the moment I had experienced for
them of hunger, and impending destruction by famine, had produced an
indelible impression. It had destroyed all romance, I had almost said
all dignity, in my mind for ever. It had snapped, as by the touch of a
red-hot iron, all the finer and more etherialised sinews of my frame.
It had planted the sordid love of gold in my heart, there, by its
baneful vegetation, to poison every nobler and more salubrious feeling.

When I returned to the house, Marguerite enquired of me respecting
the stranger, but my answers were short and embarrassed. She seemed
to wonder that he did not come into the house, and partake of some
refreshment in the midst of my family. She asked, whether he were
indisposed? and whether he did not stand in need of some assistance
that she might afford him? Perceiving however that I was desirous of
saying as little as possible respecting him, she presently became
silent. I could see that she was hurt at my incommunicativeness, yet
I could not prevail upon myself to enter into an explanation of the
causes of my taciturnity. Ours was a family of love; and I could
observe that the children sympathised with their mother, and secretly
were surprised at and lamented my reserve. There would have been little
in this, in perhaps any other family than ours. But the last six years
had been spent by us in such primeval simplicity, that scarcely one of
us had a thought but what was known to the rest. Marguerite cherished
my frankness and unreserve with peculiar zeal; she remembered with
bitterness of soul the periods in which I fostered conceptions only
proper to myself--periods of dreadful calamity, or of rooted melancholy
and sadness. She could not help regarding the silence into which for
the present occasion I relapsed, as a portent of evil augury. Charles,
who was now sixteen years of age, recollected the period of our ruined
fortunes when he had been alone with me at Paris, and partook of his
mother’s feelings.

A trifling circumstance, at this time occasioned by the little
Marguerite, now eight years of age, rendered the restraint under which
I laboured more memorable and striking. She had left a little book
of fairy tales, in which she had been reading the day before, in the
summer-house. At first she did not recollect what was become of it, and
employed herself in searching for it with great assiduity. Of a sudden
however she remembered where she had read in it last; and, exclaiming
with exultation, “It is in the summer-house!” sprang forward to fetch
it. I detained her, and told her there was a sick gentleman there that
she would disturb! “Then, dear Julia!” rejoined she, “be so good as
to get it for me; you are so quiet and careful, you never disturb any
body.”

“My love,” answered I, “nobody must get it for you. The gentleman
chooses to be alone, and will not let any body come to him. You shall
have it after dinner.”

“Ah, but, papa, I want it now. I put it away, just where the naughty
giant had shut up the gentleman in the dungeon, who came to take away
the lady. I was obliged to put it away then, because mamma called me to
go to bed; but I want so to know what will become of them, you cannot
think.”

“Well, dear Marguerite, I am sorry you must wait; but you must learn to
have patience.”

“Do you know, papa, I walked in the garden before breakfast: and so,
not thinking of any thing, I came to the summer-house; and I tried to
open the door, but I could not. I found it was locked. So I thought
Julia was there; and I knocked, and called Julia, but nobody answered.
So then I knew Julia was not there, for I was sure she would have
opened the door. So I climbed upon the stump of the pear-tree, and
tried to look in at the window; but the shutters were shut, and I
could not get to see over the top of them. And I walked all round the
summer-house, and all the shutters were shut. Papa, I wish you would
not let a man get into the summer-house, who shuts all the shutters,
and locks the door. You always used to let me go into every room I
liked; and, do you know, I think none but bad people lock and bolt
themselves up so. It puts mind of the giants with their drawbridges and
their pitfalls; I shall be quite afraid of this frightful old man.”

This prattle of the child was nothing; yet it increased the
embarrassment of my situation, and made the peculiarity of the case
more conspicuous. Finding her pertinacious in insisting upon a topic
that was disagreeable to me, her mother called her from me, and put
her upon some occupation that served to divert her attention. I felt
like a person that was guilty of some crime; and this consideration and
kindness of my wife, when I seemed to myself to deserve her reproach,
had not the power to calm my uneasiness.

These little occurrences appeared like the beginning of a separation
of interests, and estrangement of hearts. I tasked myself severely. I
summoned the whole force of my mind, that I might strictly consider
what it was in which I was about to engage. If this slight and casual
hint of a secret is felt by both Marguerite and myself with so much
uneasiness and embarrassment, what will be our situation, if I go on
to accept the stranger’s confidence, and become the depository of an
arcanum so important as he represents his to be? He declares himself
able to bestow upon me the highest opulence; what will be the feelings
of my wife and children when they see my condition suddenly changed
from its present humble appearance to splendour and wealth, without
being able to assign the source of this extraordinary accession?

It is difficult to conceive a family picture more enviable that than
to which I was now continually present, and of which I formed a part.
We had been happy on the banks of the Garonne, and we had pictured
to ourselves a plan of happiness immediately on our arrival in the
city of Constance. But these were little and imperfect, compared with
what I now enjoyed. In the first situation my children were infants,
and in the second the eldest was but ten years of age. The mother
was now thirty-five; and she had lost, in my eyes at least, none
of her personal attractions. Her intellectual accomplishments were
much greater than ever. Her understanding was matured, her judgment
decided, her experience more comprehensive. As she had a greater
compass of materials to work upon, her fancy was more playful, her
conversation richer, and her reflections more amusing and profound.
The matron character she had acquired, had had no other effect on her
feelings, than to render them more deep, more true and magnetical.
Her disposition was more entirely affectionate than it had been even
in the first year of our cohabitation. Her attachment to her children
was exemplary, and her vigilance uninterrupted; and, for myself, she
was accustomed, in all that related to our mutual love, to enter into
my sentiments and inclinations with so just a tone of equality and
kindness, that we seemed to be two bodies animated by a single soul.
If the mother were improved, the children were still more improved.
In their early years we are attached to our offspring, merely because
they are ours, and in a way that has led superficial speculators
to consider the attachment, less as the necessary operation of a
sensible and conscious mind, than as a wise provision of nature for
the perpetuation of the species. But as they grow up, the case is
different. Our partiality is then confirmed or diminished by qualities
visible to an impartial bystander as really as to ourselves. They
then cease to be merely the objects of our solicitude, and become our
companions, the partners of our sentiments, and the counsellors of our
undertakings. Such at least was my case at the present period. Charles,
who was now sixteen, was manly beyond his years; while the native fire
of his disposition was tempered by adversity, by an humble situation,
and by the ardour of filial and fraternal affection. Julia, who was
two years younger, became daily more interesting by the mildness of
her disposition and the tenderness of her sensibility. Louisa was only
twelve; but, as she was extremely notable, and had an uncommonly quick
and accurate spirit of imitation, she rendered herself exceedingly
useful to her mother. Marguerite, the plaything and amusement of the
family, had, as I have said, just completed the eighth year of her age.

One exquisite source of gratification, when it is not a source of
uneasiness, to speak from my own experience, which a parent finds in
the society of his children, is their individuality. They are not
puppets, moved with wires, and to be played on at will. Almost from the
hour of their birth they have a will of their own, to be consulted and
negotiated with. We may say to them, as Adam to the general mother of
mankind, “But now, thou wert flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone;
and, even now, thou standest before me vested in the prerogatives of
sentiment and reason; a living being, to be regarded with attention and
deference; to be courted, not compelled; susceptible of the various
catalogue of human passions; capable of resentment and gratitude, of
indignation and love, of perverseness and submission. It is because
thou art thus formed that I love thee. I cannot be interested about
objects inanimate or brute. I require a somewhat that shall exercise
my judgment, and awaken my moral feelings. It is necessary to me to
approve myself, and be approved by another. I rejoice to stand before
you, at once the defendant and the judge. I rejoice in the restraint to
which your independent character subjects me, and it will be my pride
to cultivate that independence in your mind. I would negotiate for your
affections and confidence, and not be loved by you, but in proportion
as I shall have done something to deserve it. I could not congratulate
myself upon your correspondence to my wishes, if it had not been in
your power to withhold it.”

While I indulge this vein of reflection, I seem again to see my family,
as they surrounded me in the year fifteen hundred and forty-four;
Marguerite the partner of my life, Charles the brother of my cares, the
blooming Julia, the sage Louisa, and the playful cadette of the family.
How richly furnished, how cheerful, how heart-reviving, appeared to
me the apartment in which they were assembled! I dwell upon the image
with fond affection and lingering delight. Where are they now? How
has all this happiness been maliciously undermined, and irrevocably
destroyed! To look back on it, it seems like the idle fabric of a
dream. I awake, and find myself alone! Were there really such persons?
Where are they dispersed? Whither are they gone? Oh, miserable solitude
and desertion, to which I have so long been condemned! I see nothing
around me but speechless walls, or human faces that say as little to my
heart as the walls themselves! How palsied is my soul! How withered my
affections!--But I will not anticipate.



CHAPTER XII.


I carried food to the stranger as occasion required in the course of
the day. He seemed indisposed to speak, and we exchanged scarcely more
than two or three words. The next morning was the implied time to which
the question of his confidence was deferred, and I went to him with the
full resolution of refusing it. Whether it were that he discerned this
resolution in my countenance, or that, in the interval that elapsed,
he had formed a meaner opinion of my character, and thought me unfit
for the purposes he intended I should answer, certain it is that he
anticipated me. At the same time he magnified the importance of the
gifts he had to communicate. He expressed himself astonished at the
precipitateness of his yesterday’s conduct. It was not till after much
trial and long probation that he could choose himself a confidant.
I was not at present fit for the character, nor perhaps ever should
be. The talent he possessed was one upon which the fate of nations
and of the human species might be made to depend. God had given it
for the best and highest purposes; and the vessel in which it was
deposited must be purified from the alloy of human frailty. It might be
abused and applied to the most atrocious designs. It might blind the
understanding of the wisest, and corrupt the integrity of the noblest.
It might overturn kingdoms, and change the whole order of human society
into anarchy and barbarism. It might render its possessor the universal
plague or the universal tyrant of mankind.

“Go, St. Leon!” added the stranger, “you are not qualified for so
important a trust. You are not yet purged of imbecility and weakness.
Though you have passed through much, and had considerable experience,
you are yet a child. I had heard your history, and expected to find
you a different man. Go; and learn to know yourself for what you are,
frivolous and insignificant, worthy to have been born a peasant, and
not fitted to adorn the rolls of chivalry, or the rank to which you
were destined!”

There was something so impressive in the rebuke and contempt of this
venerable sage, that made it impossible to contend with them. Never was
there a man more singular, and in whom were united greater apparent
contradictions. Observe him in a quiet and unanimated moment, you might
almost take him for a common beggar; a poor, miserable wretch, in whom
life lingered, and insensate stupidity reigned. But when his soul was
touched in any of those points on which it was most alive, he rose at
once, and appeared a giant. His voice was the voice of thunder; and,
rolling in a rich and sublime swell, it arrested and stilled, while
it withered all the nerves of the soul. His eye-beam sat upon your
countenance, and seemed to look through you. You wished to escape from
its penetrating power, but you had not the strength to move. I began to
feel as if it were some mysterious and superior being in human form,
and not a mortal, with whom I was concerned.

What a strange and contradictory being is man! I had gone to the
summer-house this morning, with a firm resolution to refuse the gifts
and the communication of the stranger. I felt as if lightened from
a burthen which the whole preceding day had oppressed me, while I
formed this resolution: I was cheerful, and conscious of rectitude and
strength of mind. How cheaply we prize a gift which we imagine to be
already in our power! With what philosophical indifference do we turn
it on every side, depreciate its worth, magnify its disadvantages, and
then pique ourselves upon the sobriety and justice of the estimate
we have made! Thus it was with me in the present transaction; but
when I had received the check of the stranger, and saw the proposed
benefit removed to a vast and uncertain distance, then it resumed all
its charms; then the contrast of wealth and poverty flashed full
upon my soul. Before, I had questioned the reality of the stranger’s
pretensions, and considered whether he might not be an artful impostor;
but now all was clearness and certainty: the advantages of wealth
passed in full review before my roused imagination. I saw horses,
palaces, and their furniture; I saw the splendour of exhibition and
the trains of attendants,--objects which had been for ever dear to my
puerile imagination; I contemplated the honour, love, obedience, troops
of friends, which are so apt to attend upon wealth, when disbursed with
a moderate degree of dignity and munificence. When I compared this with
my present poverty and desertion, the meanness of our appearance, our
daily labours, the danger that an untoward accident might sink us in
the deepest distress, and the hopelessness that my son or his posterity
should ever rise to that honour and distinction to which they had once
been destined, the effect was too powerful.

Another feeling came still further in aid of this: it was the
humiliating impression which the stranger had left upon my mind: this
seemed to be his great art, if in reality his conduct is to be imputed
to art. There is no enemy to virtue so fatal as a sense of degradation.
Self-applause is our principal support in every liberal and elevated
act of virtue. If this ally can be turned against us; if we can be
made to ascribe baseness, effeminacy, want of spirit and adventure, to
our virtuous resolutions; we shall then indeed feel ourselves shaken.
This was precisely my situation: the figure I made in my own eyes was
mean; I was impatient of my degradation; I believed that I had shown
myself uxorious and effeminate, at a time that must have roused in me
the spirit of a man, if there had been a spark of manly spirit latent
in my breast. This impatience co-operated with the temptations of
the stranger, and made me anxious to possess what he offered to my
acceptance.

I reasoned thus with myself: what excites my scruples is simply the
idea of having one single secret from my wife and family. This scruple
is created by the singular and unprecedented confidence in which we
have been accustomed to live. Other men have their secrets: nor do they
find their domestic tranquillity broken by that circumstance. The
merchant does not call his wife into consultation upon his ventures;
the statesman does not unfold to her his policy and his projects; the
warrior does not take her advice upon the plan of his campaign; the
poet does not concert with her his flights and his episodes. To other
men the domestic scene is the relaxation of their cares; when they
enter it, they dismiss the business of the day, and call another cause.
I only have concentrated in it the whole of my existence. By this means
I have extinguished in myself the true energy of the human character.
A man can never be respectable in the eyes of the world or in his own,
except so far as he stands by himself and is truly independent. He may
have friends; he may have domestic connections; but he must not in
these connections lose his individuality. Nothing truly great was ever
achieved, that was not executed or planned in solitary seclusion.

But if these reasons are sufficient to prove that the plan I have
lately pursued is fundamentally wrong, how much more will the
importance of what is proposed by the stranger plead my excuse for
deviating from it? How bitterly have I lamented the degradation of
my family! Shall I not seize this opportunity of re-installing them
in their hereditary honours? I deemed the ruin I had brought upon
them irreparable; shall I not embrace the occasion of atoning for my
fault? No man despises wealth, who fully understands the advantages
it confers. Does it not confer the means of cultivating our powers?
Does it not open to us the career of honour, which is shut against
the unknown and obscure? Does it not conciliate the prepossessions of
mankind, and gain for us an indulgent and liberal construction? Does
it not inspire us with graceful confidence, and animate us to generous
adventure? The poor man is denied every advantage of education, and
wears out his life in labour and ignorance. From offices of trust,
from opportunities of distinction, he is ignominiously thrust aside;
and though he should sacrifice his life for the public cause, he dies
unhonoured and unknown. If by any accident he comes into possession
of those qualities which, when discerned and acknowledged, command
the applause of mankind, who will listen to him? His appearance is
mean; and the fastidious auditor turns from him ere half his words are
uttered. He has no equipage and attendants, no one to blow the trumpet
before him and proclaim his rank; how can he propose any thing that
shall be worthy of attention? Aware of the prepossession of mankind in
this respect, he is alarmed and overwhelmed with confusion before he
opens his lips. Filled with the conscience of his worth, he anticipates
the unmerited contempt that is prepared to oppress him, and his very
heart dies within him. Add to these circumstances, the constitution of
our nature, the various pleasures of which it is adapted to partake,
and how many of these pleasures it is in the power of wealth to
procure. Yes; an object like this will sufficiently apologise for me to
those for whose sake alone it was estimable in my sight. It is, indeed,
nothing but our poverty and the lowness of our station that have thus
produced in us an habitual and unreserved communication of sentiments.
Wealth would, to a certain degree, destroy our contact, and take off
the wonder that we had each our thoughts that were not put into the
common stock.

These considerations decided my choice. I was not indeed without some
variations of mind, and some compunction of heart for the resolution
I had espoused. The longer the stranger remained with me, the more
evident it was that there was something mysterious between us; and
the unreserved affection and union that had lately reigned under my
roof suffered materially the effects of it. The stranger had been led
to my cottage, in the first instance, by the entire solitude in which
it was placed. There was nothing about which he was so solicitous as
concealment; the most atrocious criminal could not be more alarmed at
the idea of being discovered. I was unable to account for this; but
I was now too anxious for his stay and the promised reward, not to
be alert in gratifying all his wishes. The most inviolable secrecy,
therefore, was enjoined to the whole family; and the younger branches
of it, particularly the little Marguerite, it was necessary to keep
almost immured, to prevent the danger of their reporting any thing out
of the house, that might be displeasing to the stranger and fatal to my
expectations. Upon the whole my situation was eminently an uneasy one.
No experiment can be more precarious than that of a half-confidence;
and nothing but the sincere affection that was entertained for me could
have rendered it successful in this instance. My family felt that they
were trusted by me only in points where it was impossible to avoid it,
and that I was not therefore properly entitled to their co-operation;
I was conscious of ingratitude in making them no return for their
fidelity. They kept my secret because they were solicitous to oblige
me, not from any conviction that they were conferring on me a benefit;
but, on the contrary, suspecting that the object as to which they
were blindly assisting me would prove injurious to me as well as to
themselves.

The health of the stranger visibly declined; but this was a
circumstance which he evidently regarded with complacency. It was
the only source of consolation of which he appeared susceptible; his
mind was torn with painful remembrances, and agitated with terrible
forebodings. He abhorred solitude, and yet found no consolation in
society. I could not be much with him; my duty to my family, who were
principally supported by my labour, was a call too imperious to be
neglected. Even when I was with him, he commonly testified no desire
for conversation. “Stay with me,” he was accustomed to say; “give
me as much of your time as you can; but do not talk.” Upon these
occasions he would sit sometimes with his arms folded, and with the
most melancholy expression imaginable. He would then knit his brows,
wring his hands with a sadness that might have excited pity in the
hardest breast, or, with both hands closed, the one clasping the other,
strike himself impatiently on the forehead. At other times he would
rise from his seat, pace the room with hurried and unquiet steps, and
then again throw himself on his couch in the greatest agitation. His
features were often convulsed with agony. Often have I wiped away the
sweat, which would suddenly burst out in large drops on his forehead.
At those seasons he would continually mutter words to himself, the
sense of which it was impossible for me to collect. I could perceive
however that he often repeated the names of Clara!--Henry!--a wife!--a
friend! a friend!----and then he would groan as if his heart were
bursting. Sometimes, in the midst of these recollections, he would pass
the back of his hand over his eyes; and then, looking at it, shaking
his head, and biting his under lip, exclaim with a piteous accent,
“Dry!--dry!--all the moisture of my frame is perished!” Then, as if
recovering himself, he would cry with a startled and terrified voice,
“Who is there? St. Leon? Come to me! Let me feel that there is a human
being near me! I often call for you; but I find myself alone, deserted,
friendless!--friendless!”

At times when his recollection was more complete, he would say, “I know
I tire you! Why should I tire you? What gratification can it be to me
to occasion emotions of disgust?” Upon these occasions I endeavoured to
soothe him, and assured him I found pleasure in administering to his
relief. But he replied, “No, no: do not flatter me! It is long since
I have heard the voice of flattery! I never loved it! No; I know I am
precluded from ever exciting friendship or sympathy! Why am I not dead?
Why do I live, a burthen to myself, useful to none? My secret I could
almost resolve should die with me; but you have earned, and you shall
receive it.”

The stranger was not always in this state of extreme anguish, nor
always indisposed to converse. He had lucid intervals; and could
beguile the sorrow of his heart with social communication. We sometimes
talked of various sciences and branches of learning; he appeared to
be well informed in them all. His observations were ingenious; his
language copious; his illustrations fanciful and picturesque; his
manner bold and penetrating. It was easy to observe in him the marks
of a vigorous and masculine genius. Sometimes we discussed the events
at that time going on in the world. When we discoursed of events that
had passed, and persons that had died, more than a century before,
the stranger often spoke of them in a manner as if he had been an
eye-witness, and directly acquainted with the objects of our discourse.
This I ascribed to the vividness of his conceptions, and the animation
of his language. He however often checked himself in this peculiarity,
and always carefully avoided what could lead to any thing personal
to himself. I described to him the scenes of my youth, and related
my subsequent history; he on his part was invincibly silent on every
circumstance of his country, his family, and his adventures.

The longer I was acquainted with him, the more my curiosity grew. I
was restless and impatient to learn something respecting a man who
thus wrapped himself up in mystery and reserve. Often I threw out, as
it were, a line by which to fathom his secret. I talked of various
countries, I mentioned different kinds of calamities and even of
crimes, that by some incidental allusion I might discover at unawares
his country, his connections, or the nature of his story. When any
thing that offered seemed to lead to the desired point, I doubled my
questions, and endeavoured to construct them with the skill of a crafty
litigant in a court of justice. There were some subjects, the very
mention of which gave him uneasiness, and upon which he immediately
silenced me; but these were not of themselves enough to afford me a
clue, or to furnish materials out of which for me to construct the
history of the stranger. He did not always perceive the drift of my
questions and snares; but, when he did, he generally became loud,
resentful, and furious. There was nothing else that so completely
roused his indignation.

“St. Leon!” said he to me one day, “silence this inquisitive temper
of yours; check your rash and rude curiosity. The only secret I have
that can be of any importance to you, you shall one day know. But my
country, my family, my adventures, I have once told you, and I tell
you again, you shall never know. That knowledge can be of moment to no
one, and it shall never be disclosed. When this heart ceases to beat,
that tale shall cease to have a place on the face of the earth. Why
should my distresses and disgraces be published to any one? Is it not
enough that they have lacerated my bosom, that they have deprived me
of friends, that they have visited me with every adversity and every
anguish, that they have bowed me down to the earth, that they have made
thought, and remembrance, and life itself, a burthen too heavy to be
borne? Your present injudicious conduct, if persisted in, will have the
effect of driving me from your roof, of turning me once more upon the
world, upon that world that I hate, upon that world whose bruises and
ill treatment I feel in every fibre of my frame; of exposing me again
to fresh persecutions, and causing me to perish miserably in a dungeon,
or die upon a scaffold. Spare me, my generous host; I know you are
capable of generosity. Indeed I have endured enough to satiate the rage
of malice itself. You see what I suffer from the rage and tempest of
my own thoughts, even without the assistance of any external foe. Let
me die in that degree of tranquillity I am able to attain. I will not
trouble you long.”

At another time he addressed me in a different style. “You see, St.
Leon, that the anguish of mind I endure is such as is ordinarily
attributed to the recollection of great crimes; and you have very
probably conjectured that in my case it arises from the same source. If
you have, I forgive you; but I assure you that you are mistaken. Take
from yourself that uneasiness, if it has ever visited you; you are not
giving sanctuary to a villain! I am innocent. I can take no crime to
my charge. I have suffered more almost than man ever suffered; but I
have sinned little. The cause of my uneasiness and prime source of all
my misfortunes, I dare not disclose to you. Be contented with the plan
of my conduct. I have digested my purpose: I have determined where to
speak and where to be silent.”

The more I saw of this man, the more strange and unaccountable appeared
to me every thing that related to him. Why was he so poor, possessing,
as he pretended, inexhaustible wealth? Why was he unhappy, with so
great talents and genius, and such various information? Why was he
friendless, being, as he solemnly assured me, so perfectly innocent,
and of consequence so respectable? That he was an impostor, every
thing that I saw of him forbade me to believe. His sorrows were too
profound and excruciating, for it to be possible for me to rank them
among the actions that a man may play. The greatness of his powers, the
dignity of his carriage, the irresistible appearance of sincerity that
sparkled in his eye and modulated his voice, fully convinced me that he
really was what he pretended to be. I had heard of men who, under the
pretence of alchemy, fastened themselves upon persons possessing sums
of money; and, beguiling them with a delusive expectation of wealth,
reduced them to beggary and ruin. One such person I had had a brief
connection with during my residence in the Bordelois, though, finding
the incident by no means essential to the progress of my history, I
have passed it over, together with many others, in silence. But nothing
could be more unlike than that man and the person respecting whom I was
now concerned. In reality I possessed at that time, if I may be allowed
to say so, a more than common insight into the characters of mankind,
so as to be little likely, except under the tyranny of passion, as
in the instance of gaming, to be made the prey of imposition. I had
studied my species as it exhibits itself in history, and had mixed with
it in various scenes and under dissimilar aspects. I had accordingly,
in the transaction I have just alluded to, soon detected the plans of
the villain who expected to delude me. But what could be the purpose
of the stranger in this respect? The pretended alchemist in France had
obtained a certain sum of money of me, and demanded more. The stranger
never made such a demand of me; and perfectly knew that, even if I had
been inclined, I was not able to supply him. The alchemist had amused
me with descriptions of various processes for the transmutation of
metals, had exhibited his crucibles and retorts, and employed a sort
of dramatic _coup d’œil_ for the purpose of awakening my curiosity
and stimulating my passions. The stranger had simply stated, in the
plainest and most direct manner, that it was in his power to enrich
me; but had been silent as to the manner of producing the wealth he
promised, and had abstained from every effort to intoxicate my mind. I
felt therefore in this instance the effect, that, without being able
to solve the difficulties and contrarieties that hung about him, I yet
believed his assertions; nor was the inscrutability of his history and
his motives capable of shaking my confidence.

One day, during the period of his concealment, certain officers of
the bishop of Constance, accompanied by a foreigner in a Neapolitan
habit, came to my house, and, as it proved, with the express purpose
of searching for the man who had put himself under my protection.
Charles and myself were at work in the fields within sight of the
lake. Their appearance first caught the attention of Charles as they
approached the shore, and he enquired of me respecting the habit of
the foreigner, which was different from any he had been accustomed to
see. While we were yet speaking, I observed in them an intention to
land within sight of my cottage. This was an uncommon circumstance;
our privacy was rarely invaded, and we lived almost as much out of the
world as we should have done in the remotest island of the Atlantic
ocean. I reasoned in my own mind upon their appearance: they had
little resemblance to a party of pleasure; the habit of the officers
of justice I was perfectly acquainted with; and the suspicion of the
real nature of their errand immediately darted on my thoughts. Without
saying a word to Charles on the subject, I hastened with all the speed
I could exert to the apartment of the stranger, and acquainted him with
what I had seen. He concurred with me in the ideas I had formed, and
appeared much shocked at the intelligence. There was however no time to
be lost; and, after having for a moment given vent to an anguish which
was too powerful to be suppressed, he withdrew as hastily as he could
from the summer-house, and betook himself to the woods. He recommended
to me to leave him, telling me that he could conceal himself most
effectually alone, and observing that it would be necessary for me to
meet the officers, and endeavour as much as possible to remove their
suspicions.

Accordingly, as soon as he was gone, I threw open the windows of the
summer-house, removed the shutters, and took from it as effectually
as I could all appearance of having served as a place of concealment.
This was a precaution which the stranger had on a former occasion
recommended to me. It fortunately happened that Julia and the little
Marguerite were gone out together in the fields on the eastern side of
my cottage; otherwise infallibly the child by her innocent prattle,
and perhaps Julia by the apprehensive sensibility of her temper, would
have betrayed our secret, or at least have suggested to the officers
a feeling as if, by a longer stay and a more diligent search, they
might possibly succeed in the object of their expedition. As it was, I
received them at the door, and learned from their own mouths the nature
of their errand. Of Charles, whom they had crossed in the fields,
they had simply asked whether they were right as to the name of the
person who was proprietor of the cottage before them. They described
to me with great accuracy the appearance of the stranger, and insisted
that he had been an inhabitant of my cottage. They told me, they were
well informed that the summer-house in my garden had carefully been
shut up for more than a month past, and that some person had been
concealed there. I was interested in the distress of the stranger; I
was impressed with the dignity of his character; I implicitly confided
in his assertions of innocence, and the unjust persecution that he
suffered; I was not insensible to the proposed reward, the realising of
which probably depended on his safety. But, most of all, I considered
my honour as pledged for the protection of the man who had thus cast
himself upon my fidelity, and believed that I should be everlastingly
disgraced if he suffered any evil through treachery or neglect on my
part. I therefore answered confidently to the officers that they were
misinformed, and offered to conduct them over every part of my house
and demesnes, that they might satisfy themselves by inspection that
there was no person concealed any where within my possessions. I should
have been better pleased, openly to have defied their interrogatories,
and to have asked them whether, allowing their suspicions to be just,
they were entitled to believe that I was such a villain as to betray a
man who had thrown himself upon my generosity? But though this conduct
would have had a greater appearance of gallantry, I believed it would
have less of the reality, as it would have strengthened their idea of
my participation, and increased the danger of the person I was bound to
protect.

They accepted my offer of submitting to their search, and made a strict
examination of every place about my habitation in which the stranger
could be concealed. Disappointed here, they endeavoured by threats to
discover whether I was able to give them any information. To these I
calmly answered, that they had mistaken my character; that, though I
was a poor man, I had not forgotten that I was noble; that they were
already in possession of my spontaneous answer to their enquiries;
and that, in no case, and upon no supposition, should tyranny and
ill treatment extort from me what I was not in the first instance
disposed to give. My wife was present during this conversation, and, I
could perceive, felt an alarm for my danger that she would have been
incapable of feeling for a danger to herself.

Though I was extremely anxious that these men should be disappointed in
the object of their expedition, yet I did not neglect this opportunity
of endeavouring to obtain satisfaction for my own curiosity. I remarked
at first that the Neapolitan was an inquisitor, and this circumstance
had given additional poignancy to the uneasiness of Marguerite. But
the accusations of which the inquisition at this time took cognisance
were so numerous--the ecclesiastical power continually usurping upon
the civil--that I was little assisted in the judgment I was desirous
to frame by any inference to be deduced from this circumstance. I
questioned directly, with an air as if it were merely in the way of
conversation, what was the crime of the man of whom they were in
pursuit? and what was the cause forcible enough to induce a Neapolitan
inquisitor to follow so decrepit and forlorn an individual as he
described, beyond the Alps, and almost to the banks of the Danube? To
this he answered roughly, that though he was not able to discover the
object of his search, he was by no means convinced that I was not his
abettor and accomplice; and that as to his crime, that was not to be
named; the welfare of Christendom demanding that the criminal, and the
memory of his offences, should be buried together. At the same time he
warned me to consider well what I did, before I exposed myself to be
overwhelmed by the vengeance of the court of which he was a member. To
this I answered haughtily, that I had already condescended to repel
his suspicion, and that no other man than an inquisitor would have had
the stupidity or the audaciousness to question my veracity. I added,
that I was perfectly acquainted with the nature of his court, which was
an object of abhorrence to the whole Christian world; but that he was
mistaken if he supposed that the detestable nature of its proceedings
would enable him to practise every sort of outrage with impunity. The
officers withdrew into the little inclosure in front of my cottage, and
I overheard them consulting whether, having failed in their principal
object, they should carry me a prisoner along with them. The firmness
of my manner however had awed them, and the fearlessness I expressed
seemed to them to arise from a consciousness of innocence. They at
length departed as they came.

I watched them from my cottage as they descended to the shore, and
it was with no little pleasure that I perceived them re-embark, and
stand off for the opposite side of the lake. This spectacle for a time
entirely engaged me, and when I turned from the door I observed that
my beloved Marguerite had been in tears. She endeavoured to hide this
circumstance from my sight. I took her affectionately by the hand, and,
pressing her to my bosom, entreated her not to make herself uneasy.

“Ah, Reginald!” said she, “how can I avoid being uneasy, when I see
you exposed to this imminent danger? I thought that, in forfeiting our
fortune and our rank, and retiring to this obscure and sequestered
situation, we might at least promise ourselves the blessing of the
poor--oblivion and security; and that should have consoled me for all
I have lost. Who is this man that is thus mysteriously hidden among
us? What is the guilt from the punishment of which he thus anxiously
withdraws himself? What can be the nature of your connection with such
a man? And what will be the issue of so perilous an adventure?”

I hesitated. I knew not what to answer to so earnest an anxiety. I was
melted at the distress and the affection of Marguerite. She saw my
embarrassment, and proceeded:--

“Mistake me not, my beloved!” said she. “I have no desire to pry
into what you are willing to conceal. Forgive the perturbation which
has poured itself out in these involuntary questions. I repose an
entire confidence in you. I would sooner die than interfere with any
object you have at heart. Go on according to the dictates of your
own judgment, undisturbed by me. I will not doubt that you have
sufficient reasons for what you communicate, and what you suppress. I
am grieved indeed at the interruption of our obscure and unambitious
tranquillity; but I had resolved not to trouble you with my uneasiness
and apprehensions. The incident of this morning has extorted them from
me; but I will behave better in future.”

This scene was extremely distressing to me. My wife was oppressed with
fears, and I had nothing to answer her. The consolations that rose up
in my own mind I was prevented from communicating. The more generously
she confided in me, the more I felt the ungracious and disagreeable
nature of the concealment I practised. I endeavoured however to
encourage myself with the idea, that the labour would not be long, and
the harvest would prove abundant. I said in my own mind, The worst is
now over; the business has been commenced; the shock to my own family
has actually occurred; I must go on resolutely, and shut my eyes to the
temporarily displeasing circumstances that may be connected with the
completing my object.



CHAPTER XIII.


Another source of uneasiness was added to the distraction my mind
already endured. The stranger did not appear. It was in the morning
that the officers of justice arrived; they departed about noon; and
in two hours afterwards I entered the wood in search of my guest.
The wood was of some leagues in extent; it was intersected by paths
in various directions; it was interspersed with caverns; its growth
was of all kinds,--in some places lofty trees that seemed to form a
support for the clouds, in others an underwood impenetrable alike to
the feet and to the eye. As I entered the wood, I however conceived
that the discovery of the stranger, to me who was acquainted with its
lurking-places, would be an affair of little toil; his feebleness and
decrepitude would not suffer him to proceed to any great distance. In
this I was mistaken. I looked carefully on all sides; I examined every
recess and corner with which I was acquainted: but I found no trace of
the stranger. The scene was so complicated and involved, that even this
was a labour of considerable duration. At length I became satisfied
that he was not in the nearer division of the wood.

I paused. I felt at once that it was little less than a Herculean
task to hunt through the whole of its dimensions. It would probably
be of little use to call, and endeavour by that means to discover his
retreat. I knew of no name by which he was to be recognised; and,
if my own voice was but a slight resource to penetrate this immense
labyrinth of foliage, the voice of the stranger, weakened by age, and
now probably still more enfeebled by hunger and fatigue, could not be
expected to make itself heard. Beside which, as I knew not what the
source of information had been to the officers who had just left me, I
was unwilling to expose my guest to the danger that might arise from
this mode of seeking him. I could not even be sure, though I had seen
their boat stand off from the shore, that they might not afterwards
land one or more of their party, and be at this very moment within
ear-shot of me. I therefore proceeded in anxiety and silence.

My search was no more successful in the part of the wood with which I
was little acquainted, than in the part with which I was most familiar.
I had already been engaged four hours in the task, and night began
to come on. It shut in with heavy clouds, that on all sides appeared
deeply loaded with rain. I now began to consider my own situation; and,
by comparing circumstances, found that I was at a great distance from
my own habitation. There was no direct path by which for me to return.
I had proceeded to the right and the left, backward and forward,
sometimes by more open paths, and sometimes forcing my way through
briars and brushwood, as caprice, or the hope of effecting the object
of my search, happened to guide me. It was therefore no easy matter
to guess how I was to return, or even, now that the lowering clouds
had covered the horizon with one uniform tint, in which direction lay
the cottage or the lake. While I stood contemplating what was to
be done, I heard the howling of the wolves at a distance; and their
howl had that particular melancholy and discomfiting sound which is
well known to precede a coming storm. There was no time to be lost,
and accordingly I set out. I was less anxious to be at home on my own
account, than for the sake of quieting the alarms of my family, to whom
I had already occasioned too great a portion of uneasiness.

I had not proceeded far before the rain descended in torrents,
intermingled with peals of thunder and sheets of lightning. The
thunder, interrupted, as it were, from time to time, with the noise
of the wild beasts that inhabited the wood, deafened me, while the
excessive and instantaneous brilliancy of the lightning occasioned me
an intolerable aching in the organ of sight. It rained incessantly
for two hours, and I found myself drenched and fatigued with the
wet. During this time my progress was small; and I was ever and
anon intercepted by the underwood, and could not without repeated
experiments discover the means of proceeding. At length the rain
subsided, and seemed to give place to a gloomy and motionless calm.
Soon after, I discovered a light at a distance, and advanced towards
it. As I approached, I perceived that it proceeded from a set of
banditti, to the amount of fourteen or fifteen persons, sitting round
a fire in the mouth of a cavern. I was glad to turn my steps another
way, and was for some time afraid that the noise I made in occasionally
forcing my way through the bushes would alarm them, and cost me my
life. I however fortunately escaped their notice. This was in a part of
the wood remote from the path I ought to have taken, and near the road
to Lindau.

The day began to dawn before I reached my own habitation. The
conjecture I had made, when I was unawares upon the point of falling
into the hands of the banditti, that the road of Lindau was on
the other side of their retreat, was of some service to me as an
indication where to find the cottage and the lake. This road skirted
the wood on the side nearly opposite to that by which I entered it.
The difficulties however I had to encounter were inconceivably great,
in endeavouring to preserve my line of direction. After having been
compelled four or five times to deviate from the line, it is seldom
that a traveller will find himself right in his conjecture as to the
direction he is pursuing, unless he has some sensible object as a sort
of pole-star by which to govern his route. It happened in this instance
that I was more fortunate than I was entitled to expect. I laboured
indeed till daybreak without getting out of the labyrinth that inclosed
me. But the sun no sooner began to lend an imperfect light, than I
recognised certain objects which upon some former occasions I had
observed, and perceived that my journey was nearly at an end. I entered
my cottage, and found Marguerite alone awake and expecting me.

She had been somewhat uneasy on account of my absence, both from the
extreme tempestuousness of the night, and in consequence of the painful
sensations the events of the preceding morning had introduced,--events
with which it was almost unavoidable for her to imagine that my absence
was in some way connected. The period of my insanity in Switzerland
might indeed have accustomed her to the irregularity of my motions,
but a term of more than six years which had intervened, had produced
in her expectations and habits of a different sort. I related to this
admirable woman the adventures of the night and the fruitlessness
of the search in which I had been engaged; and this openness of
communication, unresembling the nature of the intercourse which had
lately existed between us, relieved in some degree my burthened heart,
and cheered the drooping spirits of Marguerite. She dropped some
consolatory and sadly pleasing tears; and her manner seemed to say,
though she would not suffer her tongue to give the idea words, How
sweet are cordiality and confidence! Oh! do not let our situation,
which has deprived us of many other comforts, ever again be robbed of
this comfort, which is alone worth all the rest! Though she necessarily
felt the presence of the stranger as an evil, the bane of our domestic
peace, yet it was impossible for her not to compassionate his fate, and
suffer some distress from his strange and abrupt disappearance.

After the conversation which had so eminently served as a relief to
our minds, Marguerite left me to repose myself from the extraordinary
fatigue I had undergone. But my mind was too much disturbed to suffer
me to sink into the arms of forgetfulness. I felt something tragical in
the sad destiny of my unfortunate guest. It was but too probable that,
in his peculiarly weak state of body, and with his declining health,
the being thus exposed for a day and a night to the effects of hunger,
of the inclemency of the air, and the tempestuousness of the elements,
would put a close to his existence. I was determined soon to recommence
my search. But how could I be sure that I should be more fortunate
to-day, than the day before? If I found him, it was most likely I
should find him either dead or dying. The degree of intercourse that
had taken place between us had made him occupy a considerable space
in my thoughts. The prospects he had opened to me, the conduct he had
induced me to adopt, the painful effects and dissatisfaction of mind
which had been produced by that conduct as it respected my family, all
combined to give me an interest in his fate. I had seen his talents; I
had felt his ascendancy; I had experienced that sort of conflict, which
appearances of guilt on the one hand, and asseverations of innocence
on the other, are calculated to produce in the thoughts and emotions
of a bystander. He was no common man; the expectations and conjectures
he excited were of no ordinary sort; and I felt that an army might be
destroyed, and a spacious plain covered with the wounded and the dying,
without producing greater commotion in my soul.

In the anxious and disturbed state of mind in which I was, the thoughts
flow with extraordinary rapidity. It will be found attended with a
strange, and, previously to the experiment, incredible mixture of
reasoning and passion, of philosophising and fury. I was accordingly
conscious at this moment of the truth of the stranger’s assertion,
that in me he had a protector, not a friend. Friendship is an object
of a peculiar sort; the smallest reserve is deadly to it. I may indeed
feel the emotions of a friend towards a man who in part conceals from
me the thoughts of his heart; but then I must be unconscious of this
concealment. The instant I perceive this limitation of confidence, he
drops into the class of ordinary men: a divorce is effected between us:
our hearts, which grew together, suffer amputation; the arteries are
closed; the blood is no longer mutually transfused and confounded. I
shall be conscious of all his qualities, for I stand in the place of
an impartial umpire. I consider him as a machine capable of so much
utility to myself, and so much utility to other men. But I do not
regard him as the brother of my soul: I do not feel that my life is
bound up in his: I do not feel as if, were he to die, the whole world
would be at an end to me, and that my happiness would be buried with
him for ever in the darkness of the grave. I am not conscious of those
emotions which are the most exquisite and indescribable the human mind
can experience; and which, being communicated by a sort of electrical
stroke to him who is their object, constitute the solace of all his
cares, the alleviator of all his calamities, the only nectar and truest
balm of human life. For me, he stands alone in the world, having
companions and associates, the connections, as it were, of mercantile
selfishness, or casual jollity and good humour, but no friend. It was
thus that I thought of the stranger. He obtained from me the compassion
due to a human being, and the respect extorted by his qualities, but
nothing calculated radically to disturb the equilibrium of the mind. I
looked forward to his death with unruffled thoughts and an unmoistened
eye. There was one thing indeed that shook me more deeply; the thought
of losing the promised reward, and of having exposed myself to the evil
of an unquiet and dissatisfied mind in vain.

I rested but a few hours before I set out again upon the search,
to which the interposition of the darkness of the preceding night
had put an abrupt close. I had the precaution to take with me a
slight provision of food and cordials, believing that, if I found
the stranger, he would at least be in the greatest need of something
reviving and restorative. Charles earnestly intreated to assist me in
the search, but upon this I put a peremptory prohibition. It would have
been in direct contradiction to what the stranger had most solemnly
required of me.

I had already spent several hours in anxiously tracing the wood in
every direction; and the period of noon was past, when, approaching
an obscure and almost impenetrable thicket, my ear was caught by a
low and melancholy sound, which at first I knew not to what I was to
ascribe. It however arrested my attention, and caused me to assume an
attitude of listening. After the lapse of little more than a minute,
the same sound was repeated. I now distinctly perceived that it was
the groan of some creature in a very feeble and exhausted state, and
immediately suspected that it was the stranger. I went almost round the
thicket before I could discern an entrance, and, though I looked with
the utmost care, could perceive nothing that the thicket inclosed. The
groan was repeated a third time. The long intervals between the groans
gave a peculiar melancholy to the effect, and each seemed so much lower
than the groan before, that nothing but the ear of anxious attention
would have caught it; at the same time that the tone conveyed an idea
of stupified, yet vital, anguish. At length I perceived the legs and
something of the garb of a man. It was the stranger! He appeared to
have crept into the thicket upon his hands and knees. When I forced
my way to him, he seemed in the very act of expiring. He was lying on
his face, and I raised him a little. His eyes were fixed; his mouth
was open; his lips and tongue were parched and dry. I infused a few
drops of a cordial into his mouth. For a moment it appeared to produce
no sensation, but presently my patient uttered a deep and long-drawn
sigh. I repeated my application. As a principal cause of the condition
in which I found him was inanition, the stimulant I administered
produced a powerful effect. He moved his hands, shuddered, turned his
eyes languidly upon me, and, having appeared to recognise me, shut
them hastily again. I moved him slowly and softly into a freer air,
and bathed his temples with one of the liquids I had about me. By this
time he looked up, and then suddenly round him with a wild and hurried
air. He spoke not however; he was speechless. In about a quarter of
an hour he relapsed into convulsions, in which it seemed probable he
would expire. They lasted a considerable time, and he then sunk into
a state of insensibility. I thought he was dead. Thus circumstanced,
it was some relief to my humanity to have found him yet alive, and to
have received his parting breath. But in a moment his secret and his
promises recurred to me with inexpressible anguish, and I inwardly
reproached him for having deferred his communication so long, as now
to preclude its ever being made. I cannot describe the keenness, the
burning and intolerable bitterness, of my sensation. Keen it may well
be supposed to have been, from its having so instantaneously and
forcibly recurred at a time when other objects seemed to press upon my
senses. No one who has not felt what it is to fall in a moment from
hope, or, as I should rather say, from assured possession of what his
soul most loved and desired, into black and interminable despair, can
imagine what was then the state of my mind. The body of my patient
slided from my nerveless arms; I lifted up the eyes of rage and
phrensy, as if to curse the Author of my being; and then fell helpless
and immoveable by the side of the stranger.

I felt him move; I heard him sigh. I lifted up my head, and perceived
stronger marks of life and sense about him than had yet displayed
themselves. I threw my arms about him; I pressed him to my heart. The
emphatical gesture I used seemed to have a sort of magnetical force
to rouse his dying powers. With a little assistance from me he sat
upright. My assiduity produced wonders: it fortunately happened that
this thicket was but a half a mile from my habitation, and indeed was
one of the spots which I had searched without success the day before.
About the hour of sunset, partly by leading, and partly by supporting
him, I restored my guest to his former apartment.

He remained speechless, or nearly so. He vented his sensations in
sighs, in inward and inarticulate sounds; and even when he arrived
at the power of making himself understood by words, it was only by
monosyllables and half sentences that he conveyed to me his meaning.
I now gave up my time almost entirely to an assiduous attendance on
the stranger. Every day I expected to be his last; every day was more
or less interspersed with symptoms that seemed to menace his instant
dissolution. During all this time I remained in the anxious suspense
of contending hope and fear. Was it probable that he would ever
recover strength enough to confer on me the legacy he had announced?
The particulars of his secret I knew not; but, judging from what I
had heard of the pretences and pursuits of alchemy, it was natural to
suppose that he had a process to communicate, which would require on
his part considerable accuracy of recollection, as well as the power of
delivering himself in a methodical and orderly discourse.

I was fortunate enough however to perceive, after a tormenting and
tedious crisis, that he appeared to be in a progress of convalescence,
and that his strength both of body and mind were recruited daily. After
the lapse of a fortnight from the adventure of the wood, he one evening
addressed me in the following manner:--

“St. Leon, I have been to blame. I have put you to a sufficient
trial; I have received from you every assistance and kindness that my
situation demanded; I have imposed on you much trouble and anxiety; I
have excited your expectations by announcing to you in part what it
was in my power to bestow; and I have finally risked the defrauding
your hopes and your humanity of their just reward. Do me the justice
however to remember, that I had no presentiment of the event which has
so inauspiciously come between you and your hopes. Fool that I was, I
imagined I had suffered enough, and that, as I had obtained a longer
respite from external persecution than I almost ever experienced,
I should be permitted to spend the short remainder of my days
uninterrupted! I now however look back upon this last assault with
complacency. It has cut off something from the last remnant of a life
to the close of which I look forward with inexpressible longing; at
the same time that I am still in prospect of obtaining the final wish
of my heart--the stealing out of the world unperceived, and thus in
some measure eluding the last malice of my enemies. After my death I
have but one injunction to leave with you--the injunction of Hercules
to Philoctetes--that no inducement may move you to betray to mortal
man the place in which you shall have deposited my ashes. Bury them
in a spot which I will describe to you: it is not far, and is only
recommended to me by its almost inaccessible situation: and that once
done, speak of me and, if possible, think of me no more. Never on any
account mention me or allude to me; never describe me, or relate the
manner of our meeting, or the adventure which has at length brought on
the desired close of my existence.

“Believe me, in the feeble and helpless condition in which I have spent
the last fortnight, your wishes and expectations have been uppermost
in my mind, and there is nothing I have felt with so much compunction
as the danger of leaving them unsatisfied. To you perhaps I at present
appear to be rapidly recovering, I feel the dart of death in my vitals;
I know I shall not live four days. It is necessary therefore that I
should finish without delay all that remains for me to finish. I will
devote this night to the arranging my thoughts and putting in order
what I have to communicate, that no mistake or omission may have part
in a transaction so important. Come to me to-morrow morning; I will be
prepared for you.”

As soon as I heard this discourse, and provided the stranger with every
thing he could want during the night, I withdrew. My heart was big
with expectation; my thoughts all night were wild and tumultuous. When
the hour of assignation arrived, I hastened along the garden to the
summer-house, conscious that upon that hour depended all the colour of
my future life. Since the stranger had been in his present dangerous
condition, the door was not bolted; it was only locked: the key was
in my possession, and remained night and day attached to my person. I
opened the door; I panted and was breathless.

I immediately saw that the stranger had undergone some great alteration
for the worse. He had suffered a sort of paralytic affection. He lifted
up his face as I entered; it was paler than I had ever seen it. He
shook his head mournfully, and intimated by signs the disappointment
which this morning must witness. He was speechless. “Fate! fate!”
exclaimed I in an agony of despair, “am I to be for ever baffled? Is
the prize so much longed for and so ardently expected at last to escape
me?”--It is not to be imagined how much these successive, endless
disappointments increased my impatience, and magnified in my eyes the
donation I sought.

The whole of this and the following day the stranger remained
speechless. The third day, in the morning, he murmured many sounds,
but in a manner so excessively inarticulate, that I was not able to
understand one word in six that he said. I recollected his prediction
that he should die on the fourth day. The fever of my soul was at its
height. Mortal sinews and fibres could sustain no more. If the stranger
had died thus, it is most probable that I should have thrown myself in
anguish and rage upon his corpse, and have expired in the same hour.

In the evening of the third day I visited him again. He had thrown his
robe around him, and was sitting on the side of his couch. The evening
sun shot his last beams over the window-shutters. There were about
eight inches between the shutter and the top of the window; and some
branches of vines, with their grapes already ripe, broke the uniformity
of the light. The side of the couch faced the west, and the beams
played upon the old man’s countenance. I had never seen it so serene.
The light, already softened by the decline of day, gave it a peculiar
animation: and a smile that seemed to betoken renovation and the youth
of angels sat upon it. He beckoned me to approach. I placed myself
beside him on the couch; he took my hand in his, and leaned his face
towards me.

“I shall never witness the light of the setting sun again!” were the
first words he uttered. I immediately perceived that he spoke more
collectedly, and with better articulation than at any time since the
paralytic stroke. Still however it was no easy matter to develop his
words. But I wound up every faculty of my frame to catch them; and,
assisted as I was by the habit of listening to his speech for many
weeks, which during the whole of that time had never been distinct, I
was successful enough to make out his entire discourse.

It continued, though with various interruptions, for more than half an
hour. He explained with wonderful accuracy the whole of his secrets,
and the process with which they were connected. My soul was roused to
the utmost stretch of attention and astonishment. His secrets, as I
have already announced in the commencement of this history, consisted
of two principal particulars; the art of multiplying gold, and the
power of living for ever. The detail of these secrets I omit; into
that I am forbidden to enter. My design in writing this narrative, I
have said, is not to teach the art of which I am in possession, but to
describe the adventures it produced to me.

The more I listened, the more my astonishment grew. I looked at the
old man before me; I observed the wretchedness of his appearance, the
meanness of his attire, his apparent old age, his extreme feebleness,
the characters of approaching death that were written on his
countenance. After what I had just heard, I surveyed these things with
a sensation of novelty, as if I had never remarked them in him before.
I said to myself, Is this the man that possesses mines of wealth
inexhaustible, and the capacity of living for ever?

Observing that he had finished his discourse, I addressed to him these
words, by a sort of uncontrollable impulse, and with all the vehemence
of unsated and insuppressible curiosity.

“Tell me, I adjure you by the living God, what use have you made of
these extraordinary gifts? and with what events has that use been
attended?”

As I spoke thus, the countenance of the old man underwent a surprising
change. Its serenity vanished; his eyes rolled with an expression of
agony; and he answered me thus:--

“Be silent, St. Leon! How often must I tell you that no single
incident of my story shall ever be repeated! Have I no claim upon your
forbearance? Can you be barbarous and inhuman enough to disturb my last
scene with these bitter recollections?”--I was silent.

This is all that is material that passed at our interview.

The stranger died the next day, and was buried according to his
instructions.



CHAPTER XIV.


From the moment of my last interview with the stranger I was another
creature. My thoughts incessantly rolled upon his communications. They
filled me with astonishment and joy, almost to bursting. I was unable
to contain myself; I was unable to remain in any posture or any place.
I could scarcely command myself sufficiently to perform the last duties
to his body in the manner he had directed. I paced with eager step the
sands of the lake; I climbed the neighbouring hills, and then descended
with inconceivable rapidity to the vales below; I traced with fierce
impatience the endless mazes of the wood in which I so hardly recovered
my bewildered guest. The uninterruptedness and celerity of bodily
motion seemed to communicate some ease to my swelling heart.

Yet there was one thing I wanted. I wanted some friendly bosom into
which to pour out my feelings, and thus by participation to render my
transports balsamic and tolerable. But this was for ever denied me. No
human ear must ever be astonished with the story of my endowments and
my privileges. I may whisper it to the woods and the waters, but not
in the face of man. Not only am I bound to suppress the knowledge of
the important secret I possess, but even the feelings, the ruminations,
the visions, that are for ever floating in my soul. It is but a vain
and frivolous distinction upon which I act, when I commit to this
paper my history, and not the science which is its corner-stone. The
reason why the science may not be divulged is obvious. Exhaustless
wealth, if communicated to all men, would be but an exhaustless heap
of pebbles and dust; and nature will not admit her everlasting laws
to be so abrogated, as they would be by rendering the whole race of
sublunary man immortal. But I am bound, as far as possible, not only
to hide my secrets, but to conceal that I have any to hide. Senseless
paper! be thou at least my confidant! To thee I may impart what my soul
spurns the task to suppress. The human mind insatiably thirsts for a
confidant and a friend. It is no matter that these pages shall never he
surveyed by other eyes than mine. They afford at least the semblance of
communication and the unburthening of the mind; and I will press the
illusion fondly and for ever to my heart.

To return to the explanation of my feelings immediately after receiving
possession of my grand acquisition; for, without that explanation,
the spirit and meaning of my subsequent narrative will scarcely be
sufficiently apprehended.

“Happy, happy, happy man!” exclaimed I, in the midst of my wanderings
and reveries. “Wealth! thy power Is unbounded and inconceivable. All
men bow down to thee; the most stubborn will is by thee rendered pliant
as wax; all obstacles are melted down and dissolved by the ardour of
thy beams! The man that possesses thee, finds every path level before
him, and every creature burning to anticipate his wishes: but if these
are the advantages that wealth imparts to such as possess only those
scanty portions which states and nations allow to the richest, how
enviable must his condition be, whose wealth is literally exhaustless
and infinite! He possesses really the blessing, which priestcraft and
superstition have lyingly pronounced upon the charitable: he may give
away the revenues of princes, and not be the poorer. He possesses the
attribute which we are accustomed to ascribe to the Creator of the
universe: he may say to a man, ‘Be rich,’ and he is rich. He can bestow
with equal facility the smallest gifts and the greatest. Palaces, as
if they were the native exhalations of the soil, rise out of the earth
at his bidding. He holds the fate of nations and of the world in his
hand. He can remove forests, and level mountains, drain marshes, extend
canals, turn the course of rivers, and shut up the sea with doors. He
can assign to every individual in a nation the task he pleases, can
improve agriculture, and establish manufactures, can found schools,
and hospitals, and infirmaries, and universities. He can study the
genius of every man, and enable every man to pursue the bent of his
mind. Poets and philosophers will be fostered, the sublimest flights of
genius be produced, and the most admirable discoveries effected, under
his auspicious patronage. The whole world are his servants, and he,
if his temper be noble and upright, will be the servant of the whole
world. Nay, it cannot happen otherwise. He has as few temptations to
obliquity as omnipotence itself. Weakness and want are the parents of
vice. But he possesses every thing; he cannot better his situation; no
man can come into rivalship or competition with him. I thank God, I
have known the extremes of poverty, and therefore am properly qualified
to enjoy my present happiness. I have felt a reverse of fortune,
driving me in one instance to insanity, in another instance threatening
to destroy me, my wife, and children together, with the plague of
hunger. My heart has been racked with never-dying remorse; because, by
my guilt and folly, my children have been deprived of the distinction
and rank to which they were born, and plunged in remediless obscurity.
Heaven has seen my sufferings, and at length has graciously said, ‘It
is enough.’ Because I have endured more than man ever endured from
the privation of fortune, God in his justice has reserved for me this
secret of the transmutation of metals. I can never again fall into that
wretchedness, by which my understanding was subverted, and my heart was
broken.”

From this part of the legacy of the stranger, my mind reverted to the
other. I surveyed my limbs, all the joints and articulations of my
frame, with curiosity and astonishment. “What!” exclaimed I, “these
limbs, this complicated but brittle frame, shall last for ever! No
disease shall attack it; no pain shall seize it; death shall withhold
from it for ever his abhorred grasp! Perpetual vigour, perpetual
activity, perpetual youth, shall take up their abode with me! Time
shall generate in me no decay, shall not add a wrinkle to my brow,
or convert a hair of my head to grey! This body was formed to die;
this edifice to crumble into dust; the principles of corruption and
mortality are mixed up in every atom of my frame. But for me the laws
of nature are suspended; the eternal wheels of the universe roll
backward; I am destined to be triumphant over fate and time!

“Months, years, cycles, centuries! To me all these are but as
indivisible moments. I shall never become old; I shall always be,
as it were, in the porch and infancy of existence; no lapse of years
shall subtract any thing from my future duration. I was born under
Louis the Twelfth; the life of Francis the First now threatens a speedy
termination; he will be gathered to his fathers, and Henry his son will
succeed him. But what are princes and kings and generations of men to
me? I shall become familiar with the rise and fall of empires; in a
little while the very name of France, my country, will perish from the
face of the earth, and men will dispute about the situation of Paris,
as they dispute about the site of ancient Nineveh and Babylon and Troy.
Yet I shall still be young. I shall take my most distant posterity
by the hand; I shall accompany them in their career; and, when they
are worn out and exhausted, shall shut up the tomb over them, and set
forward.”

There was something however in this part of my speculation that
did not entirely please me. Methought the race of mankind looked
too insignificant in my eyes. I felt a degree of uneasiness at the
immeasurable distance that was put between me and the rest of my
species. I found myself alone in the world. Must I for ever live
without a companion, a friend, any one with whom I can associate upon
equal terms, with whom I can have a community of sensations, and
feelings, and hopes, and desires, and fears? I experienced something,
less than a wish, yet a something very capable of damping my joy, that
I also were subject to mortality. I could have been well content to be
partaker with a race of immortals, but I was not satisfied to be single
in this respect. I was not pleased to recollect how trivial would
appear to me those concerns of a few years, about which the passions of
men are so eagerly occupied. I did not like the deadness of heart that
seemed to threaten me. I began to be afraid of vacancy and torpor, and
that my life would become too uniformly quiet. Nor did it sufficiently
console me to recollect that, as one set of friends died off the stage,
another race would arise to be substituted in their stead. I felt that
human affections and passions are not made of this transferable stuff,
and that we can love nothing truly, unless, we devote ourselves to it
heart and soul, and our life is, as it, were, bound up in the object of
our attachment.

It was worse when I recollected my wife and my children. When I
considered for the first time that they were now in a manner nothing to
me, I felt a sensation that might be said to mount to anguish. How can
a man attach himself to any thing, when he comes to consider it as the
mere plaything and amusement of the moment! In this statement however I
am not accurate. Habit is more potent than any theoretical speculation.
Past times had attached me deeply, irrevocably, to all the members of
my family. But I felt that I should survive them all. They would die
one by one, and leave me alone. I should drop into their graves the
still renewing tear of anguish. In that tomb would my heart be buried.
Never, never, through the countless ages of eternity, should I form
another attachment. In the happy age of delusion, happy and auspicious
at least to the cultivation of the passions, when I felt that I also
was a mortal, I was capable of a community of sentiments and a going
forth of the heart. But how could I, an immortal, hope ever hereafter
to feel a serious, an elevating and expansive passion for the ephemeron
of an hour!

As the first tumult of my thoughts subsided, I began, as is usual
with persons whose minds are turned loose in the search of visionary
happiness, to picture to myself, more steadily and with greater
minuteness, the objects I would resolve early to accomplish. I would in
the first place return to France, my adored country, the residence of
my ancestors, whose annals they had adorned, whose plains had witnessed
their heroic feats, and whose earth enclosed their ashes. To France I
was endeared by every tie that binds the human heart; her language had
been the prattle of my infancy; her national manners and temper were
twined with the fibres of my constitution, and could not be rooted
out; I felt that every Frenchman that lived was my brother. Banishment
had only caused these prejudices to strike their tendrils deeper in my
heart. I knew not that I should finally limit my abode to France. A
man who, like Melchisedec, is “without end of life,” may well consider
himself as being also, like him, “without father, without mother, and
without descent.” But at all events I would first fix my children, who
did not participate in my privileges, in their native soil. I would
reside there myself, at least till they were fully disposed of, and
till the admirable partner of the last seventeen years of my life had
resigned her breath. I would immediately repurchase the property of my
ancestors, which had been so distressfully resigned. The exile should
return from his seven years’ banishment in triumph and splendour. I
would return to the court of my old patron and friend, the gallant
Francis, and present to him my boy, the future representative of my
family, now one year older than I had been at the field of the Cloth of
Gold. Though an exile from my country, I had not been an inattentive
witness of her fortunes. The year fifteen hundred and forty-four
was a remarkable and interesting year in the history of France. The
endless animosities of Francis and the emperor had broken out with
new fury about two years before. In the spring of the present year,
the count d’Anguien had won a battle in Piedmont[8], in which ten
thousand imperialists were left dead upon the field, and which might
be considered as having at length effaced the defeat of Pavia, in the
same part of the world nineteen years before. The moment it had been
announced that a battle was resolved on, the young nobility of France,
with their characteristic ardour, had hurried to the scene, and the
court of Paris was, in an instant as it were, turned into a desert.
On the other hand, the emperor and the king of England had concerted
for the same season a formidable plan of attack against our northern
frontier. With an army of twenty-five thousand men respectively, the
one on the side of Champagne, and the other of Picardy, they agreed
to advance directly into the heart of the kingdom, and to unite their
forces in the neighbourhood of Paris. The last intelligence that had
reached me was, that Château Thierry, about twenty leagues from the
metropolis, was in the hands of the emperor, and that the inhabitants
of the capital, filled with consternation, were seeking their safety
by flight in every direction. These circumstances had passed idly by
me, and left little impression, so long as I considered myself as an
obscure peasant cut off for ever from the bosom of my country. But,
vested with the extraordinary powers now intrusted to me, the case was
altered. I felt even a greater interest in my sovereign, now pressed
down with disease and calamity, yet retaining the original alacrity
and confidence of his soul, than I had done, when I saw him in all the
pride of youth, and all the splendour of prosperity. I was anxious that
Charles should now enter into his service; and I determined once again
to assume the cuirass and the falchion, that I might be the instructor
of his youth, and his pattern in feats of war. I resolved that my
shepherd-boy, bred in obscurity among woods and mountains, should burst
with sudden splendour upon his countrymen, and prove in the field
his noble blood and generous strain. I also proposed to myself, both
out of sympathy for my king, and to give greater éclat to my son’s
entrance into life, to replenish with my treasures the empty coffers of
France, and thus to furnish what at this period seemed to be the main
spring upon which the fortune of war depended. With the advantages I
could afford him, the career of Charles could not fail to be rapid and
illustrious, and he would undoubtedly obtain the staff of constable
of France, the possessor of which, Montmorency, was now in disgrace.
I would marry my daughters to such of the young nobility as I should
find most distinguished in talents and spotless in character. When, by
the death of her I most loved, my affections should be weaned from my
country, and the scenes to which I had been accustomed were rendered
painful and distressing, I would then set out upon my travels. I would
travel with such splendour and profusion of expense (for this, though
mortified in me by a reverse of many years’ duration, continued to be
the foible of my heart) as should supersede the necessity of letters
of recommendation, and secure me a favourable reception wherever I
appeared. I might spend a life, in a manner, in every country that was
fortunate enough to allure my stay, spreading improvements, dispensing
blessings, and causing all distress and calamity to vanish from before
me.



CHAPTER XV.


My mind was occupied in these and similar reveries for several weeks
after the death of the stranger. My wife and children had hoped,
after that event, that I should have returned to the habits which had
pervaded the last six years of my existence, and which they had felt so
eminently productive of gratification and delight. In this hope they
found themselves deceived. My domestic character was, for the present
at least, wholly destroyed. I had a subject of contemplation that did
not admit of a partaker, and from this subject I could not withdraw
my thoughts, so much as for an instant. I had no pleasure but in that
retirement, where I could be unseen and unheard by any human eye or
ear. If at any time I was compelled to join the domestic circle, I
despatched the occasion that brought me there as speedily as possible;
and even while I remained in it, was silent and absent, engrossed with
my own contemplations, and heedless and unobservant of every thing
around me.

My abstraction was not however so entire as to prevent me from
sometimes stealing, in a sort of momentary interregnum of thought, in
that pause where the mind rests upon the chain already passed over,
and seems passively to wait for the sequel, a glance at my family. I
looked at them without knowing what it was that I did, and without
the intention to notice what I saw. Yet, even in this state of mental
abstraction, visible objects will sometimes succeed in making their
impression. I perceived that my wife and children suffered from my
behaviour. I remarked a general air of disconsolateness, and a mild
unexpostulating submission, to what nevertheless the heart deeply
deplored. They did not presume to interrupt me; they did not by prying
and inquisitive speeches attempt to extort from me the secret of the
alteration they saw; but it was manifest they conceived some great and
radical calamity had poisoned the heart of our domestic joy.

It was these symptoms thus remarked by me, that first roused me from
the inebriation of my new condition. I was compelled to suspect that,
while I revelled in visions of future enjoyment, I was inflicting
severe and unmerited pains on those I loved. It was necessary, if
I valued their happiness, that I should descend from the clouds of
speculation and fancy, and enter upon the world of realities.

But here I first found a difficulty to which, during the reign of my
intoxication, I had been utterly insensible. I was rich; I could raise
my family, as far as the power of money extended,--money, which may
in some sense be styled the empress of the world,--to what heights I
pleased. I had hitherto committed the fault, so common to projectors,
of looking only to ultimate objects and great resting places, and
neglecting to consider the steps between. This was an omission of high
importance. Every thing in the world is conducted by gradual process.
This seems to be the great principle of harmony in the universe.
Nothing is abrupt; one thing is so blended and softened into another,
that it is impossible to say where the former ends and the latter
begins.

This remark is fully applicable to the situation which was now
before me. Yesterday I was poor; to-day I was possessor of treasures
inexhaustible. How was this alteration to be announced? To dissipate
the revenues of princes, to purchase immense estates, to launch into
costly establishments, are tasks to which the most vulgar mind is
equal. But no man stands alone in the world, without all trace of
what he has been, and with no one near, that thinks himself entitled
to scrutinise his proceedings and his condition. Least of all was
this my case. I was bound to certain other persons by the most sacred
obligations; I could not separate myself from them; I could not render
myself a mere enigma in their eyes; though, in the language of the
world, the head of my family, they were my natural censors and judges.
I was accountable to them for my conduct; it was my duty, paramount to
all other duties, to stand as a fair, upright, and honourable character
in their estimation.

If these remarks be true taken in a general view, they are much more so
when applied to my particular case. There are men who live in the midst
of their families like an eastern despot surrounded with his subjects.
They are something too sacred to be approached; their conduct is not
to be reasoned upon; the amount of their receipts and disbursements is
not to be inspected; their resources are unknown; no one must say to
them, What dost thou? or, why hast thou thus conducted thyself? Even
these persons will not escape the tax to which all men are liable.
They cannot kill the general spirit of enquiry; the mystery in which
they wrap themselves will often serve as an additional stimulus; they
will finally encounter the judgment and verdict of all. For myself,
I had lived in the midst of my family upon a system of paternal and
amicable commerce. I had suffered too deeply from a momentary season
of separation and mystery, not to have been induced to renounce it
decisively and for ever.

Firm, however, as I had imagined my renunciation to have been, I was
now thrown back upon what I had most avoided. I had a secret source
of advantage, the effects of which were to be participated by those I
loved, while the spring was to remain for ever unknown. What I most
sought upon this occasion, was, that my family should share my good
fortune, and at the same time be prevented from so much as suspecting
that there was any thing mysterious connected with it. To effect
this, I presently conceived that it would be necessary to sacrifice
the sudden and instantaneous prosperity I had proposed to myself,
and introduce the reverse of our condition by slow, and, as far as
possible, insensible degrees.

One thing on which I determined, preparatory to the other measures
I had in view, was to remove from my present habitation, and take
up my residence for a time in the city of Constance. In the cottage
of the mountains it was impossible to make any material alteration
in my establishment. My property was of the narrowest extent; nor
would it be easily practicable in a country, the inhabitants of
which were accustomed to a humble allotment, considerably to enlarge
it. My house was frugal, if not mean; and, unless it were first
pulled down and built over again, the idea of introducing servants,
equipage, or splendour into it, would be absurd. My design was not
to make a long abode where I now was; but, as soon as my family
should be sufficiently prepared for the transition, to return to my
native country. I believed in the mean time, that, in the capital
of the bishopric, where my name was scarcely remembered by a single
individual, I should be more at liberty to proceed as circumstances
suggested, than in my present rural situation, where every neighbour
regarded himself as vested with a sort of inquisitorial power over all
around him.

To account for this measure to my family, I felt it incumbent on me
to confess to them a certain pecuniary acquisition. The story that
most readily suggested itself, was that of the stranger having left
behind him a certain sum of which he made a donation to me. This,
though in the plain and direct sense of the terms it were false, yet
in its spirit bore a certain resemblance to the truth; and, with that
resemblance, in spite of the rigid adherence to veracity, that first
ornament of a gentleman, that most essential prerequisite to the
regard and affection of others, which I had hitherto maintained, I was
induced to content myself. What could I do? I was compelled to account
for appearances; I was forbidden by the most solemn injunctions to
unfold the truth. I should indeed have felt little complacence in the
disclosure; I should have been reluctant to announce a circumstance
which, as I began to feel, introduced a permanent difference and
separation between me and my family.

The sum at which I fixed the legacy of the stranger was three thousand
crowns. I was not inattentive to the future; I should have been glad,
by my present account, to have furnished a more ample solution for
circumstances which might occur hereafter. But some regard was due
to probability. An unknown, a solitary man, broken with age, who
arrived on foot, and who declined all aid and attendance, must not be
represented as possessing mines of treasure.

It was some time before I could prevail on myself to break my story to
the inhabitants of my cottage. As the time approached when I was to
bid an everlasting farewell to rural obscurity and a humble station,
they seemed to adorn themselves in new charms. I was like the son of a
king, who had hitherto been told by his attendants that he was a mere
villager, and who, while his youthful imagination is dazzled by the
splendour that awaits him, yet looks back with a wistful eye upon his
mirthful sports, his former companions, and the simple charms of her
who first obtained his guileless love. I announced my acquisition and
my purpose with a faltering tongue and a beating heart.

I could perceive that my tale produced few emotions of pleasure in
those who heard it. Julia and her mother, especially, were warmly
attached to their retirement; and the scenes which had witnessed
so many pleasurable incidents and emotions. Chagrin, in spite of
themselves, made a transient abode upon their countenances; but the
unresisting mildness of the one, and the considerate attachment of the
other, prevented, for the present, their sensations from breaking out
into words. The feelings, however, that they consigned to silence, did
not entirely escape the notice of the lively little Marguerite. She
sympathised with them, probably without being aware that they were
sad. She came towards me, and, with much anxiety in her enquiring
face, asked why we must go away from the cottage? If I had got some
money I might go to the town, and buy sweetmeats, and ribands, and new
clothes, and a hundred more pretty things, and bring them home. For
her part, she should be better pleased to put on her finery, and make
her feast in the pretty old summer-house, now she was again permitted
to go and play in it, than in a palace all stuck over with emeralds
and rubies. Her mother wiped away a tear at the innocent speech of her
darling, kissed her, and bid her go and feed the hen and her chickens.
Charles was the only one in whom I could observe any pleasure at
my intelligence. He was not as yet skilful enough to calculate the
advantages that three thousand crowns could purchase. But I could see
joy sparkle in his eyes, as I announced my intention of bidding adieu
to retirement, and taking up my rest in the capital of the district.
His veins swelled with the blood of his ancestors; his mind was inured
to the contemplation of their prowess. Already sixteen years of age,
he had secretly burned to go forth into the world, to behold the
manners of his species, and to establish for himself a claim to some
rank in their estimation. He had pined in thought at the mediocrity
of our circumstances, and the apparent impossibility of emerging; for
he regarded the duty of contributing his labour to the subsistence of
the family, as the first of all obligations; and the more the bent of
his spirit struggled against it, the more resolutely he set himself to
comply.

The rest of the family were no sooner retired, than Marguerite, finding
in what I had just announced to all, an occasion from the use of which
she could not excuse herself, took this opportunity of unburthening the
grief which had long been accumulating in her mind.

“St. Leon,” said she, “listen kindly to what I am going to say to
you, and assure yourself that I am actuated by no spleen, resentment,
or ill-humour, but by the truest affection. I perceive I have lost,
in your apprehension, the right of advising you. I am no longer
the partner of your counsels; I am no longer the confident of your
thoughts. You communicate nothing but what you cannot suppress; and
that you communicate to your whole family assembled. Heaven knows how
dear to me is every individual of that family! but my love for them
does not hide from me what is due to myself. I know that a husband, who
felt as a husband ought, and, give me leave to say, as I have deserved
you should feel towards me, could not act as you have acted to-night.

“You must excuse my reminding you of some things which you seem to have
forgotten. I would not mention them, if they had not been forgotten
when they ought to have been remembered. I have lived seventeen years
with you; my whole study had been your advantage and pleasure. Have
you any thing to reproach me with? Point out to me, if in any thing I
could have added to your pleasure, and have neglected it! What I have
done, has not been the ceremonious discharge of a duty; it has been
the pure emanation of an attachment that knew no bounds. I have passed
with you through good fortune and ill fortune. When we were rich, I
entered with my whole heart into your pleasures, because they were
yours. When we were poor, I endured every hardship without a murmur; I
watched by you, I consoled you, I reconciled you to yourself. I do not
mean to make a merit of all this: no! Reginald! I could not have acted
otherwise if I would.

“Do me the justice to recollect, that I have not been a complaining or
irritable companion. In all our adversities, in the loss of fortune,
and the bitter consequences of that loss, I never uttered a reproachful
word. What poverty, sorrow, hunger and famine never extorted from me,
you have at length wrung from my bleeding heart. St. Leon! I have known
your bosom-thoughts. In no former instance has your affection or your
confidence been alienated from me; and that consoled me for all the
rest. But now, for three months, the case has been entirely altered.
You have during all that time been busy, pensive, and agitated; but I
have been as much a stranger to your meditations as if I had never been
accustomed to be their depository. You have not scrupled to inflict a
wound upon me that no subsequent change will ever be able to cicatrise.
Nor indeed do I see any likelihood of a change. You announce our
removal to Constance; what we are to do next, with what views, or for
what purpose, I am ignorant.

“I have made my election. My heart is formed for affection, and must
always feel an uneasy void and desolation without it. If you had thus
robbed me of your attachment in an early period of our intercourse, I
know not upon what extremity my disappointment and anguish might have
driven me. They are harder to bear now; but I submit. It is too late
either for relief or remedy. What remains of my powers and my strength
I owe to my children. I will not seduce them from their father. They
may be benefited by his purse or his understanding, though, like me,
they should be deprived of his affection. You may be their friend when
I am no more. I feel that this will not last long. I feel that the main
link that bound me to existence cannot be snapped, and thus snapped by
unkindness worse than death, without promising soon to put a period to
my miseries. I shall be your victim in death, after having devoted my
life to you, in a way in which few women were ever devoted to their
husbands.

“But this is not what I purposed chiefly to say. This is what my
situation and my feelings have unwillingly wrung from me. Though you
have injured me in the tenderest point, I still recollect what you
were to me. I still feel deeply interested in your welfare, and the
fair fame you are to transmit to your children. I entreat you then to
reflect deeply, before you proceed further. You seem to me to stand
upon a precipice; nor do the alteration that has taken place in your
manners, and the revolution of your heart, lead me to augur favourably
of the plans you have formed. What is this stranger? Whence came he?
Why did he hide himself, and why was he pursued by the officers of
justice? Had he no relations? Was his bequest of the sum he had about
him his own act, and who is the witness to its deliberateness or its
freedom? You must not think that the world is inattentive to the
actions of men or their circumstances; if it were, the fame we prize
would be an empty bauble. No, sir, a fair fame can only be secured by
unequivocal proceedings. What will, what can, be thought of your giving
shelter to an unknown, a man accused of crimes, a man never beheld even
by an individual of your own family, and upon the strength of whose
alleged bequest you are about to change the whole mode of your life?

“Nor, Reginald, must you think me credulous enough to imagine that
you have now disclosed the whole or the precise truth. Three thousand
crowns is not a sum sufficient to account for what you propose, for
the long agitation of your thoughts, or for the change of character
you have sustained. You must either be totally deprived of rational
judgment, or there must be something behind, that you have not
communicated. What do you purpose in going to reside in the midst of a
city foreign to the manners of a Frenchman, distracted with internal
broils, and embittered to us by the recollection of the extremities
we personally suffered in it? Is your ambition sunk so low, that it
can be gratified by such a transition? No; you mean more than you
have announced; you mean something you are unwilling to declare.
Consider that meaning well! Put me out of the question! I am nothing,
and no longer desire to be any thing. But do not involve yourself in
indelible disgrace, or entail upon your memory the curses of your
children!”

What a distress was mine, who, in return to so generous and noble an
expostulation, could impart no confidence, and indulge no sincerity!
I felt a misery, of which, till this hour, I had been unable to form
a conception. Fool that I was, I had imagined that, when endowed with
the bequests of the stranger, no further evil could approach me! I had,
in my visionary mood, created castles and palaces, and expatiated in
the most distant futurity! and here I was, stopped and disappointed at
the threshold, in the very first step of my proceedings. What I could
however I did; I poured forth to Marguerite, not the secrets of my
understanding, but the overpowering emotions of my soul.

“Best, most adorable of women!” cried I, “how you rend my heart with
the nobleness of your remonstrances! Never was man blessed with a
partner so accomplished and exemplary as I have been! Do you think
your merits can ever be obliterated from my memory? Do you think the
feelings of gratitude and admiration can ever be weakened in my bosom,
or that the strength and singleness of my attachment can suffer decay?
Bear me witness, Heaven! I know no creature on the face of the earth
that can enter into competition with you; there is not the thing
in nature that I prize in comparison. I love you a thousand times
better than myself, and would die with joy to purchase your ease and
satisfaction. I can never repay the benefits you have conferred on me;
I can never rise to an equality with you.

“What anguish then do you inflict upon me, when you talk of becoming
the victim of my unkindness? Believe you I can endure, after having
dissipated your patrimony and drawn you with me into exile, after
having experienced from you a tenderness such as man never in any other
instance obtained from woman, to entertain the idea of embittering the
remainder of your life, and shortening your existence? I should regard
myself as the most execrable of monsters. I could not live under the
recollection of so unheard-of a guilt. If you would not have me abhor
myself and curse existence, live, confide in me, and be happy!

“Oh, Marguerite! how wretched and pitiable is my situation! Make some
allowance for me! I have a secret that I would give worlds to utter,
but dare not. Do not imagine that there is, or can be, any decay in my
affection! Confide in me! Allow to necessity, what never, never could
be the result of choice! In all things else, you shall know my inmost
heart, as you possess the boundless and unalterable affections of my
soul.”

Marguerite was somewhat, but not wholly, soothed by the earnestness of
my protestations. She saw, for the prescience of the heart is never
deceived, that a blow was given to the entireness of our affection,
from which it would never recover. She felt, for in truth and delicacy
of sentiment she was much my superior, that the reserve, in which I
persisted, and for which I deprecated excuse, might be sufficiently
consistent with a vulgar attachment, but would totally change the
nature of ours. She was aware that it related to no ordinary point,
that it formed the pole-star of my conduct, that it must present itself
afresh from day to day, and that in its operation it amounted to a
divorce of the heart. She submitted however, and endeavoured to appear
cheerful. Though she felt the worm of sorrow gnawing her vitals, she
was unwilling to occasion me an uneasiness it was in her power to
withhold. She was struck with the consistency and determination of my
resistance, and expostulated no more.

We went to Constance. We bade adieu to the scene of a six years’
happiness, such as the earth has seldom witnessed. I alone had
occasioned some imperfection in that happiness. There were times indeed
when, sitting in affectionate communion with my wife, and surrounded by
my children, my sensations had been as delicious as the state of human
existence ever had to boast. I felt my heart expand; I was conscious to
the unreserved union that subsisted among us; I felt myself identified
with all that I loved, and all for whom my heart was anxious. But the
curse entailed upon me from the earliest period to which my memory can
reach, operated even in the cottage of the lake. I was not formed to
enjoy a scene of pastoral simplicity. Ambition still haunted me; an
uneasiness, scarcely defined in its object, from time to time recurred
to my mind. If I thought I wanted nothing for myself, I deemed a career
of honour due to my children. Again, when I regarded honour as an
empty phantom, and persuaded myself that all conditions of life were
intrinsically equal, I recollected the fearful scene where hunger and
destruction had hung over us in Constance, and in imagination often
pictured to myself that scene as on the point of being renewed. The
sword of the demon, famine, seemed to my disturbed apprehension to be
suspended over us by a hair. Such had been the draught of bitterness
that occasionally detracted from this most enviable, as in retrospect I
am willing to denominate it, period of my existence.

We quitted our rural retreat, and took up our abode in a prosperous
mercantile city. I hired commodious apartments in one of the grand
squares, not far from the spot where the fairs are usually held.
Undoubtedly there was nothing in this residence very congenial to the
bent of my disposition, or the projects that fermented in my mind. I
had merely chosen it by way of interval, and to soften the transition
from what I had been, to what I purposed to be. In the multitude of
irresolute thoughts with which I laboured, the small distance of
Constance from the cottage of the lake, made me feel as if the removal
thither was one of the gentlest and most moderate measures to which I
could have recourse.

I had never been less happy and at peace with myself than I was now.
From general society and the ordinary intercourse of acquaintance
I had long been estranged, and it was in vain that I endeavoured
to return to habits of that sort. The society which the city of
Constance afforded had few charms for me. It had no pretensions to the
politeness, the elegance, the learning or the genius, an intercourse
with which had once been familiar to me. It scarcely contained within
its walls any but such as were occupied in merchandise or manufacture.
The attention of its inhabitants were divided between these objects,
and the encroachments which were making upon the ancient religion by
the Confession of Augsburg and the dogmas of Calvin. The majority of
the inhabitants were protestants; and, a few years before, they had
expelled their bishop and the canons of their cathedral. Having however
miscarried in a religious war into which they had entered, these
dignitaries had been reinstalled in their functions and emoluments. The
situation thus produced was an unnatural one; and a storm was evidently
brewing more violent than any which the city had yet sustained. The
gloomy temper and melancholy austerity of the reformers were as little
congenial to my temper, as the sordid ignorance and selfishness of the
trading spirit of the community.

I therefore lived in a state of seclusion. I endeavoured to seek
amusement in such novelties and occupations as might present
themselves to a person disengaged from the general vortex. But, if
the distinguished sphere in which I had once moved disqualified me
for taking an interest in these puerilities, the anticipations in
which I indulged of the future disqualified me still more. My domestic
scene too no longer afforded me the consolation and relief I had been
accustomed to derive from it. Marguerite exerted herself to appear
cheerful and contented; but it was an exertion. I began to fear that
the arrow of disappointment had indeed struck her to the heart. I was
anxiously occupied in considering what I was to do next. I hoped that
our next step might operate to revive her gaiety, and by additional
splendour amuse her solicitude. I began to fear that I had taken a
wrong method, and entered the career of a better fortune with too much
caution and timidity. At all events I felt that we no longer lived
together as we had done. There was no more opening of the heart between
us, no more infantine guilelessness and sincerity, no more of that
unapprehensive exposure of every thought of the soul, that adds the
purest zest to the pleasures of domestic life. We stood in awe of each
other; each was to the other in some degree an intrusive and unwelcome
spy upon what was secretly passing in the mind. There may be persons
who regard this as an evil very capable of being endured; but they must
be such as never knew the domestic joys I once experienced. The fall
from one of these conditions of life to the other was too bitter.



CHAPTER XVI.


Anxious to divert my thoughts from what I hoped was only a temporary
evil, I determined, accompanied by Charles, to make a tour of some of
the cities of Germany. Dresden was the capital to which I was most
desirous of conducting him. Maurice, duke of Saxony, who held his court
there, and who was now only twenty-three years of age, was incomparably
the most accomplished prince of the empire. Desirous as I was that my
only son should fill a distinguished career, I thought I could not
better prepare him for the theatre of his native country, than by thus
initiating him beforehand in scenes of distinction and greatness.

He was delighted with his tour. We had not proceeded many leagues from
Constance, before, indulging in the bent of my mind, I laid aside
the humbleness of our appearance, and the obscure style in which we
travelled; and having procured a numerous cavalcade of horses and
servants, I set forward with considerable magnificence. We passed
through Munich, Ratisbon, and Prague. At Munich we found the court of
the elector palatine; the diet of the empire was sitting at Ratisbon,
when we arrived at that city. Charles had been almost entirely a
stranger to every thing princely and magnificent from the time he was
nine years of age; and he was now exactly at that period of human life
when external appearances are apt to make the strongest impression.
To him every thing that occurred seemed like transportation into a
new world. The figure we made procured us, as strangers, unquestioned
admission into every circle. We mixed with princes, ourselves in garb
and figure confounded with those we saw. I had lived too much and too
long in the most splendid society, to find difficulty in resuming the
unembarrassed and courtly manners which I had for years laid aside;
and Charles might be said to see his father in a new character.
Novelty prompted his admiration; he was intoxicated with wonder. His
disposition had always led him to bold and adventurous conceptions;
nothing less than an imperious sense of duty could have restrained
him from quitting our cottage, and casting himself upon the world in
search of honour and distinction. His generous heart had beat to burst
away from the obscurity of his station; and it was with impatience
and discontent that he looked forward to the life of a swain. Yet he
knew not how to break through the obstacles that confined him. It was
therefore with transports of pleasure that he saw them vanishing as of
themselves, and the career of glory opening, as if by enchantment, to
his eager steps.

The court of Dresden was infinitely more delightful to him than the
court of Munich, or the imperial display at Ratisbon. Here Charles
saw a young prince in the flower of his age, whose talents and spirit
rendered him the universal object of attention and adoration. He
remarked, in the fire of his eyes, the vivacity of his gestures, and
the grandeur of his port, something inexpressibly different from those
princes, of whom it is necessary that their rank should be announced
to you by some extrinsic circumstance, that you may not mistake them
for a merchant’s clerk or a city magistrate. The sentiment that he
breathed, as it were instinctively, as we returned from the first time
of our seeing duke Maurice, was, “At twenty-three years of age may I,
in appearance, accomplishments, and spirit, resemble this man!”

Here I was desirous of making a longer stay than at the cities through
which we had previously passed, and of procuring for my son some
personal intercourse with this great ornament of the age. I judged
this to be the more easy, as, in our first visit to the palace, I had
perceived some French noblemen of the Protestant persuasion, who had
resorted to the duke’s court in search of employment. They appeared not
to know me; but that was little to be wondered at, considering that I
had been seven years absent from my country, and that the calamities by
which I had been overtaken more than once during that period, might be
supposed to have produced a greater effect upon me than the mere lapse
of years would have done. Among the rest I remarked Gaspar de Coligny,
who was only twenty-one years of age at the time I quitted France,
and had then been remarked as one of the most promising young men his
country had to boast. His stay here was expected to be short; his
hopes in his own country, from the greatness of his connections, were
of the highest class; and he had only come to Dresden at the earnest
invitation of duke Maurice, who entertained an ardent affection for
him. My heart led me towards him; policy concurred in dictating the
application, as, if I were fortunate enough to gain his favour, my son
could not have a friend better qualified either to form his character
or forward his advancement.

I wrote to Coligny to announce my request to him, and in a few hours
after the delivery of my letter that young nobleman came in person
to wait on me. He informed me that he had done so, because he had
something of delicacy to mention, which he did not choose to trust to
the intermission of a third person, and upon which, as he hoped I could
remove his scruple, he did not like even to bestow the formality of
putting it on paper.

“I am a gentleman of France,” said Coligny; “you will excuse my
frankness. I am a gentleman of France; you will not wonder at the
niceness of my honour. Mixing in society, I do not pretend minutely to
investigate the character of every person with whom I converse; but
what you ask of me obliges me to consult my understanding, and enquire
into facts. I cannot consent to vouch for any man’s character to
another, till I have paid some attention to the ground upon which that
character rests.

“I remember the count de St. Leon with pleasure and advantage at the
court of my own sovereign. Every one admired his accomplishments, his
gallantry, and his learning; every one spoke of him with respect.
Unfortunate circumstances, as we all understood, deprived you of your
patrimony; that is nothing to me; I respect a nobleman in misfortune,
as much as when he is surrounded with wealth and splendour. You retired
into voluntary exile; I heard, with great grief, of some subsequent
calamities that have overtaken you. But, here in Saxony, I see you
resuming all your former splendour, and coming forward with the
magnificence of a prince. Other of your countrymen have remarked it,
as well as myself, and feel themselves at a loss to account for what
they see.

“Excuse me, count! by your application to me, you oblige me to speak
freely. I dare say you can clear up the difficulty, and account for
this second revolution in your fortune, upon which I shall then be
the first to congratulate you. I cannot suspect a man, with your high
descent and the illustrious character you formerly maintained, of any
thing dishonourable. But you have not sufficiently considered the
account we all owe to one another, and the clearness of proceeding we
are obliged to maintain, not only to our own hearts, but in the face
of the world. The present occasion is, I trust, fortunate for you;
and, when you have assisted me in complying with the rules by which
every honourable man governs himself, I shall be eager to publish your
justification, and render you all the service in my power.”

I was ready to burst with astonishment and vexation during this
representation of Coligny. I could feel my colour change from pale to
red, and from red to pale. I could only answer with suffocation and
inward rage, that I was much obliged to him; I would consider what he
said; I would acquaint him with my justification; and, whenever it was
made, he might be assured it should be an ample one.--I was cautious
as to what I uttered; I could not immediately foresee what it was
eligible, or what it was possible, to do; and I was resolved that I
would not, by an idle or hasty expression, preclude myself, in a matter
of so much moment, from the benefits of future deliberation. If what
I had just heard had come from any other person, I should probably
have despised it; but I felt at once that Gaspar de Coligny might be
considered, in a case of this sort, as the representative of all that
was most honourable and illustrious in my native country.--Finding that
I was indisposed to any further communication on the subject, he took a
polite leave, and departed.

I was no sooner alone than I felt myself overwhelmed with mortification
and shame. I had rejoiced in the bequests of the stranger, because I
regarded them as the means of restoring me to splendour, and replacing
my children in the situation to which they were entitled by their
birth. Was that which I had regarded as the instrument of their glory,
to become the medium of their ignominy and disgrace? I had suffered all
other misfortunes, but the whisper of dishonour had never been breathed
against me. I was a son of honour, descended of a race of heroes, and
cradled in the lap of glory and fame. When we quitted Paris in the
year 1537, my incomparable wife had set to sale our entire property,
resolved that, though driven into exile, we would not leave it in the
power of the meanest individual to controvert the sacred attention we
yielded to every just obligation. Since that time I had declined from
the splendour of rank to the humble situation of a rustic, cultivating
my little property with my own hands; nay, I had even, for a short
time, hired myself as a labourer in the garden of the bishop of
Constance. But the same disdain of every thing disgraceful had followed
me to my cottage and my truckle bed, which I had originally learned in
the halls of chivalry and the castle of my ancestors. Accordingly I had
uniformly retained the same honourable character and spotless fame.
St. Leon, the virtuous cottager, had in nothing blemished the name of
St. Leon, surrounded with glory in the siege of Pavia. Often, and with
pride, had I pointed out this circumstance to my son, adding, Wherever
fortune calls you, for whatever scenes you may be reserved, remember
that your father was unfortunate, but that through life he never acted
a deed nor conceived a thought, that should stain your manly cheeks
with the blush of shame! I stand before you a culprit, as having
robbed you of your patrimony, but I have preserved for you entire the
inheritance of our honour!

This had been the first lesson imprinted upon my infant mind. All other
possessions I had ever held cheap and worthless in comparison with that
of an illustrious name. My indignation at the attack it now sustained
was boundless. The more I thought, the more intolerable it appeared. I
was impatient and furious, like a lion struggling in the toils. I could
with joy have trampled under my feet whoever aspersed me. I could have
wantoned in blood, and defied my adversaries to mortal combat. Alas,
all my fury was useless here! It was no tale whispered in the dark
that I had to contend with; it was the commentary of the world upon
incontestable facts. Though a hecatomb of souls should be sacrificed
at the shrine of my blasted name, the facts would still remain, the
mystery still require to be solved. Coligny, the virtuous Coligny,
had made no observations on the circumstances he mentioned; he merely
proposed a difficulty, and waited my answer.

I was called upon to exercise the whole of my deliberative powers as
to the reply which was to be returned, or the conduct to be held, upon
the question of Coligny. Every thing I most valued was now at issue;
and a false step taken under the present circumstances could never
be retrieved. I had another sort of party to deal with here, than
when I had told Marguerite the tale of the stranger and his legacy.
Nothing would pass now, but what bore an open, fair, and unequivocal
appearance. I must vent no assertion that could not bear to be sifted
to the bottom, and that did not fully accord with all the vouchers with
which it could be collated. I had written to Marguerite, immediately
after launching into the expense with which our tour had been attended,
that I had received an unexpected acquisition from the death of a
relation of my own family in France. I knew that the story of the three
thousand crowns would no longer account for the style in which I was
proceeding, and this fabrication suggested itself upon the spur of the
moment. I hated to think of the difficulties in the way of explanation
in which I was involved; I abhorred the system of falsehood I was
driven to practise. It did not occur to me at the time, infatuated as
I was! that I should have occasion to account for this accession of
wealth to any one out of my own family. Marguerite, I well knew, had no
correspondence in France, nor therefore any obvious means of verifying
or refuting this second deception. But such a story could not be told
to noblemen of France, without being instantly liable to be compared
with known facts, and eventually investigated upon the spot where the
scene was laid. Marguerite herself, I well knew, had listened with
incredulity to the explanation I had made, and the alleged legacy of
the stranger; what could I expect from indifferent hearers? They
might not all possess her good sense and sagacity in judging; but they
were destitute of that personal kindness and partiality which were
calculated to induce her to credit whatever I affirmed. Most men have a
malignant pleasure in the detection of specious pretences, in humbling
the importunate superiority that obscures their claims, and removing
the rival who might otherwise acquire the prize of which they are in
pursuit.

My mind was still torn and distracted with these contemplations, when
in the afternoon of the same day on which I had received the visit of
Coligny, my attention was suddenly roused by the abrupt entrance of
my son into the chamber where I was sitting. He opened the door with
a hurried action as he entered, and, having closed it impetuously
after him, advanced directly towards me. He then stopped himself; and,
turning from me, I could perceive a rush of crimson in his face like
that of a man suffocated. A passion of tears succeeded that shook his
frame, and sufficiently proved that his feelings had sustained some
extraordinary shock. My whole soul was alarmed at what I saw; and,
following him as he retired to the other side of the room, in the
gentlest accents I endeavoured to soothe him, while I enquired with
earnestness and trepidation into the cause of his grief.



CHAPTER XVII.


He repelled me. “Sit down, sir, sit down! Do not follow me, I beg of
you; but sit down!”

His manner was earnest and emphatical. Mechanically and without knowing
what I did, I obeyed his direction. He came towards me.

“I have no time,” added he, “for qualifying and form. Tell me! am I the
son of a man of honour or a villain?”

He saw I was shocked at the unexpected rudeness of his question.

“Forgive me, my father! I have always been affectionate and dutiful;
I have ever looked up to you as my model and my oracle. But I have
been insulted! It never was one of your lessons to teach me to bear an
insult!”

“Is it,” replied I, with the sternness that the character of a father
will seldom fail to inspire under such circumstances, “because you have
been insulted, that you think yourself authorised to come home and
insult him to whom you owe nothing but respect and reverence?”

“Stop, sir! Before you claim my reverence, you must show your title to
it, and wipe off the aspersions under which you at present labour.”

“Insolent, presumptuous boy! Know that I am not by you to be instructed
in my duty, and will not answer so rude a questioner! The down as yet
scarcely shades your school-boy’s cheek; and have you so forgotten the
decencies of life as to scoff your father?”--His eye brightened as I
spoke.

“You are right, sir. It gives me pleasure to see your blood rise in
return to my passion. Your accent is the accent of innocence. But,
indeed! the more innocent and noble you shall prove yourself, the more
readily will you forgive my indignation.”

“I cannot tell. My temper does not fit me to bear the rudeness of a
son. Nor do I think that such behaviour as this can be any credit to
you, whatever may have been the provocation. Tell me however what is
the insult that has thus deeply shaken you?”

“I went this afternoon to the tennis-court near the river, and played
several games with the young count Luitmann. While we were playing,
came in the chevalier Dupont, my countryman. The insolence of his
nature is a subject of general remark; and he has, though I know not
for what reason, conceived a particular animosity to me. A trifling
dispute arose between us. We gradually warmed. He threatened to turn me
out of the court; I resented the insult; and he passionately answered,
that the son of an adventurer and a sharper had no business there,
and he would take care I should never be admitted again. I attempted
to strike him, but was prevented; and presently learned that the
sudden and unexplained way in which we have emerged from poverty was
the ground of his aspersion. As I gained time, and reflected more
distinctly upon what was alleged, I felt that personal violence could
never remove an accusation of this sort. I saw too, though, intoxicated
as I had idly been with the unwonted splendour to which I was
introduced, I had not adverted to it at the time, that the case was of
a nature that required explanation. I had been accustomed to reverence
and an implicit faith in the wisdom and rectitude of my parents, and
therefore encountered in silent submission the revolution of our
fortune. But this neutrality will suffice no longer.

“To you, sir, I resort for explanation. Send me back to the insolent
youth and his companions, with a plain and unanswerable tale, that may
put to silence for ever these brutal scoffs and reproaches. Let it be
seen this night which of the two has most fully merited to be thrust
out of honourable society. I trust I have not so demeaned myself but
that our mutual companions will join to compel this unmannered boor to
retract his aspersions.”

“Charles, you are too warm and impetuous!”--

“Too warm, sir! when I hear my father loaded with the foulest
appellations?”

“You are young and ill qualified to terminate in the proper way a
business of this serious aspect: leave it to me!”

“Excuse me, my father! Though the names I have repeated were bestowed
upon you, it was against me that the insult was employed. I must return
immediately, and obtain justice. This is a moment that must in some
degree fix my character for fortitude and determination, and I cannot
withdraw from the duty it imposes. Only tell me what I have to say.
Furnish me with a direct and unambiguous explanation of what Dupont has
objected to us, and I undertake for the rest.”

“I see, my son, that you are moved, and I will trust you!”

He seized my hand, he gazed earnestly in my face, he seemed prepared to
devour every word I should utter.

“Gaspar de Coligny, the flower of the French nobility, has been with me
this morning. He has stated to me in an ingenuous and friendly way the
same difficulty with which Dupont has so brutally taunted you. I was
meditating and arranging my answer but now, when you entered the room.”

As I uttered these words, Charles let go my hand, and withdrew his
eyes, with evident tokens of disappointment and chagrin. He paused for
a few moments, and then resumed:--

“Why do you tell me of meditation and arrangement! Why did you send
away Coligny unanswered, or why baffle and evade the earnestness of my
enquiries? I know not all the sources of wealth; but I cannot doubt
that the medium through which wealth has honourably flowed may, without
effort and premeditation, easily be explained. A just and a brave man
acts fearlessly and with explicitness; he does not shun, but court, the
scrutiny of mankind; he lives in the face of day, and the whole world
confesses the clearness of his spirit and the rectitude of his conduct.

“Sir, I have just set my foot on the threshold of life. There is one
lesson you have taught me, which I swear never to forget,--to hold life
and all its pleasures cheap, in comparison with an honourable fame.
My soul burns with the love of distinction. I am impatient to burst
away from the goal, and commence the illustrious career. I feel that I
have a hand and a heart capable of executing the purposes that my soul
conceives. Uninured to dishonour, or to any thing that should control
the passion of my bosom, think, sir, what are my emotions at what has
just occurred!

“I was bred in obscurity and a humble station. I owed this
disadvantage, you tell me, to your error. I forgave you; I was content;
I felt that it was incumbent on me by my sword and my own exertions
to hew my way to distinction. You have since exchanged the lowness of
our situation for riches and splendour. At this revolution I felt no
displeasure; I was well satisfied to start upon more advantageous terms
in the race I determined to run. But, sir, whence came these riches?
Riches and poverty are comparatively indifferent to me; but I was not
born to be a mark for shame to point her finger at. A little while ago
you were poor; you were the author of your own poverty; you dissipated
your paternal estate. Did I reproach you? No; you were poor, but not
dishonoured! I attended your couch in sickness; I exerted my manual
labour to support you in affliction. I honoured you for your affection
to my mother; I listened with transport to the history of your youth;
I was convinced I should never blush to call Reginald de St. Leon my
father. I believed that lessons of honour, so impressive as those you
instilled into my infant mind, could never flow but from an honourable
spirit. Oh, if there is any thing equivocal or ignoble in the riches we
have displayed, restore me, instantly restore me, to unblemished and
virtuous poverty!”

I was astonished at the firmness and manliness of spirit that Charles
upon this occasion discovered. I could scarcely believe that these
were the thoughts and words of a youth under seventeen years of age.
I felt that every thing illustrious and excellent might be augured of
one who, at these immature years, manifested so lofty and generous a
soul. I could have pressed him in my arms, have indulged my emotions in
sobs and tears of transport, and congratulated myself that I was father
to so worthy a son. But his temper and manners awed, and held me at a
distance. This was one consequence of the legacies of the stranger!

“Charles!” said I, “your virtues extort my confidence. For the world
a tale must be prepared that shall serve to elude its curiosity and
its malice. But to you I confess, there is a mystery annexed to the
acquisition of this wealth that can never be explained.”

He stood aghast at my words. “Am I to believe my ears? A tale prepared?
A mystery never to be explained? I adjure you by all that you love, and
all that you hold sacred----!”

His voice was drowned in a sudden gush of tears. With an action of
earnestness and deprecation, he took hold of my hand.

“No, sir, no artful tale, no disguise, no hypocrisy!----” As he
spoke, his voice suddenly changed, his accent became clear and
determined.--“Will you consent this very hour to quit the court of
Dresden, and to resign fully and without reserve this accursed wealth,
for the acquisition of which you refuse to account?”

“Whence,” replied I, “have you the insolence to make such a
proposal?----No, I will not!”

“Then I swear by the omnipresent and eternal God, you shall never see
or hear of me more!”

I perceived that this was no time for the assertion of paternal
authority. I saw that the poor boy was strangely and deeply moved,
and I endeavoured to soothe him. I felt that the whole course of his
education had inspired him with an uncontrollable and independent
spirit, and that it was too late to endeavour to repress it.

“My dear Charles,” said I, “what is come to you? When I listen to a
language like this from your lips, I scarcely know you for my son. This
impertinent Dupont has put you quite beside yourself. Another time we
will talk over the matter calmly; and depend upon it, every thing shall
be made out to your satisfaction.”

“Do not imagine, sir, that my self-possession is not perfect and
complete. I know what I do, and my resolution is unalterable. If you
have any explanation to give, give it now. If you will yield to my
proposal, declare your assent, and I am again your son. But to bear the
insults of my fellows unanswered, or to live beneath the consciousness
of an artful and fictitious tale, no consideration on earth shall
induce me. I love you, sir; I cannot forget your lessons or your
virtues. I love my mother and my sisters; no words can tell how dearly
and how much. But my resolution is taken; I separate myself from you
all and for ever. Nothing in my mind can come in competition with a
life of unblemished honour.”

“And are you such a novice, as to need the being told that honour is a
prize altogether out of the reach of an unknown and desolate wanderer,
such as you propose to become? My wealth, boy, is unlimited, and can
buy silence from the malicious, and shouts and applause from all the
world. A golden key unlocks the career of glory, which the mean and the
pennyless are never allowed to enter.”

“I am not such a novice, as not to have heard the language of vice,
though I never expected to hear it from a father. Poverty with
integrity shall content me. The restless eagerness of my spirit is so
great, that I will trust to its suggestions, and hope to surmount the
obstacles of external appearance. If I am disappointed in this, and
destined to perish unheard of and unremembered, at least I will escape
reproach. I will neither be charged with the deeds, nor give utterance
to the maxims, of dishonour.”

“Charles,” replied I, “be not the calumniator of your father! I swear
to you by every thing that is sacred; and you know my integrity; never
did the breath of falsehood pollute these lips;----”

He passionately interrupted me. “Did the stranger bequeath you three
thousand crowns? Have you lately received an unexpected acquisition by
the death of a near relation in France?”

I was silent. This was not a moment for trifling and equivocation.

“Oh, my father, how is your character changed and subverted? You say
true. For sixteen years I never heard a breath of falsehood from your
lips; I trusted you as I would the oracles of eternal truth. But it
is past! A few short months have polluted and defaced a whole life
of integrity! In how many obscurities and fabulous inconsistencies
have you entangled yourself? Nor is it the least of the calamities
under which my heart sickens at this moment, that I am reduced to hold
language like this to a father!”

What misery was mine, to hear myself thus arraigned by my own son,
and to be unable to utter one word in reply to his accusations! To
be thus triumphed over by a stripling; and to feel the most cruel
degradation, in the manifestation of an excellence that ought to have
swelled my heart with gratulation and transport! I had recollected my
habitual feelings for near forty years of existence; I had dropped from
my memory my recent disgrace, and dared to appeal to my acknowledged
veracity; when this retort from my son came to plunge me tenfold deeper
in a sea of shame. He proceeded:--

“I am no longer your son! I am compelled to disclaim all affinity
with you! But this is not all. By your dishonour you have cut me off
from the whole line of my ancestors. I cannot claim affinity with
them, without acknowledging my relation to you. You have extinguished
abruptly an illustrious house. The sun of St. Leon is set for ever!
Standing as I do a candidate for honourable fame, I must henceforth
stand by myself, as if a man could be author of his own existence,
and must expect no aid, no favour, no prepossession, from any earthly
consideration, save what I am, and what I shall perform.”

“My son,” replied I, “you cut me to the heart. Such is the virtue you
display, that I must confess myself never to have been worthy of you,
and I begin to fear I am now less worthy of you than ever. Yet you must
suffer me to finish what I was about to say when you so passionately
interrupted me. I swear then, by every thing that is sacred, that I
am innocent. Whatever interpretation the world may put upon my sudden
wealth, there is no shadow of dishonesty or guilt connected with its
acquisition. The circumstances of the story are such that they must
never be disclosed; I am bound to secrecy by the most inviolable
obligations, and this has led me to utter a forged and inconsistent
tale. But my conscience has nothing with which to reproach me. If then,
Charles, my son, once my friend, my best and dearest consolation!”--I
pressed his hand, and my voice faltered as I spoke,--“if you are
resolute to separate yourself from me, at least take this recollection
with you wherever you go,--Whatever may be my external estimation, I am
not the slave of vice, your father is not a villain!”

“Alas, my father!” rejoined Charles, mournfully, “what am I to believe?
What secret can be involved in so strange a reverse of fortune, that is
not dishonourable? You have given utterance to different fictions on
the subject, fictions that you now confess to be such; how am I to be
convinced that what you say at this moment is not dictated more by a
regard for my tranquillity, than by the simplicity of conscious truth?
If I believe you, I am afraid my credit will be the offspring rather
of inclination, than of probability. And indeed, if I believe you,
what avails it? The world will not believe. Your character is blasted;
your honour is destroyed; and, unless I separate myself from you, and
disown your name, I shall be involved in the same disgrace.”

Saying thus, he left me, and in about half an hour returned. His return
I had not foreseen; I had made no use of his absence. My mind was
overcome, my understanding was stupified, by a situation and events
I had so little expected. I had stood, unmoved, leaning against the
wall, from the instant of his departure. I seemed rooted to the spot,
incapable of calling up my fortitude, or arranging my ideas. My eyes
had rolled,--my brow was knit,--I had bit my lips and my tongue with
agony. From time to time I had muttered a few words,--“My son! my
son!--wealth! wealth!--my wife!--my son!” but they were incoherent and
without meaning.

Charles re-entered the apartment where the preceding conversation had
passed, and the noise he made in entering roused me. He had his hat
in his hand, which he threw from him, and exclaimed with an accent of
dejection and anguish, “My father!--farewell!”

“Cruel, cruel boy! can you persist in your harsh and calamitous
resolution? If you have no affection for me, yet think of your mother
and your sisters!”

Seek not, sir, to turn me from my purpose! The struggle against
it in my own bosom has been sufficiently severe; but it must be
executed.“--His voice, as he spoke, was inward, stifled, and broken
with the weight of his feelings.

“Then--farewell!” I replied. “Yet take with you some provision for
your long and perilous adventure. Name the sum you will accept, and,
whatever is its amount, it shall instantly be yours.”

“I will have nothing. It is this wealth, with whose splendour I was at
first child enough to be dazzled, that has destroyed us. My fingers
shall not be contaminated with an atom of it. What is to be my fate,
as yet, I know not. But I am young, and strong, and enterprising, and
courageous. The lessons of honour and nobility live in my bosom. Though
my instructor is lost, his instructions shall not be vain!

“Once more farewell! From my heart I thank you for your protestations
of innocence. Never will I part with this last consolation, to believe
them. I have recollected the manner in which they were uttered; it was
the manner of truth. If there be any evidence of a contrary tendency,
that I will forget. Though to the world I shall be without father and
without relatives, I will still retain this sacred consolation for my
hours of retirement and solitude, that my ancestors were honourable,
and my father, in spite of all presumptions to the contrary,--was
innocent.

“How hard it is to quit for ever a family of love and affection, as
ours has been! Bear witness for me, how deeply, I sympathised with you
at Paris, in Switzerland, in Constance! Though now you dissolve the tie
between us, yet, till now, never had a son greater reason for gratitude
to a father. You and my mother have made me what I am; and that I may
preserve what you have made me, I now cast myself upon an untried
world. The recollection of what I found you in the past period of my
life, shall be for ever cherished in my memory!

“I quit my mother and my sisters without leave-taking or adieu. It will
be a fruitless and painful addition to what each party must learn to
bear. Dear, excellent, peerless protector and companions of my early
years! my wishes are yours, my prayers shall for ever be poured out for
you! You, sir, who rob them of a son and a brother, be careful to make
up to them a loss, which I doubt not they will account grievous! I can
do nothing for them. I can throw myself into the arms of poverty; it is
my duty. But, in doing so, I must separate myself from them, assuredly
innocent, and worthy of more and greater benefits than I could ever
confer on them!--Farewell!”

Saying this, he threw himself into my arms, and I felt the agonies of a
parting embrace.



CHAPTER XVIII.


For some time I could not believe him departed. When I retired to rest,
I felt the want of Charles to press my hand, and wish me refreshing
slumbers; and I passed on, sad and solitary, to my chamber. When I
came next morning into the breakfasting room, Charles was not there,
to greet me with looks of affection and duty; and the gilding and
ornaments of the apartment were to me no less disconsolate than the
damps and sootiness of a dungeon.

I hoped he would return. I knew how tenderly he was attached to his
mother and his sisters; I was fully convinced that the affection for me
which had been the perpetual habit of his mind, could not be entirely
eradicated from his heart. I mentioned him not in my letters to
Constance; the pen lingered, my hand trembled, when I thought of him; I
could neither pretend that he was with me, nor announce the catastrophe
of his absence. But I opened the letters of Marguerite with still
increasing impatience. Finding that he did not return to me, I hoped
that some alteration of the extraordinary resolution he had formed,
would lead him to Constance. In vain I hoped! There reached me, by no
conveyance, from no quarter, tidings of my son!

How surprising an event! A youth, not seventeen years of age, forming
and executing in the same instant the purpose of flying from his
parents and his family! Deserting all his hopes, all his attachments,
all his fortune! Refusing the smallest particle of assistance or
provision in his entrance upon the wide scene of the world! Oh,
Charles! exclaimed I, you are indeed an extraordinary and admirable
youth! But are you fortified against all the temptations of the world
and all its hardships? Do your tender years qualify you to struggle
with its unkindness, its indifference, and its insults? In how few
quarters is merit ever treated with the attention and benevolence it
deserves! How often is it reduced to tremble with indignation, at
the scoffs and brutality to which it is exposed, and at the sight of
folly and vice exalted in its stead, and appointed its despot and its
master! My son, my son! what will be your fate? Is your unseasoned
frame reserved to perish by hunger, in barren deserts and beneath
inclement skies? Will you not in some hour of bitter disappointment and
unpitied loneliness, lay yourself down in despair and die? Will you
not be made the slave of some capricious tyrant for bread? Generous
as is your nature, will it be eternally proof against reiterated
temptation? Upon what a world are you turned adrift! a world of
which you know as little, as the poor affrighted soul of a dying
man knows, when launching into the mysterious, impenetrable abyss
of eternity! Unnatural father, to have reduced my only son to this
cruel alternative! I should with a less aching and agonising heart
have accompanied his senseless remains to the grave. Dreadful as
that parting is, there at least the anxious mind of the survivor has
rest. There are no thoughts and devices in the silence of the tomb.
There all our prospects end, and we are no longer sensible to pain,
to persecution, to insult, and to agony. But Charles, thus departed,
wandering on the face of the globe, without protector, adviser or
resource, no lapse of years can put a close upon my anxiety for him!
If I am in ease and prosperity, I cannot relish them, for my exposed
and living son may be at that moment in the depth of misery! If I am
myself oppressed and suffering, the thought of what may be his fate
will form a dreadful addition to all my other calamities! What am I
to say of him upon my return to Constance? If he had died, this was a
natural casualty; and, whatever grief it might occasion, time no doubt
would mollify and abate it. But what account can now be rendered of him
to his disconsolate mother and terrified sisters? How can I lift up my
head in their presence, or meet the glance of their reproachful eyes!

The idea had occurred to me, in the instant of Charles’s departure, and
immediately after his exit, of detaining or bringing him back by force.
He was by his extreme youth, according to the maxims of the world,
still in a state of guardianship, and unqualified to be the chooser
of his own actions. But to this mode of proceeding, however deeply I
felt the catastrophe which had taken place, I could never consent. It
was in utter hostility to the lessons of chivalry and honour, with
which I had been familiarised from my earliest infancy. There might
be cases, in which this restraint laid by a father upon his child
would be salutary. But the idea which had occasioned the secession of
Charles, was decisive in this instance. What right had I to chain him
to dishonour? The whole bent of his education had been, to impress him
with the feelings by which he was now actuated. If I detained him
for a short time, was there any vigilance on earth that could finally
prevent him from executing a purpose upon which his whole soul was
resolved? Or, suppose there were, must not the consequence be to break
his spirit, to deprive him of all manliness and energy, and to render
him the mere drooping and soulless shadow of that conspicuous hero I
had been anxious to make him? It might be said indeed, that this was
the determination of a boy, formed in an hour, and that, if I detained
him only long enough for deliberation and revisal, he would of his
own accord retract so desperate a project. But I felt that it was a
resolution formed to endure, and was built upon principles that could
not change so long as an atom of his mind remained. No; I was rather
disposed to say, however grievous was the wound he inflicted on me, Go,
my son! Act upon the dictates of your choice, as I have acted on mine!
I admire your resolution, though I cannot imitate it. Your purpose is
lofty and godlike; and he that harbours it, was not born to be a slave.
Be free; and may every power propitious to generosity and virtue smooth
your path through life, and smile upon your desires!

The anguish I felt for having lost my son, and in this painful and
reproachful manner, was not diminished to me either by society or
amusement. I dared not go out of my house. I saw no one but my own
attendants. I had not the courage to meet the aspect of a human
creature. I knew not how far persons in Dresden might have heard the
injurious reports which occasioned the flight of my son, or even have
been acquainted with the nature of that flight. I had promised to see
Coligny again; but, alas! the affair which had at first led me to
wish to see him, was now at an end. I had no heart to seek him; nor
indeed did I know what story I was to tell him, or how I was to remove
the suspicions he had urged against me. The machine of human life,
though constituted of a thousand parts, is in all its parts regularly
and systematically connected; nor is it easy to insert an additional
member, the spuriousness of which an accurate observation will not
readily detect. How was I to assign a source of my wealth different
from the true, which would not be liable to investigation, and, when
investigated, would not be seen to be counterfeit? This indeed is the
prime source of individual security in human affairs, that whatever any
man does, may be subjected to examination, and whatever does not admit
of being satisfactorily accounted for, exposes him whom it concerns to
the most injurious suspicions. This law of our nature, so salutary in
its general operation, was the first source of all my misfortunes.

I began now seriously to consider what judgment I was to pass upon
the bequests of the stranger. Were they to be regarded as a benefit
or a misfortune? Ought they to be classed with the poisoned robe of
Nessus, which, being sent as a token of affection, was found, in the
experiment, to eat into the flesh and burn up the vitals of him that
wore it? Should I from this instant reject their use, and, returning to
the modes of life established among my fellow men, content myself with
the affection of those with whom I had intercourse, though poverty and
hardships mingled with the balm?

The experiment I had made of these extraordinary gifts was a short one;
but how contrary were all the results I had arrived at, from those
I looked for? When the stranger had appeared six months before at
the cottage of the lake, he had found me a poor man indeed, but rich
in the confidence, and happy in the security and content, of every
member of my family. I lived in the bosom of nature, surrounded with
the luxuriance of its gifts and the sublimity of its features, which
the romantic elevation of my soul particularly fitted me to relish.
In my domestic scene I beheld the golden age renewed, the simplicity
of pastoral life without its grossness, a situation remote from
cities and courts, from traffic and hypocrisy, yet not unadorned with
taste, imagination, and knowledge. Never was a family more united in
sentiments and affection. Now all this beauteous scene was defaced!
All was silence, suspicion, and reserve. The one party dared not be
ingenuous, and the other felt that all the paradise of attachment was
dwindled to an empty name. No questions were asked; for no honest
answer was given or expected. Though corporeally we might sit in the
same apartment, in mind a gulf, wide, impassable, and tremendous,
gaped between us. My wife pined in speechless grief, and, it was to
be feared, had sustained a mortal blow. My son, my only son, a youth
of such promise that I would not have exchanged him for empires, had
disappeared, and, as he had solemnly protested, for ever. My heart
was childless: my bosom was bereaved of its dearest hope. It was for
him principally that I had accepted, that I had rejoiced in the gifts
of the stranger. My darling vision was to see him clothed in the
harness, surrounded with the insignia, of a hero. There was nothing
I so earnestly desired as that his merits, graced with the favours
of fortune, might cause him to stand confessed the first subject of
France; a situation more enviable than that of its monarch, since he
who holds it is raised by deeds, and the other only by birth; and if
less respected by interested courtiers, is certain to be more honoured
by the impartial voice of history. But, if I felt thus desolate and
heartbroken for the loss of my son, what would be the sentiments of
his mother, more susceptible to feel, and, in her present weakness of
spirits, less vigorous to bear, than myself, when the dreadful tidings
should be communicated to her?

Yet I could not resolve to renounce donations which I had so dearly
appropriated. I held it to be a base and cowardly to surrender gifts so
invaluable, upon so insufficient an experiment. He, I thought, must be
a man of ignoble and grovelling spirit, who could easily be prevailed
on to part with unbounded wealth and immortal life. I had but just
entered the vast field that was opened to me. It was of the nature of
all great undertakings to be attended with difficulties and obstacles
in the commencement, to present a face calculated to discourage the man
that is infirm of purpose. But it became my descent, my character and
pretensions, to show myself serene in the midst of storms. Perseverance
and constancy are the virtues of a man. Affairs of this extensive
compass often prove in the issue the reverse of what they seemed in
the outset. The tempest might be expected to disperse, difficulties
to unravel themselves, and unlooked-for concurrences to arise. All
opposition and hostile appearance give way before him who goes calmly
onward, and scorns to be dismayed.



CHAPTER XIX.


It was thus that I spurred myself to persist in the path upon which I
had entered. Having remained some time at Dresden, flattering myself
with the hope that Charles might yet join me before I quitted that
city, I began to think of once more turning my steps towards the
residence of my family. This was no cheerful thought; but upon what
was I to determine? I had a wife whom I ardently loved, and three
daughters the darlings of my heart. Because I had lost a beloved son
was I to estrange myself from these? I already felt most painfully
the detachment and widowhood to which I was reduced, and I clung with
imperious affection to what remained of my race. The meeting I purposed
must be a melancholy one; but, in the sorrows of the heart there is a
purer and nobler gratification than in the most tumultuous pleasures
where affection is silent. I looked forward indeed to scenes of endless
variety and attraction, but in the mean time what seemed first to
demand my attention was the beloved circle I had left behind in the
city of Constance.

I retraced, upon the present occasion, the route I had lately pursued
with my son. How different were now my sensations! My heart was then
indeed painfully impressed with the variance and dissolution of
confidence that had arisen between me and his mother. It was perhaps
principally for the sake of banishing this impression that I had had
recourse to the splendour of equipage and attendance which was first
assumed upon the journey from Constance to Dresden. Nor, frivolous as
this expedient may appear in the unattractive dispassionateness of
narrative, had it been by any means weak of effect at the time it was
employed. When Charles was once mounted on his proud and impatient
steed, and decorated in rich and costly attire, I felt, as it were, the
sluggishness of my imagination roused; I surveyed his shape and his
countenance with inexpressible complacence; and already anticipated
the period when he was to become the favourite of his sovereign and
his country’s pride. Now I returned with the same retinue; but the
place that had been occupied by my son was empty. I sought him with
frantic and restless gaze; I figured him to my disturbed and furious
imagination, till the sensations and phantoms of my brain became
intolerable; I raved and imprecated curses on myself. I endeavoured to
divert my thoughts by observing the scenes that passed before me. They
talked to me of Charles; they had been pointed out by each to each, and
had been the subject of our mutual comment. Though Charles was endowed
with a high relish for the beauties of nature, and, in our little
retreat on the borders of the lake, had lived in the midst of them,
he had seen little of the variety of her features; and the journey we
made through the heart of Germany had furnished him with continual food
for admiration and delight. Nor did the scenes I beheld merely remind
me of the sensations they produced in Charles; they led me through a
wider field. I recollected long conversations and digressive excursions
which had been started by the impression they made. I recollected many
passages and occurrences to which they had not the slightest reference,
but which, having arisen while they constituted the visible scene, were
forcibly revived by its re-appearance. Thus, from various causes, my
lost and lamented son was not a moment out of my thoughts during the
journey. While I continued at Dresden, I seemed daily to expect his
return; but no sooner did I quit that city than despair took possession
of my heart.

Thus, anxious and distressed, I arrived at Prague, and soon after
at Ratisbon. I travelled slowly, because, though I was desirous of
returning to Constance, I anticipated my arrival there with little
complacence. As I drew nearer to my family, I felt more distinctly
the impossibility of presenting myself before them, without first
endeavouring to take off the shock they would sustain at seeing me
return without my son. I therefore resolved to send forward a servant
from Ratisbon, whom I directed to make all practicable speed, as I
designed to wait for an answer he should bring me at the city of
Munich. To attempt to write to Marguerite on this subject was a severe
trial to me. The whole however that I proposed to myself was, to
remove the surprise which would be occasioned by seeing me alone, and
to anticipate questions that it would be impossible for me to hear
without anguish of mind and perturbation of countenance. I therefore
took care to express myself in such terms as should lead Marguerite
to believe that I had voluntarily left her son in Saxony, and that in
no very long time he would rejoin his family. I trusted to subsequent
events to unfold the painful catastrophe, and could not prevail on
myself to shock her maternal feelings so much as I must necessarily do,
if I informed her of the whole at once. Charles had not been mentioned
but in ordinary terms and the accustomed language of affection, in the
letters I had recently received from Constance; and I was therefore
convinced that he had neither gone to that place, nor had conveyed
thither any account of his proceedings.

The answer I received from Marguerite by my messenger was as follows:--

“Your absence has been long and critical, and the welfare of your
daughters seems to require that we should rejoin each other as speedily
as may be. Whether we should meet here or at any other place you must
determine. It is, however, right I should inform you that, during your
absence, rumour has been busy with your reputation. What the extent or
importance of the ill reports circulated of you may be, I am scarcely
competent to judge. We have lived in uniform privacy, and it is natural
to suppose that the portion of censure that has reached us is but a
small part of what really exists. The mode in which you have proceeded,
and the extraordinary figure you have made in a progress through
Germany, have given weight to these insinuations. But it is not my
intention to comment on what you have done.

“You appear to design that I should understand you have left my son
behind you in Saxony. Poor Charles! I had a letter from him three weeks
ago, in which he informs me of what has happened, and apologises in
the most pathetic terms for any seeming want of regard to me in his
conduct, at the very moment that his heart bleeds for my fate. I did
not think it necessary to communicate this circumstance to you. I have
done with complaining. Now that I have fallen into the worst and most
unlooked-for misfortunes, I have a gratification that I do not choose
to part with, in shutting up my sorrows in my own breast.

“Oh, Charles! my son, my idol! What is become of you? For what
calamities are you reserved? He tells me it is necessary that I should
never see or hear of him again. Never--I--his mother!--Reginald, there
are some wounds that we may endeavour to forgive; but they leave a
sentiment in the heart, the demonstrations of which may perhaps be
restrained, but which it is not in nature wholly to subdue. If I did
but know where to find or to write to my poor boy, I would take my
girls with me, and partake his honest and honourable poverty, and never
again join the shadow of him who was my husband. Forgive me, Reginald!
I did not intend to say this. If I should prove unable to control the
impatience of my grief, do not inflict the punishment of my offence on
your innocent daughters!

“As to your fiction of voluntarily leaving him behind for further
improvement, it corresponds with every thing you have lately attempted
to make me believe. I no longer expect truth from you. For seventeen
years I had a husband. Well, well! I ought not perhaps to repine. I
have had my share of the happiness which the present life is calculated
to afford.

“Reginald! I have not long to live. When I tell you this, I am not
giving way to melancholy presentiment. I will exert myself for the
benefit of my girls. They will have a grievous loss in me; and for
their sake I will live as long as I can. But I feel that you have
struck me to the heart. My nights are sleepless; my flesh is wasted; my
appetite is entirely gone. You will presently be able to judge whether
I am deceiving myself. The prospect for these poor creatures, who are
at present all my care, is a dismal one. I know not for what they are
reserved; but I can hope for nothing good. When I am dead, remember,
and be a father to them. I ask nothing for myself; I have no longer any
concern with life; but, if my dying request can have weight with you,
make up to them the duty you have broken to me. By all out past loves,
by the cordiality and confidence in which we have so long lived, by
the singleness and sincerity of our affection, by the pure delights,
so seldom experienced in married life, that have attended our union, I
conjure you listen to me and obey me in this.”

If I were deeply distressed for the loss of my son, if I looked forward
with a mingled sensation of eagerness and alarm to the approaching
interview with my family, it may easily be imagined that this letter
formed a heavy addition to my mental anguish. I confess I thought
it a cruel one. Marguerite might well suppose, that the departure
of Charles was a circumstance I must strongly feel; and she should
not have thus aggravated the recent wounds of paternal grief. Some
allowance, however, was to be made for a mother. When we are ourselves
racked with intolerable pain, that certainly is not the time at which
we can rationally be expected to exert the nicest and most vigilant
consideration for another. Add to which, she was innocent of the
calamities she suffered, and could not but know that I was their sole
author. But, whatever may be decided as to the propriety of the letter,
its effect upon my mind was eminently salutary. I instantly determined
on the conduct it became me to pursue.

I lost not a moment. From Dresden to Munich I had advanced with slow
and unwilling steps; from Munich to Constance I proceeded as rapidly
as the modes of travelling and the nature of the roads would permit.
I left my retinue at the gates of the town, and flew instantly to the
apartments of my family. I hastened up stairs, and, as I entered the
sitting-room, I saw the first and most exemplary of matrons surrounded
by her blooming daughters. I instantly perceived a great alteration
in her appearance. Her look was dejected; her form emaciated; her
countenance sickly and pale. She lifted up her eyes as I entered, but
immediately dropped them again, without any discernible expression,
either of congratulation or resentment. I embraced my children with
undescribable emotion; I said within myself, the love and affection
I had reserved for Charles shall be divided among you, and added to
the share you each possess of my heart! Having saluted them in turn,
I addressed myself to Marguerite, telling her that I must have some
conversation with her instantly. My manner was earnest: she led the way
into another apartment.

I felt my heart overflowing at my tongue.

“I am come to you,” cried I, “a repenting prodigal. Take me and mould
me at your pleasure!”

She looked up. She was struck with the honest fervour of my expression.
She answered in almost forgotten terms, and with a peculiar fulness of
meaning, “My husband!”--It seemed as if the best years and the best
emotions of our life were suddenly renewed.

“Most adorable of women!” I continued: “do you think I can bear that
you should die, and I your murderer? No man in any age or climate of
the world ever owed so much to a human creature as I owe to you; no
woman was ever so ardently loved! no woman ever so much deserved to
be loved! If you were to die, I should never know peace again. If you
were to die the victim of any miscalculation of mine, I should be the
blackest of criminals!”

“Reginald!” replied she, “I am afraid I have been wrong. I am afraid I
have written harshly to you. You have a feeling heart, and I have been
too severe. Forgive me! it was the effect of love. Affection cannot
view with a tranquil eye the faults of the object beloved.”

“Let them be forgotten! Let the last six months be blotted from our
memory, be as though they had never existed!”

She looked at me. Her look seemed to say, though she would not give the
sentiment words, that can never be; the loss of Charles, and certain
other calamities of that period, are irretrievable!

“I resign myself into your hands! I have been guilty; I have had
secrets; meditations engendered and shut up in my own bosom; but it
shall be so no more! The tide of affection kept back from its natural
channel, now flows with double impetuousness. Never did I love you,
not when you first came a virgin to my arms, not on the banks of the
Garonne, not in the cottage of the lake, so fervently, so entirely, as
I love you now! Be my director; do with me as you please! I have never
been either wise or virtuous but when I have been implicitly guided by
you!

“I have wealth; I am forbidden by the most solemn obligations to
discover the source of that wealth. This only I may not communicate; in
all things else govern me despotically! Shall I resign it all? Shall I
return to the cottage of the lake? Shall I go, a houseless and helpless
wanderer, to the farthest quarter of the globe? Speak the word only,
and it shall be done! I prefer your affection, your cordial regard, in
the most obscure and meanest retreat, to all that wealth can purchase
or kings can give!”

“Reginald, I thank you! I acknowledge in your present language and
earnestness the object of my first and only love. This return to your
true character gives me all the pleasure I am now capable of receiving.
But it is too late My son is lost; that cannot be retrieved. Your
reputation is blasted; I am sorry you are returned hither; Constance
is in arms against you, and I will not answer for the consequence. For
myself; I grieve to tell you so; I am ashamed of my weakness; but--my
heart is broken! I loved you so entirely, that I was not able to
bear any suspension of our confidence. I had passed with you through
all other misfortunes, and the firmness of my temper was not shaken.
For this one misfortune, that seemed the entire dissolution of our
attachment, I was not prepared. I feel, every morning as I rise, the
warnings of my decease. My nights are sleepless; my appetite is gone
from me.”

“Oh, Marguerite, talk not thus; distract me not with the most fatal
of images! Our confidence shall return; all the causes of your malady
shall be removed! With the causes, the symptoms, depend on it, will
disappear. Your youth, your tranquillity, your happiness, shall be
renewed! Oh, no, you shall not die! We will yet live to love and peace!”

“Flatter not yourself with vain hopes, my love! I feel something wrong
within me, which is rapidly wearing my body to decay. Reconcile your
mind to what very soon must happen! Prepare yourself for being the
only parent to your remaining offspring! I have composed my spirit,
and calmly wait my fate. You have now administered to me the only
consolation I aspired to, by this return to your true character, which
affords me a sanguine hope that you will faithfully discharge the duty
to your offspring, which, when I am gone, will be doubly urgent on you.”

I was grieved to see that the mind of Marguerite was so deeply
impressed with the notion that she had but a short time to live. I
could not bear to imagine for a moment that her prognostic was just.
The thought seemed capable of driving me to distraction. I however
conceived that the best thing that could be done for the present, was
to turn the conversation to some other topic.

“Well, well, my love!” I answered. “There are some things that are
immediately pressing. Direct me, direct a husband so amply convinced
of your discretion, what I am to do at present! Shall I instantly
annihilate all that has made this unfortunate breach between us; shall
I resign my wealth, from whatever source derived? Whither shall we go?
Shall we return to the cottage of the lake? Shall we retreat into some
distant part of the world?”

“How can you expect me,” said Marguerite, faintly smiling, “to advise
you respecting the disposal of a wealth, of the amount of which I am
uninformed, and the source of which is invisible? But I guess your
secret. The stranger who died your guest was in possession of the
philosopher’s stone, and he has bequeathed to you his discovery. I have
heard of this art, though I confess I was not much inclined to credit
it. I do not ask you to confirm my conjecture: I do not wish that you
should violate my engagements into which you have entered. But, upon
putting circumstances together, which I have been inevitably compelled
to do, I apprehend it can be nothing else. I am astonished that a
conjecture so obvious should have offered itself to my mind so late.

“If your wealth is of any other nature, ample as it apparently is,
it is a natural question to ask, to whom is it to be resigned? The
ordinary wealth of the world is something real and substantial, and can
neither be created nor dissipated with a breath. But if your wealth
be of the kind I have named, let me ask, is it possible to resign it?
A secret is a thing with which we may choose whether we will become
acquainted; but, once known, we cannot become unacquainted with it at
pleasure. Your wealth, upon my supposition, will always be at your
beck; and it is perhaps beyond the strength of human nature to refuse,
under some circumstances, at least in some emergencies, to use the
wealth which is within our reach.

“It has been our mutual misfortune that such an engine has been put
into your hands. It has been your fault to make an indiscreet use of
it. Gladly would I return to the tranquil and unsuspected poverty of
the cottage of the lake. But that is impossible. You have lost your
son; you have lost your honest fame; the life of your Marguerite is
undermined and perishing. If it were possible for us to return to our
former situation and our former peace, still, my Reginald! forgive me
if I say, I doubt the inflexibleness of your resolution. The gift of
unbounded wealth, if you possess it, and, with wealth, apparently at
least, distinction and greatness, is too powerful a temptation. Nor,
though I should trust your resistance, could I be pleased in a husband
with the possession of these extraordinary powers. It sets too great
a distance between the parties. It destroys that communion of spirit
which is the soul of the marriage-tie. A consort should be a human
being and an equal. But to this equality and simple humanity it is no
longer in your power to return.

“Circumstanced then as we now are, the marriage union, you must allow
me to say, irreparably dissolved, your son lost, your fair fame
destroyed, your orphan daughters to be provided for, I know not if I
should advise you to forget the prerogative that has been bought for
you at so dreadful a price. Beside, if I am not mistaken, there are
great trials in reserve for you. I am afraid your present situation
is extremely critical. I am afraid the suspicions you have excited
will cost you dear. At all events I believe it to be but a necessary
precaution that we should fly from Constance. I have nothing therefore
to recommend to you on the subject of wealth, but discretion. I shall
not long live to be your adviser. I shall always regard the donation
you have received, you cannot wonder that I should so regard it, as one
of the most fearful calamities to which a human being can be exposed.
If you had used your prerogative with discretion, you might perhaps,
though I confess I do not see how, have escaped the obloquy of the
world. Into your domestic scene, where the interest is more lively, and
the watch upon you more unremitted, it must have introduced alienation
and distrust. As it is, I see you surrounded with dangers of a thousand
denominations. Police has its eyes upon you; superstition will regard
you as the familiar of demons; avarice will turn upon you a regard of
jealousy and insatiable appetite. If I could recover from the weakness
that at present besets me, and continue to live, I foresee more and
severer trials, both at home and abroad, than any I have yet sustained;
and I am almost thankful to that Providence which has decreed to take
me away from the evil to come.

“One thing further let me add. I will speak it, not in the character
of a censor, but a friend. It must ever be right and useful, that a
man should be undeceived in any erroneous estimate he may make of
himself. I have loved you much; I found in you many good qualities;
my imagination decorated you in the virtues that you had not; but you
have removed the veil. An adept and an alchemist is a low character.
When I married you, I supposed myself united to a nobleman, a knight,
and a soldier, a man who would have revolted with disdain from every
thing that was poor-spirited and base. I lived with you long and
happily. I saw faults; I saw imbecilities. I did not see them with
indifference; but I endeavoured, and with a degree of success, to
forget and to forgive them; they did not contaminate and corrupt
the vitals of honour. At length you have completely reversed the
scene. For a soldier you present me with a projector and a chemist, a
cold-blooded mortal, raking in the ashes of a crucible for a selfish
and solitary advantage. Here is an end of all genuine dignity, and
the truest generosity of soul. You cannot be ingenuous; for all your
dealings are secrecy and darkness. You cannot have a friend; for the
mortal lives not that can sympathise with your thoughts and emotions.
A generous spirit, Reginald, delights to live upon equal terms with
his associates and fellows. He would disdain, when offered to him,
excessive and clandestine advantages. Equality is the soul of real and
cordial society. A man of rank indeed does not live upon equal terms
with the whole of his species; but his heart also can exult, for he
has his equals. How unhappy the wretch, the monster rather let me say,
who is without an equal; who looks through the world, and in the world
cannot find a brother; who is endowed with attributes which no living
being participates with him; and who is therefore cut off for ever from
all cordiality and confidence, can never unbend himself, but lives
the solitary, joyless tenant of a prison, the materials of which are
emeralds and rubies! How unhappy this wretch! How weak and ignoble the
man that voluntarily accepts these laws of existence!”

In the advice of Marguerite I saw that sound wisdom and discernment, by
which in all the periods of our connection she had been so eminently
characterised. With her views of the future I was not disposed to
accord. I regarded them as obscured and discoloured by the unfortunate
state of her health. I could not indeed refuse to believe that the
prerogative I had received had been the parent of much domestic
unhappiness. Willingly would I have resigned all that I had derived
from the stranger, to be replaced in the situation in which his
pernicious legacies had found me. He had robbed me of my son; he had
destroyed my domestic peace; he had undermined the tranquillity and
health of the partner of my life. These calamities pressed with a heavy
and intolerable weight at my heart. But, if, as Marguerite affirmed,
they were irretrievable, or if they could once be removed, and the
domestic advantages I had heretofore enjoyed be restored, I was not
disposed to fear those external mischiefs which Marguerite so feelingly
predicted. I could not believe that I should have such a league of
foreign enemies to encounter, nor could I easily image to myself any
external evils which it was not in the power of gold to remedy. These
considerations I urged to my beloved partner, and by enforcing them
endeavoured to remove those gloomy apprehensions, from the prevalence
of which I feared much injury to her health. There was another
circumstance I was led particularly to insist on; I mean the nature of
the secret intrusted to me.

“I admire your discernment and ingenuity, Marguerite,” said I, “in your
conjecture respecting the source of my wealth. I admire your delicacy
in not pressing me to decide upon the truth of your conjecture. This
only I must be permitted to say on that subject. It is a secret; and
you will perceive that the same reasons, whatever they are, which make
that secret obligatory on me, require that it should be respected by
you. The same evils that my own indiscretion may draw on me, I shall
be equally exposed to by any error or miscalculation of yours. I
have therefore most earnestly and solemnly to conjure you, whatever
misfortunes may hereafter befall me, in whatever perilous situation I
may be involved, that you will never utter a syllable on this subject;
and that, as I am the selected depository of this secret, and alone
know with certainty what is its nature, you will trust our prosperity
in this point to me.”--Marguerite engaged to conduct herself as I
desired.

The night which succeeded this explanation, was particularly soothing
and grateful to me. I was relieved from a great and oppressive burthen.
I was conscious of that particular species of pleasure which arises
from the resolute discharge of an heroic duty. The peace I felt
within shed its gay and reviving beams upon all around me. Reconciled
to myself, I was filled with sanguine and agreeable visions of the
future. My mind obstinately rejected all dark and hateful presages.
I had intrusted myself and the direction of my conduct, as far as it
was possible, to that better pilot, under whose guidance, if I had
not avoided the rocks and quicksands of life, I had at least escaped
with little comparative injury. I felt therefore as if my domestic
enjoyments were restored, and the pleasures of my better years were
about to run over again their auspicious career. Not so Marguerite. She
was mild, gentle, and soothing. Displeasure and resentment towards me
were banished from her mind. She endeavoured to conquer her melancholy,
and to forget the wounds that had been so fatal to her hopes. But her
endeavours were fruitless. A fixed dejection clung to her heart: nor
could the generous sweetness that pervaded her manners hide from me
entirely what was passing in her bosom.

During this interval we had talked over the plan of our future
operations. Marguerite was exceedingly urgent with me to quit
Constance; nor did I, though not impressed with her presentiments,
feel any reluctance to that change of scene, which, I believed, would
materially contribute to the serenity of her mind and the restoration
of her health. We determined on some of the cities of Italy as the next
place of our residence, and, fixed, if possible, to set out some time
in the next day or the day after. The plan of proceeding to France,
which had lately been a favourite with me, was a favourite no longer.
That had been the project of cheerful and wanton prosperity. It had
had for its object the re-establishment of my family honours, and the
elevation of my son. Now my son was lost, my wife was oppressed with
languor and disease, my house was overwhelmed with sorrow. This was no
time for wantonness and triumph. If I could ever hope to resume the
plans my frolic fancy had sketched, an interval at least of soberer hue
must first be suffered to elapse.

My mind at this time sustained a revolution sufficiently remarkable,
but of which the urgency of events that immediately succeeded prevented
me from ever ascertaining whether it would have proved temporary or
permanent. When I first received the donation of the stranger, my
thoughts, as I have already said, were in a state of enthusiastic
transport; and, amidst the golden visions in which my fancy revelled,
I became in a considerable degree alienated from domestic sentiments
and pleasures. If I still loved my wife and children, it was the love
of habit rather than sympathy; more an anxiety for their prosperous
success in the world, than an earnest craving for their presence and
intercourse. This state of intoxication and rapture had now subsided.
The events of the few last weeks had sobered my thoughts. Having lost
my son, and being threatened with the loss of his mother, I was roused
to a sense of their value. The influx of wealth and supernatural gifts
had grown familiar to my mind, and now only occupied the back-ground
of the picture. I was once more a man, and I hoped to partake of the
privileges and advantages of a man. The fate reserved for these hopes
will speedily be seen.

Some readers will perhaps ask me why, anxious as I was for the life of
Marguerite, and visible as was the decline of her health, I did not
administer to her of the elixir of immortality which was one of my
peculiar endowments. Such readers I have only to remind, that the pivot
upon which the history I am composing turns, is a mystery. If they will
not accept of my communication upon my own terms, they must lay aside
my book. I am engaged in relating the incidents of my life; I have no
intention to furnish the remotest hint respecting the science of which
I am the depository. That science affords abundant reasons why the
elixir in question might not, or rather could not, be imbibed by any
other than an adept.



CHAPTER XX.


The morning after my return to my family, as I sat surrounded with my
girls, and endeavouring to make myself their playmate and companion,
certain officers of justice belonging to the supreme tribunal of the
city entered my apartment. They were sent, as they informed me, to
conduct me to prison. My blood at this intelligence mounted into my
face.

“To prison?” cried I--“wherefore?--what have I done?--I am no citizen
of your state. What is the charge against me? Lead me not to prison:
lead me to your chief magistrate!”

“You will be called up for examination, when his honour is at leisure
to hear you: in the mean time you must go to prison.”

“Do those who sent you know that I am a native and a gentleman of
France? They will be made to repent this insolence. Upon what pretence
do they dare to act thus?”

“You will please not to talk of insolence to us. If you do not demean
yourself quietly----”

“Silence, fellow!” answered I fiercely. “Lead the way!”

By this time the children, astonished at a scene so alarming and
unintelligible to them, began to express their terror in various ways.
Julia, who was ready to faint, occupied the attention of her mother.
The little Marguerite clung round my knees, and expressed her emotions
by shrieks and cries. To see her father about to be torn from her by
four strangers, the peculiarity of whose garb of office aggravated
the rudeness of their countenances and the peremptoriness of their
behaviour, was a spectacle which the affectionateness of her nature was
unable to endure.

“I will go with you presently,” said I to the officers. “See, how you
have terrified the children!”

“Nay, sir, if you will behave civilly, and make it worth our while, we
do not desire to hurry you.”

I was stung with the brutal assurance with which they thus set the
liberty of a few moments at a price to me. But I checked my impatience.
I felt that it would be both foolish and degrading to enter into
contention with such wretches. I turned from them proudly, and took my
child in my arms.

“I will not be long gone, my love!” said I. “These people have made a
mistake, and I shall soon be able to rectify it.”

“I fancy not,” muttered one of them surlily.

“They shall not take you away, papa; that they shall not! I will hold
you, and will not let you go!”

“You are a good girl, Marguerite! But I know best what is proper, and
you must not think to control me. The men will not do me any harm,
child; they dare not. Perhaps I shall be back to dinner, and mamma will
then tell me how good you have been.”

As I spoke, she looked steadfastly in my face; and then, flinging her
arms round my neck, cried, “Good-by, papa!” and burst into a flood of
tears.

I embraced the other children and their mother; and, saying to the
latter significantly, “Fear nothing; you know I have nothing to
fear!”--departed with my conductors.

The way to the citadel lay through the market-place. The scene was
already crowded; and I had the mortification to be led along as a
criminal, in the midst of a thousand gazing eyes and enquiring tongues.
New as every thing connected with my present situation was to me, I had
not anticipated this vexation. I was stung with shame and impatience.
“To my dungeon!” said I to my conductors sternly. “If you had shown
yourself better humoured,” cried the most brutal of them, “we would
have led you round by the back way.”

The master of the prison was somewhat less a savage than his officers.
He knew my person, and had heard of my wealth. “Does monsieur choose
the best apartment?” said he. “Any where that I can be alone!” answered
I hastily. He hesitated a moment. I looked in his face: “Oh, yes, you
will be paid!” He bowed, and showed me to a room.

I shut the door as he retired. What had happened to me was of little
importance in itself. The impertinence of bailiffs and thief-takers
is of no more real moment than the stinging of a gnat. But I was so
utterly unacquainted with scenes of this nature! The pride of rank
that swelled within me made every appearance of restraint galling to
my sense. From the instant I was able to write, man, no one, except
in the voluntary compact of military service, had ever said to me, Go
there! or, Do this! And now, was I to be directed by the very refuse
of the species? Was I to learn the prudence of not replying to their
insults? Was I to purchase, at a stipulated price, their patience and
forbearance?--I request the reader to pardon me for troubling him with
my noviciate feelings: I soon learned to understand the world--the
world of a prison--better!

But, what was of more importance, I was apprehended as a criminal:
I had been dragged a prisoner of justice through the streets of
Constance; I was, by and by, to be subjected to the interrogatories
of the municipal tribunal. I could scarcely credit my senses, that
such an indignity had happened to the blood of St. Leon. It is true,
I was innocent. I was conscious, whatever might be my imprudences
and offences towards my own family, that I had done nothing to merit
the animadversion of public justice. But this was of no consequence.
Nothing, in my opinion, could wipe away the disgrace of being
interrogated, examined! of having for an instant imputed to me the
possibility of being a criminal! I writhed under this dishonour, and
felt it as a severer attack than the question, which was comparatively
of ceremony and etiquette, that had oppressed me in my residence at
Dresden.

The next day, when I was brought up for examination, I had expected
to be the complainant, in demanding redress for the injury I had
sustained. But I was mistaken.

I entered the room haughtily, and with the air of a man that felt
himself aggrieved. Of this however the magistrate took no notice. “Do
you know, sir,” said I, “that I am a citizen and a gentleman of France?
Are you acquainted with the treatment I have experienced? Have you lent
your authority to that treatment?”

“Wait a few minutes,” replied he with an imperious tone, “and I shall
be at leisure to attend to you.”

I was silent. After the interval of nearly a quarter of an hour, he
resumed--

“You call yourself the count de St. Leon!”

“I do.”

“Perhaps, sir, you are uninformed of the purity with which justice is
administered in the city within whose jurisdiction you now stand. Our
state is a small one, and its magistrates are therefore enabled to
discharge the office of a parent, not only to its proper citizens, but
to all strangers that place themselves under its protection.”

“I remember, sir, that seven years ago, I and my wife and four
children, sick and unfriended, were upon the point of perishing with
hunger within the walls of this city!”--The fact I mentioned was wholly
foreign to the point with which I was at present concerned; but the
parading arrogance of the man brought it forcibly to my memory, and
wrung it from my lips.

“_Monsieur le comte_,” replied he, “you are petulant. It is not the
office of a state to feed the souls it contains; it could not do that
without making them slaves. Its proper concern is to maintain them in
that security and freedom of action, which may best enable them to
support themselves.”

I suppressed the emotions which the tone of this speech excited. I
was unwilling to enter into contention with a man whom I regarded as
inexpressibly my inferior.

“Is it,” cried I sternly, “a part of the justice you boast of, to drag
a man of rank and a stranger from his home, without any intimation of
the cause of his being so treated, and then, instead of investigating
immediately the charge against him, to send him to prison unheard?
I disdain to mention the behaviour of your officers: those things
naturally grow out of the abuses practised by their superiors.”

“The mode of our proceeding,” replied he, “depends upon the seriousness
of the crime imputed. If a man of distinction labours under a slight
accusation only, we then treat him with all proper forbearance and
respect. But, when he is suspected of a crime of more than ordinary
magnitude, that alters the case. The man who has ceased to respect
himself, must look for no respect from others.”

I was for a moment thunderstruck and speechless. At length fiercely I
cried, “Produce my accusers!”

“That is not the mode of proceeding in Constance. I have certain
questions to propound to you. When you have answered them, we shall see
what is to be done next.”

“Carry me before the prince-bishop of your city! If I am to be examined
further, let it be by your sovereign!”

“The prince-bishop, moved by the state of our affairs in matters of
religion, has been prevailed on to delegate his juridical authority.
I am the person to whom the cognisance of your business belongs; and
at certain times, aided by my assessors, have the power of life and
death within this city. You have had every indulgence to which you are
entitled, and it will be your wisdom to be no further refractory.”

“Propose your questions!”

“A person, apparently greatly advanced in years, arrived in the
autumn of last year at a miserable farm you at that time cultivated,
called the Cottage of the Lake. It is to him that my questions will
principally relate.”

I stood aghast. The words of the magistrate were most unwelcome sounds.
I remembered that the stranger had said to me, “When I am once buried,
speak of me, and, if possible, think of me no more.” I replied with
eagerness and alarm--

“Of that person I have nothing to say. Spare your questions: I have no
answer to return you!”

“What was his name?”

“I know not.”

“His country?”

“I cannot inform you.”

“It is understood that he died, or in some manner disappeared, while
under your protection. Yet in the registers of the church there is no
notice of that event. If he died, no application was made for the rites
of religion to him dying, or to his body when his spirit had deserted
it. You are required to answer, what became of him or his remains?”

“I have already told you, that from me you will obtain no information.”

“One question more, sir. Seven years ago, you tell me, you and your
family were perishing with hunger. Soon after, you removed from obscure
lodgings in this city to the cottage of the lake, and seemed to be
laudably employed in earning for yourself a scanty livelihood with
the labour of your hands. But within the last six months the scene is
wholly changed. You appear to have suddenly grown rich, and here, and
in other parts of Germany, have actually disbursed considerable sums.
Whence comes this change?”

The train of questions thus proposed to me, impelled me to a serious
reply.

“_Monsieur le juge_,” said I, “I am a stranger, a native of France, and
a man of rank in my own country. I have paid your state the compliment
of choosing it for my residence. I have expended my industry, I expend
my wealth among you. I have comported myself as a peaceable inhabitant.
No action of my life has brought scandal upon your state, or disturbed
the peace and tranquillity of your affairs. I cannot collect from
any thing you have said, that I have any accuser, or that any charge
has been alleged against me. Till that happens, I cannot fall under
your animadversion. I am a man of generous birth and honourable
sentiments. To myself and my own conscience only am I accountable for
my expenditure and my income. I disdain to answer to any tribunal on
earth an enquiry of this sort. And now, sir, in conclusion, what I
demand of you is, first, my liberty; and secondly, an ample reparation
for the interruption I have sustained, and the insults to which I have
causelessly been exposed.”

“You are mistaken, sir,” said the magistrate. “What you mention may
be the rule of administering justice in some states. They may decide,
if they think proper, that some open act, apparently of a criminal
description, must be alleged against a man, before he can become an
object of animadversion to the state. But in Constance, as I have
already told you, the government assumes to act the part of a parent
to its subjects. I sit here, not merely to investigate and examine
definite acts, but as a censor morum; and I should violate the oath
of my office, if I did not lend a vigilant attention to the behaviour
and conduct of every one within my jurisdiction. The city of Constance
requires that nothing immoral, licentious, or of suspicious character,
shall be transacted within its walls. Your proceedings have escaped
notice too long; much longer than they would have done but for your
late absence. In cases where what is committed is merely immoral or
licentious, we content ourselves with sending the offender out of our
walls. But your case is of a complicated nature. It has scandalised
all the inhabitants of our virtuous and religious city. Unless you
answer my enquiries, and give a clear and satisfactory account of your
wealth, I am bound to believe that there is something in the business
that will not bear the light. The coincidence of times obliges me to
connect the disappearance of your guest, and the sudden growth of your
fortune. This connection gives rise to the most alarming suspicions.
I have therefore to inform you that, unless you honourably clear up
these suspicions by the most ample communication, my duty directs me to
remand you to prison, and to assure you that you will not be liberated
thence till you have satisfied the whole of my interrogatories.”

“Think deliberately,” answered I, “of your decision before you form
it. Your prisons I despise; but I will not suffer my reputation and my
honour to be trifled with. I came before you willingly, though I could
easily have avoided doing so; because I was eager to clear my fame. I
expected accusers, and I knew I could confound accusation. But what is
this that you call justice? You put together circumstances in your own
mind: you form conjectures; and then, without information, accuser, or
oath, without the semblance of guilt, you condemn me to prison, and
expect to extort from me confession. In defect of articles of charge I
disdain to answer: the only return a man of honour should make to loose
conjectures and random calumnies is silence. I am descended from a race
of heroes, knights of the cross, and champions of France; and their
blood has not degenerated in my veins. I feel myself animated by the
soul of honour, and incapable of crime. I know my innocence, and I rest
upon it with confidence. Your vulgar citizens, habituated to none but
the groveling notions of traffic and barter, are not the peers of St.
Leon, nor able to comprehend the views and sentiments by which he is
guided.”

“You are mighty well-spoken, monsieur St. Leon,” replied the
magistrate, “and your words are big and sounding; but we know that the
devil can assume the form of an angel, and that the most infamous and
profligate character can pronounce with emphasis sentiments of the
purest virtue. You are pleased to decide that the presumptions against
you are nothing but calumnies. Is it nothing that, having received
a stranger and retained him with you for months, you endeavoured
to conceal this fact, and never suffered him to be seen by a human
creature? Is his final disappearance nothing? Is it nothing that,
supposing him to be dead, as he probably is, you denied to his remains
the rites of funeral, and refuse to tell what is become of the body?
Is it nothing that, upon the death of this stranger, you, who were
before in a state almost of penury, suddenly appear to be possessed of
unbounded riches? Where is the will of this stranger? In what archives
have you deposited the declaration of his wealth? Let me tell you,
sir, that these presumptions, which you call nothing, form a body of
circumstantial evidence that, in many countries, would have led you
to the scaffold as a murderer. But the laws of Constance, which you
audaciously revile, are the mildest in the universe. Here we never put
a man to death but on his own confession. We simply condemn him to
perpetual imprisonment, or until he makes a declaration of his guilt.
You refuse to declare the name or country of the man whom you are
suspected of murdering, and then have the assurance to boast that no
private accuser rises against you. No, sir, we know there can be no
private accuser, where the connections of the party can be successfully
concealed. But shall this concealment, which is an aggravation of the
murder, prove its security? In conclusion, you boast of your blood
and heroic sentiments, and rail at our citizens as shopkeepers and
merchants. Let me tell you, sir, shopkeepers and merchants though we
are, we should scorn to conduct ourselves in the obscure and suspicious
manner that you have done. And, now I have taken the trouble to refute
your flimsy pretences, which it was wholly unnecessary for me to do, I
have done with you. You know your destination, unless you are prepared
immediately to give a satisfactory account of yourself and your
proceedings.”

Finding it impossible to make on this man the impression I desired,
I declined entering into further parley; and, telling him that I
should convey a representation of my case to my native sovereign, and
did not doubt soon to make him feel the rashness of his proceeding,
I withdrew, in the custody of the officers who had conducted me to
the scene of audience. I was, I confess, struck with the coincidence
of circumstances, which the magistrate had placed in a fight equally
unexpected and forcible, and which I now saw calculated to subject me
to the most injurious suspicions. I was not disposed in the smallest
degree to yield to the attack, but I felt a desire to act deliberately
and with caution. The whole of what I had heard was utterly unforeseen,
and it was with peculiar anguish that I became aware of this new
consequence of the stranger’s pernicious donation. This was a
consequence that no resignation, no abjuration of his bequests could
cure; and that must be stood up to with manly courage, if any hope were
entertained of averting it.



CHAPTER XXI.


The appearance of wealth that accompanied me had by this time made
its impression upon my keepers; and one of them now informed me, that
monsieur Monluc, an agent of the court of France, who was making
a tour of several of the German states by order of his sovereign,
had arrived the night before at the city of Constance. There was no
representative of my country regularly resident here, and I immediately
felt the presence of Monluc to be the most fortunate event that could
have occurred for effecting my honourable deliverance. Selfishness and
avarice, it may be thought, would rather have impelled the persons
who had me in custody to conceal from me a circumstance calculated to
deprive them of an advantageous prey. But in those groveling souls
from whom riches never fail to extort homage, however strange it may
seem, the homage often appears disinterested. They pay it by a sort
of irresistible instinct; and, admiring what they covet, at an awful
distance, with difficulty assume the courage to pollute their worship
with ideas of calculation and gain.

I immediately addressed a memorial to this gallant soldier, with
whose person indeed I was unacquainted, but the fame of whose spirit
and enterprise had not failed to have reached me. I represented to
him that I was a Frenchman of family and distinction; that I had
been seized upon and was retained in prison by the magistrates here,
without accuser or the hope of a trial; that I had not been guilty of
the shadow of a crime; and that I knew the benignity and courage of
my sovereign would never permit a subject of France to languish under
calumny and oppression in a foreign country. I added, that he would
do an acceptable service to king Francis, to whom I had the honour to
be known, by interfering in my favour; and therefore entreated him to
obtain for me immediate justice and deliverance. Monluc returned me an
answer by the bearer of my memorial, assuring me that he would lose no
time in enquiring into the merits of my case, and that I might depend
upon receiving every assistance from him that a man of honour could
desire.

The warmth and frankness of this answer filled me with hope, for there
was no deliverance from my present situation that I could contemplate
with satisfaction, but such a one as should be accompanied with
reparation and _éclat_. Three days however elapsed before I heard
again from the French envoy. On the morning of the fourth he announced
his intention of visiting me; and, about an hour after, arrived at
the prison. His appearance was striking. He was tall, slender, and
well made, with a freedom of carriage, not derived from the polish
of courts, but which appeared to flow from the manliness and active
energies of his mind. His hair and complexion were dark; the former,
though he was still young, rather scantily shaded a high and ample
forehead. His features were expressive of the sanguine and adust temper
of his mind; and, though his eye was animated, his countenance, as he
entered, struck me as particularly solemn.

“You are the count de St. Leon?” said he.

“I am.”

“You sent me a memorial a few days ago complaining of the tribunal of
this city: I am afraid, sir, I can do nothing for you.”

My countenance fell as he spoke; I gasped for breath. I had conceived a
most favourable anticipation as he entered, and my disappointment was
particularly cruel. I had said in my heart, This is the very man to
rescue my injured fame.

“I see, sir, you are disappointed,” resumed he. “I have not given
up the affair: if I had, this visit, which I design as a mark of
attention, would be an insult. The moment I received your memorial, I
paid the utmost regard to it. If the affair had been as you represented
it, I know I could not do any thing more acceptable to my sovereign
than interfere in your behalf. I have spent the whole interval in
investigating the case. I have seen the magistrate who committed you;
I have visited the spot where your crime is alleged to have been
perpetrated; I have had an interview with your wife.”

“Well, sir,” cried I, alarmed and impatient--“well, sir, and the
result?”

“Appearances are uncommonly strong against you: they can scarcely he
stronger. But you have a right to be heard; it is for the sake of
discharging that last act of justice that you see me this morning.”

“Great God!” exclaimed I, overwhelmed with chagrin, “is if possible
that my countryman, the man to whom I was proud and happy to appeal,
the gallant Monluc, should believe me a murderer? I swear by every
thing that is sacred, by the blood of him that died for me on the
cross, and by my eternal salvation, that I am as innocent as the child
unborn!”

“I am glad to hear you express yourself with this emphasis and fervour.
I cannot but say that to my own feelings it has great weight. But I
must not suffer myself as a man, and still less in the public capacity
in which I stand, to be overcome and confounded by your asseverations.
There is a connected and most unfavourable story against you: this it
is incumbent on you to clear up.”

“And you say, you have seen my wife?” I was distracted and overwhelmed
by Monluc’s way of putting the question. I was divided between my
anxiety to be justified, and the solemn mystery of the affair to which
his enquiries led; and I probably spoke thus from an unconscious desire
to gain time.

“Yes, that is another presumption in your favour. Madame de St. Leon
is perhaps the most striking and extraordinary woman I ever saw. Of
the husband of such a woman, especially when he appears to be the
object of her attachment, I should be always inclined to think well.
Madame de St. Leon pleaded for you with earnestness and affection.
But, amidst all her ardour, I could perceive that she felt there was
something mysterious and unpleasant in the affair, that she was unable
to develope.”

As Monluc spoke, I saw that I had failed in one of the main anchors
of my hope. I thought that no one could have talked with my beloved
Marguerite, and have left her with the opinion that I was a murderer.
How did this happen? Was she lukewarm and unfaithful in my vindication?

“What she,” continued my countryman, “I could see, was not only unable
to explain, but did not fully understand, it is you alone can clear;
the concealment of the stranger, his disappearance, what became of the
body, and your own sudden transition from poverty to wealth.”

I was by this time fully sensible of the nature of my situation. I
summoned my fortitude; I felt that I had no longer any hope but in the
dignity of innocence.

“You call on me for explanation,” replied I. “Can you not conceive,
gallant Monluc, that I may be able to resolve your doubts, and yet
that I will not? Explanation is not the business of a man of honour.
He cannot stoop to it. He will win the applause and approbation of
mankind, if won, in silence. He will hold on the even course of a
generous spirit, and turn neither to the right nor to the left, to
court the suffrage, or deprecate the condemnation of a giddy multitude.
Such, my brave countryman, have been the maxims of my past life; such
will be the maxims of my future.”

“I admire,” answered Monluc, “at least the gallantry of these
sentiments, though I may be inclined to doubt their prudence. But, if
such is your determination, permit me to say, you have no concern with
me. He who resolutely withholds explanation, must arm himself with
patience, and either wait the operation of time, or rest satisfied with
the consciousness of his innocence.”

“And is that all? Will there not be some noble spirits, who, separating
themselves from the herd, will judge of him by what they feel in their
own breasts, and be drawn to him with an irresistible impulse? Was it
not natural that I should expect Monluc to be one of these? It would be
hard indeed, if he who disdains to temporise with popularity, and to
vindicate himself from the ungenerous constructions of sordid minds,
should not by that very proceeding secure the friendship and sympathy
of those, whose friendship it will be most grateful to him to possess.”

“The friends of an innocent man, whom a combination of circumstances
has exposed to the most painful suspicions, must always be few. He can
scarcely expect the acquittal and sympathy of a stranger. I must know,
I must have felt and observed in a man a thousand virtues, before
I can be entitled to treat accumulated presumptions against him as
nothing.”

“And thus then are to end my hopes in Monluc? He does not feel that I
am innocent? He does not recognise in me the countenance, the voice,
the turn of thought, of a brother, a man no less incapable than himself
of every thing disgraceful and ignominious? Be it so! I will, as you
advise me, rest upon the consciousness of my innocence. A Frenchman,
the descendant of illustrious ancestors, long an exile, long the victim
of adversity, but at all times conscious of the purity of my sentiments
and the integrity of my conduct, I will not suffer myself to be
overwhelmed with this last desertion, this ultimate refusal of justice!”

“Count de St. Leon! your appeal is full of energy. In whatever way
I decide, it will leave an unpleasant sensation in my breast. Let
us suppose that, as a private man, I could take you to my arms, and
dismiss every unfavourable appearance from my mind. You must remember
that I am here in a public character, and that only in a public
character am I capable of affording you assistance. Thus situated, I am
bound to resist the impulses of a romantic and irregular confidence,
and to do nothing of which I shall not be able to render a clear and
intelligible account.

“Let us not part thus! It is not the vindication of your character to
the world, with which we are at present concerned. It is only necessary
that you should furnish a sufficient ground to justify me to myself for
interfering in your behalf. Explain to me the particulars of your case,
in confidence if you will, but fully and without reserve. I will not
abuse your confidence. I will make no use of your communication, but
such as you shall yourself approve. Only enable me to have a reason for
acting, that is not merely capable of being felt, but that I may know
is in its own nature capable of being stated to another. It is upon me
that you call to take certain measures; you must enable me to judge of
their propriety.

“You are mistaken when you suppose the appearances against you to
be slight. It is not a slight circumstance, that you profess to
be ignorant of, or have refused to disclose, the country, the
connections, and even the name of the stranger whom you so anxiously
concealed. The disappearance of his body is still more extraordinary.
What intelligible motive, except a guilty one, can I assign for
that? But your sudden wealth immediately after this disappearance,
is especially material. It is a broad and glaring fact, that men
cannot shut their eyes on, if they would. The chain and combination
of events, that proceeds systematically from link to link, is the
criterion of guilt and the protector of reputation. Your case, as it
now stands, is scarcely to be termed equivocal: upon the supposition
of your criminality all is plain and easy to be accounted for; upon
any other supposition it appears an inscrutable mystery. Place but the
balance even; present to me an exposition of these facts, that shall
make your innocence not less probable than your guilt; and, as I feel
myself interested for you and your family, and as the presumption, when
matters are doubtful, ought always to be on the favourable side, I
consent to be your friend!”

“How unfortunate,” I exclaimed, “am I doomed to be! Your proposal is
liberal and generous; but I must refuse it! My story is an unhappy one:
particulars have been reposed in my fidelity, which I am not at liberty
to communicate, but which, if communicated, you would not regard as
dishonourable. I may be made the martyr of infamy, and the abhorrence
of my species; I can endure adversity and anguish; I can die; but that
which you demand from me never can be confided to any mortal ear!”

“As you please,” rejoined Monluc. “The secrets of a dead man, to be
preserved after his death, and that to the ruin of him who is their
depository, must, I believe, be villanous secrets; and the secret of a
villain no one is bound to observe. You must further give me leave to
tell you, that, whatever a high-strained sense of honour might dictate
in that point, the fortune you possess is your own affair, and to
dissipate or not the mystery which hangs upon that is wholly at your
discretion. But I have already advanced as far, perhaps further, than
circumstances or propriety could justify, and there can now be no more
parley between us.”

“Monluc,” cried I, “I submit! However harsh your decision is as towards
me, however painful and unfortunate its consequences, I will admit it
to be that which duty prescribes to you. I struggle, I contend, no
further. One thing only I would willingly obtain of you, that you would
interpose your influence to obtain for me the society and intercourse
of my family. The transaction of this day will then be remembered by
me with respect towards you, and a melancholy regret that I could not
entitle myself to your esteem. I shall recollect with pleasure that I
owe something to the generosity of Monluc.”

“Incredible pertinacity!” exclaimed my visitor, with a voice of
perplexity and astonishment. “What am I to conceive of you? Under what
appearance shall I consider you in the records of my memory? Your
silence is the indication of guilt, and in that indication I ought to
acquiesce. Yet the fortitude of your manner, and something, I know not
what, of emotion, that your manner produces in my own bosom, would
fain persuade me you are innocent. Why will you leave me a prey to
this contention of thought? If all men, constituted as I am, were to
feel in you, as it were, the magnetism of innocence, shame, the simple
inference of understanding, and the general sense of mankind, would
oblige them to treat you as guilty. What I can however, be assured I
will cheerfully do for you. I cannot deliver you from prison, but I
will not fail to obtain the mitigation you ask. Farewell!”

Such was the issue of my interview with Monluc. It was clear that my
reputation was wounded beyond the power of remedy. While the question
had only been of a magistrate, haughty, supercilious, insolent and
unfeeling, I flattered myself that the harshness of the conclusions
that were drawn, might be ascribed to the depravity of his character.
But Monluc was the reverse of this man. He was not less generous and
heroic than the magistrate was gross and illiberal. His desire to
relieve me was not less apparent than the magistrate’s eagerness to
oppress. Yet his conclusion was the same, and was felt by me so much
the more bitterly, in proportion to the humanity, the kindness, the
intrepidity, and the virtue, of the man from whom it flowed. Virtue
and vice, barbarism and refinement, were equally engaged in the concert
against me, and there was no chance I should triumph in a contention
with so many enemies.

I might now be said to have reached the end of my adventure: I had
closed one grand experiment upon the donation of the stranger. What
had it produced to me? Not one atom of the benefits I anticipated; not
a particle of those advantages which a little while ago had made the
intoxications of my waking dreams. Its fruits had been distasteful and
loathsome. Whether I looked to my person, my family, or my fame, I had
felt in all the miserable effects of this treacherous and delusive
gift. My person was shut up in prison; and I was now to make an
experiment whether, by clandestine and secret proceedings, wealth could
restore to me the liberty of which wealth had deprived me. My family
was blasted; my wife was struck to the heart, and no mortal skill
could restore the wound she had suffered; my son was gone unaided into
voluntary exile, that he might shun the contagion of my follies; what
was I to do with the poor remains of my house, forlorn, dejected, and
wretched? The wound my good name had received, was of the most decisive
species. When I first encountered contumely at Dresden, and was called
on for explanation by Coligny, the difficulties of my condition struck
anguish to my soul. But what were they, compared with what had now
overtaken me? I was charged with robbery and murder, with every thing
that combines the whole species against the perpetrator, and determines
them, without sense of compunction, to extirpate him from the face of
the earth. Perhaps it was only by the courtesy of the laws of this
state, that I was permitted my choice between an ignominious death
and perpetual imprisonment. I might possibly indeed escape from my
confinement; I might pass into a distant country; I might be fortunate
enough to cut off all connection between my past and my future life,
and thus enter upon a new career. But this to a man of honourable
mind is a miserable expedient. With what feelings does he recollect,
that there is a spot where his name is abhorred, where a story is
told against him to excite the wonder of the ignorant, and the torpid
feelings of the sluggish soul, a story to darken with new infamy the
records of guilt, and to infect the imagination of the solitary man
with nameless horrors? To be the theme of such a tale, is no common
evil. No matter how far the man to whom it relates, shall remove from
the detested spot; the spot itself with all its chain of circumstances,
will often recur; the voices that repulsed and humbled him will ring
in his ear; the degraded figure he made will rise for ever fresh to
his imagination. He cannot ascend to any free and lofty sentiment; he
cannot attain the healthful tone of unblemished virtue; wherever he
goes, he carries the arrow of disgrace in his bosom, and, when he would
erect his head on high, it reminds him of the past, and stings him to
the heart.

If the consciousness of all this would have been painful to any other
man, what was it to me, who had been brought up from my infancy in
the opinion that fame was the first of all human possessions, and to
whom honour and an unimpeached integrity had ever been more necessary
than my daily food, or than the life which that food supported? What
would I not have given could I have returned to the situation in
which the inauspicious arrival of the stranger had found me? But that
was impossible. If all that I had recently passed through could but
have proved a dream, if I could have awakened and freed myself from
the phantoms of this horrible vision, how happy beyond all names of
happiness should I by such an event have been made! What a lesson would
it have taught me of the emptiness and futility of human wishes! What a
sovereign contempt would it have impressed upon me for wealth and all
its train of ostentation! How profound a feeling of contentment with
humble circumstances and a narrow station would it have produced in my
mind! Alas, the conception of those advantages and that peace was the
illusion, and not the evils I had sustained, and from which I could not
escape!



CHAPTER XXII.


Meanwhile it was necessary that I should make the best of the present
circumstances. My heart was wounded; my spirit was in a manner broken;
but not so utterly withered and destroyed as to make me rest supine in
perpetual imprisonment. I felt with equal conviction and pungency that
my character and my happiness had sustained the deepest injuries; but
I felt it incumbent on me to collect and improve the fragments that
remained. For some days indeed after the conference with Monluc, I
was sunk in the deepest dejection. But, as that dejection subsided, I
began to turn a steady attention upon the future. I recollected that
an eternal and inexhaustible gift deserved to be made the subject
of more than one experiment, before a decision was formed upon its
merits. I shall become wiser, said I, as I go forward. Experience,
however bitter, will teach me sagacity and discrimination. My next
experiment shall be made with more prudence and a soberer gradation.
I will remove to some distant country, where the disadvantages of my
past adventures shall not follow me. I will take a new name. I shall
then enjoy the benefit of a tyro just entering a scene, to all the
personages of which he is wholly unknown. I shall be like a serpent
that has stripped its tarnished and wrinkled skin, and comes forth in
all the gloss and sleekness of youth. Surely, in an unknown land, with
the prejudice of wealth in my favour, and no prejudices against me, I
shall know how to conduct myself so as to obtain honour and respect.
It is impossible that inexhaustible wealth and immortal youth, gifts
so earnestly coveted by every creature that lives, gifts which if I
were known to possess, my whole species from the mere impulses of envy
would probably combine to murder me, as not able to endure the sight of
one so elevated above his brethren,--it is impossible that such gifts
should not be pregnant with variety of joy.

Marguerite greatly contributed to raise me from the dejection, into
which my imprisonment and the conference of Monluc had sunk me. She
was my better genius. I had been so accustomed to receive consolation
from her lips in the most trying circumstances, that now the very
sound of her voice was able to smooth my wrinkled brow, and calm my
agitated spirit. I listened as to the sound of an angelic lyre; I
was all ear; I drank in the accents of her tongue; and, in the dear
delight, my cares were hushed, and my sorrows at an end. She talked to
me of her daughters, whom she represented as about to have no protector
but their father; she urged me to watch over them, and to take such
steps as should most conduce to their future virtue and happiness;
she pointed out the practicability of escape, and recommended to me
to fly to some distant country: the dreams of future prosperity from
the gifts of the stranger were not hers; they were all my own. It was
inexpressibly affecting at this time to receive consolation from her,
who had no consolation in her own breast, who had bid farewell to all
the gay attractions of the world, and talked familiarly of her death as
a thing certain to happen in no very long time. She had lost the purest
gratifications of the domestic scene; she had lost her son; her heart
was broken; yet with her dying accents she sought to dispel retrospect,
and inspire cheerfulness, in the breast of her husband.

The reader may perhaps imagine that I was something too sanguine,
when, surrounded with jailors and all the precautions of a prison, I
planned the nature and scene of my next residence exactly as if I had
been a person at large. But I took it for granted that the power of
money I possessed would easily unlock to me the gates of my captivity.
I believed that, upon the lowest calculation, personal liberty was
clearly included among the gifts of the stranger. Impressed with this
opinion, I fixed upon a negro, a servant of the prison, and who had the
keys of my apartment, as the subject of my pecuniary experiment. The
idea of applying to him had perhaps first occurred to me, from the mere
circumstance of my seeing him more frequently than any other attendant
of the prison. When I thought further of the matter, I judged, from
the meanness of his rank and his apparent poverty, that I could not
have chosen better. So far as related to the sum to be paid as the
price of my liberty, it was indeed indifferent to me, whether it were
large or small. I had however suffered so much from the inconsiderate
lavishing of wealth, that I had no inclination on the present occasion
to make ostentation of more than was necessary. But, what was of most
importance to me, I was desirous that my first experiment should be a
successful one. Though not unaware of the power of gold, I conceived
that, among persons of middling rank and easier circumstances, there
might be varieties of disposition, and I might be mistaken in my
choice. Some might have the whim of integrity, or might place a sturdy
sort of pride in showing that they were content with what they had,
and were too high for a bribe. There might be persons who, though of
plebeian rank, might value reputation as much as ever I had done, and
be of opinion that no advance of station could compensate for the name
or the consciousness of dishonour. These distinctions may seem an idle
and superfluous refinement, when it is considered that I had the power
of raising my bribe to the level of any man’s honesty or pride, be it
as great as it might; and it may be thought that my offer might be so
increased as to be too dazzling for mortal firmness to resist. Be that
as it will, I am merely stating the reflections that passed through my
mind, not entering into their vindication.

Taking the first opportunity then of accosting this man when he was
alone with me, I addressed him thus:--

“My good friend, are not you poor?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would not you readily do me a kindness?”

“If my master give me leave, I will.”

“You mistake me. Would you be my friend?”

“I do not know what you mean, sir. I have been used to call the man I
love my friend. If you mean that, you know I cannot choose whether I
will be a man’s friend; it comes of itself.”

“Can I not make you my friend?”

“That is, make me love you?”

I was surprised at the propriety of his answers. I am unable at this
distance of time to recall the defects of his language: and I disdain
the mimic toil of inventing a jargon for him suitable to the lowness
of his condition: the sense of what he said I faithfully report. I had
before been struck with a certain correctness of thinking in him; but
I now examined his countenance more attentively than I had ever before
done, and thought I could distinctly trace in it the indications of a
sound understanding and an excellent heart.

“I do not know, sir,” continued he. “If I see that you are a good man,
I believe I shall love you. But if it happened that you were good and
generous to me, I am sure I should love you very much.”

“You are very poor?”

“So they tell me. I never had more than a shilling or two at a time in
my life.”

“It is a very sad thing to be poor?”

“Why, yes, so I have heard, sir. But, for my own part, I am always
merry and gay.”

“My good fellow, I will make you rich.”

“Thank you, sir! But what good will that do me?”

“You are a servant: I will make you a master of servants.”

“Now, that I should not like at all. I am merry, because I am
light-hearted. If I had money, and property to take care of, and
servants to direct, I am afraid they would make me grave and
suspicious, and in every respect unlike what you see me.”

“Is it possible you should be pleased with your present situation,
under the orders of one man in a house, and obliged to play the tyrant
to the rest?”

“Why, as you say, sir, there may be more agreeable situations than the
life of a jail. But, as to being under orders, I have no objection to
that. I never knew any other condition, and therefore I am contented.
It is not pleasant indeed to have a master who is always scolding and
dissatisfied; but the gentleman I serve at present is reasonable; I
know how to content him, and, when I have done that, he leaves me to
please myself. You offer me money: now, sir, that is not what I call
being generous; I count nothing for much, except when a man shows me
has bowels, and convinces me that he thinks justice due even to a
negro. I dare say however you designed it for generosity, and expected
something from me in return. Tell me what it is you want, and whatever
I can do with propriety, you may depend on it I will.”

“Do you approve of a man’s being deprived of his liberty?”

“Will you please to tell me what you mean by liberty? You offered me
just now what you called liberty and independence; and I am content to
be a servant.”

“Would you be pleased, instead of being a turnkey, to have the key
turned on yourself?”

“That I should not. I understand the disagreeableness of that well
enough, for when I first entered this place, it was as a prisoner.”

“If then, my good fellow, you were convinced that I was a man disposed
to be generous to you in your own way, and to deserve your attachment
and love, surely you would not refuse to deliver me from a situation
which you have yourself felt to be so disagreeable and calamitous.”

“I understand you now, sir. I have already a master with whom I am
satisfied, and I do not wish to change my service. When I was a
prisoner, he found out that I was innocent; he got me cleared, and
gave me employment. I am put here for the express purpose of seeing
the prisoners in safe custody. That is the contract between me and my
master. When I took the keys, by that action I pledged myself to be
faithful to my trust; and the nobleness of my master’s behaviour to me
in removing me from being a prisoner to be a free servant, is a double
bond upon my fidelity. I would sooner consent to be torn limb from
limb, than fail in what is expected from me. You may be generous to a
harmless stranger; you have most reason to be generous to a man you
love; but, if you would heap benefits upon me merely because I proved
myself a villain, I can only say it would be disgraceful to be the
object of your favour.”

Thus saying, he quitted me, and withdrew from further parley. The
conversation in which we had engaged, though I had had considerable
experience in the world, was altogether new to me, and overwhelmed
me with astonishment. I found in this trial, that the power of
money was subject to limitations, of which previously I had not been
in the slightest degree aware. I thought that nothing but the most
extraordinary degree of resolution and self-denial could enable a man
to resist its enticements; and I had even been told, though I did
not believe, that every man had his price, and a bribe capable of
indefinite augmentation must be in all cases victorious. Yet here was
a poor creature utterly exempt from its operation. He had no sense of
those attractions, which so often degrade the best, and convert virtue
into the most shameless profligacy. It cost him no effort to be honest,
and he uttered sentiments that would have given lustre to the most
heroic character, without any consciousness of their greatness. What
I had seen, led me also to reflect on another singularity I discerned
in him. In the midst of the admirable, I had almost said the sublime,
integrity he discovered, (for is it not a criterion of the sublime
to be great without an effort?) he was destitute of knowledge, of
intellectual cultivation, and all those exquisite sensations that most
distinguish the man from the brute. He passed on quietly in the road
of ordinary life, and thought not of the ambition to be wise or great,
to be honoured by thousands, or a benefactor to ages yet unborn. Kings
might have confessed their inferiority to this man. But is he to be
regarded as the model of what a human creature should be wished to be?
Oh, no!

But the most memorable feeling impressed upon me by this conversation,
was a conviction of what I had been backward to confess, that knaves
were the persons to whose assistance and concert I must look, and that
I must be upon my guard against an honest man. No one was qualified to
be my coadjutor, till he had proved himself unworthy of all just and
honourable society. The friend I must seek, was a man whose very soul
melted at a bribe, whom money would seduce to perpetrate whatever his
judgment most abhorred. Honour and integrity in the most refined and
the rudest state, Monluc and the negro, both refused. It is impossible
to conceive a sensation more painful and humiliating, than was this
conviction to my mind.

I was not long at leisure for these reflections. In a few minutes the
master of the prison entered my apartment, and with him the negro whom
I had endeavoured to prevail on to assist in restoring me to liberty.
The master began to reproach me in very harsh terms for attempting to
seduce his servant from his duty, and asked me what sort of enjoyment
or satisfaction a man could have in life, if he could not depend
upon the people he put into his employment? To this I answered with
sternness, “that I should hold no debate about right and wrong with a
jailor; that he might depend upon it I would leave no stone unturned to
set myself free, and, what was more, that I would be free; and that,
for his part, it was his business to keep me if he could, but not to
insult me.” I therefore insisted upon his quitting the room.

“What use,” replied the fellow, “do you think now there is in putting
yourself in a passion? If I have not a right to speak to you, I know
what I have a right to do, put you in the strong room, and load you
with irons.”

I turned my back upon him. “And how came you,” said I to the negro, “to
go and betray me? I should have expected better things of you. If you
refused to serve me, at least you needed not have endeavoured to hurt
me.”

“I did nothing but my duty, sir. I have no wish to hurt you: but it is
my business, not merely to take care of my master’s interests myself,
but to see that they are not injured by any body else. If he was not
put on his guard, you might have been more successful with the next
turnkey you endeavoured to bribe.”

“You will find it more to your interest, monsieur,” interposed the
jailor, “to talk to me than to my servant. You are determined to be
free, you say. If that is the case, and it is to happen, who has so
good a right to benefit by your resolution as I have?”

My eyes were opened in a moment. I saw that the knave whose rigour and
sternness could not hold out against the warmth of a bribe, the friend
of whose assistance I was in want, stood before me.

“I do not wonder,” proceeded he, “that you preferred applying to one
of my servants. Their honesty must be expected to be had at a cheaper
market. But, for my part, I am determined that no man shall ever pass
these walls, without my being the richer. If then your escape is a
thing that must happen, let us see what you can afford to give me for
it.”

“Dear master,” interposed the negro, “you surely will not listen to the
gentleman’s offer. When I refused to betray my trust, it is impossible
you should consent to betray yours!”

“Hold your tongue, blockhead!” said the other. “Do not you see that
monsieur is determined to escape? I know he is rich. Though you have
refused a bribe, I am sure that all your fellows will not. The thing
will happen sooner or later in spite of every thing I can do; and there
can be no harm in my helping to bring about, what it is impossible I
should prevent.”

A morality like this seems exactly in its place in the breast of a
jailor. We had already made some progress in adjusting the terms of our
contract, when the keeper of the prison interposed:--

“But, monsieur, you will please to remark, that this is an affair which
will be attended with difficulty. Whatever passes between you and me
must be a secret. Your escape will be a thing open and notorious, and
you must have a confederate, that I may not bear the blame of it. You
must therefore take my black here along with you, that his flight may
cause all the blame to fall upon him.”

“O, pray, master,” said the negro, “do not part with me! I love you,
and will do any thing in the world, if you will let me stay. You saved
my life for aught I know, and made a man of me again; you cannot think
what good it does me to serve a master that has been so kind to me!”

“Get you gone!” replied his owner. “You are of no use to me; you are
not fit for a jail; you are so simple, I cannot tell what to do with
you!”

“Indeed I do not like to go with this gentleman; it will break my
heart. He said he would be generous and kind to me, if I turned a
villain; I shall never be able, and shall never desire to earn his
kindness: but you rewarded me because I was innocent. He said he would
make a master of me; and I am better as I am; I had much rather be a
servant.”

The difficulties of this poor fellow were soon silenced by the
peremptoriness of his master. The jailor told him that he would
do him a great service, by thus giving his master an opportunity
of representing him as the traitor; and, with this consideration,
the negro dried his tears, and with a reluctant heart consented to
accompany me. Thus were his exemplary fidelity and affection rewarded!
So little do some men seem capable of feeling the value of attachment!
The character of the master was a singular one. The meanness and
mercenariness of his spirit were unredeemed by a single virtue. He was
avarice personified. But he had found or imagined an interest in taking
this negro, who had been want only thrown into prison by a former
tyrant, for his servant; and this the poor fellow, in the simplicity of
his heart, had mistaken for an act of exalted generosity. His avarice
had swallowed up all his other passions; and his servants had neither
impatience nor insolence to encounter from him: weighed therefore
in the balance of the negro’s experience, he appeared a miracle of
mildness and benevolence.

Our bargain was at length concluded; and, the next time Marguerite
came to visit me, I announced to her the success of my negotiation.
Before we parted, we sent for the jailor, and discussed with him the
road I should take. My purpose was to pass into Italy; and Marguerite
undertook by midnight to have every thing prepared to convey us to
the foot of the mountains. This point being adjusted, the keeper of
the prison left us; and, tenderly embracing Marguerite, I besought
her to congratulate me upon the recovery of my liberty. She had heard
however of the infamous nature of the charge against me, and, though
she yielded it no credit, I could easily perceive that it rendered
yet heavier the depression under which she laboured. She returned
my embrace; the tears stole down her cheeks; but she was silent.
I endeavoured to divert her thoughts and re-animate her spirits,
by hinting at the new scenes before us, and the distant country to
which we were about to remove; but in vain. “I will not reproach you,
Reginald!” said she; “I will not desert my duty while I have power to
perform it; you may depend upon my doing every thing I am able both
for the children and yourself!”

She left me in a very melancholy frame of mind. I had not expected
to see her thus languid and disconsolate; and upon the eve of my
liberation, I felt it like caprice. Incomparable woman! She was
incapable of giving intentional pain: but, with her exquisitely
susceptible mind, she was unable to support the dreadful reverse in
which I had involved her, or even at times to assume the gestures of
cheerfulness and tranquillity; gestures that, at the best, but ill
disguised the grief within!

I was busily reflecting on what had just occurred, when the keeper of
the prison re-entered my apartment. “I am come, monsieur,” said he, “to
take my leave of you. As I do not at all intend to lose my place, it is
not proper that I should see you any more. You understand me?”

Two days had already elapsed since the conclusion of our contract, and
I had provided myself for this and such other demands as seemed likely
to be immediately impending. I should have preferred indeed to have
delayed this payment till the moment of my departure: but what the
jailor suggested appeared reasonable; and I could not assign, even to
my own mind, any cause why I should be reluctant to comply with it. I
paid to this wretch the price of his villany.

I now began to count the hours, and eagerly to anticipate the arrival
of midnight. Though the moment of my liberty was so near, I yet
contemplated with unspeakable loathing the scene of my confinement,
which was associated with the deepest disgrace and the blackest charges
that are incident to a human creature. I felt as if, in proportion as I
removed from the hated spot, I should at least shake off a part of the
burthen that oppressed me, and grow comparatively young again.

Time was far from moving indeed with the rapidity my impatience
required; but the hour of appointment at last was near, and I expected
every moment the faithful negro to appear, and announce to me my
freedom. The cathedral bell now sounded twelve; I heard the noise of
steps along the gallery; and presently a key was applied to the door
of my apartment. It opened; and three persons, whom I knew for servants
of the prison, entered.

“Come, sir,” said one of them; “you must follow me.”

“Where is my friend the negro?” said I.

“Ask no questions; speak never a word; but come.”

It was strange that the master of the prison, whose temper was so full
of anxiety and caution, should unnecessarily trust three of his people,
who might easily have been kept ignorant of this hazardous secret!
This circumstance however did not strike me at first so strongly as it
ought to have done. I had perfect confidence in his fidelity to his
profligate bargain, and expected every moment to meet the negro who was
to be my guide. My conductors led me by a way which I soon perceived
did not lead to the ordinary entrance of the prison.

“Where are we going?” said I.

“Hold your tongue, or you will spoil all;” replied one of them roughly.

I bethought me that there might be an objection to the dismissing me by
the public gate; I recollected to have heard that there were several
subterranean outlets to the citadel; I judged from the words I had
just heard that my conductors were acquainted with the plan that had
been formed; and for all these reasons I proceeded with tolerable ease
and security. I was not much longer however permitted to doubt. I was
conducted to one of the dungeons of the prison, and told that there I
was to remain. At first I remonstrated loudly, and told them “that I
had been promised my liberty, and not a treatment like this.”

“We know that, sir,” replied they, “and that is the reason you are
brought here. It is our business to teach you that the greatest offence
that can be committed by a man in prison is to attempt to escape.”

The shock and surprise that so unexpected an issue to my adventure
produced, rendered me outrageous. I was no longer able to control my
fury; and, without knowing what I proposed, I knocked down two of my
attendants before they had an opportunity to secure me, and rushed
up the flight of steps by which we had descended. The third however
contrived to intercept me; and, while we struggled, the other two came
to his assistance. They loaded me with fetters and chained me to the
wall. I was then left in utter darkness.

I felt myself sore with the bruises I had received in the contest;
but what was infinitely worse, I found the expectations of freedom I
had so confidently entertained, baffled and disappointed. Marguerite
and my children were at this moment waiting for me to join them. They
would probably wait hour after hour in vain. To what cause would they
attribute my failing of my appointment? To what cause was I myself to
attribute my miscarriage? My hopes in this instance had been in the
utmost degree sanguine; what was I to count upon for the future? Was
money useless in every instance in which mankind agreed to think its
power unquestionable? What was the source of the present catastrophe
and the harsh treatment I endured? Was the keeper of the prison
discovered, and dismissed from his office? Had the negro gone and given
information against him? I formed a thousand conjectures as to what
might have happened; but I was unable to rest in any.

I had remained about twelve hours in this situation, full of angry
and disconsolate thoughts, when the principal jailor entered my
dungeon. I looked at him with astonishment; the cloud vanished from my
understanding, and I began to comprehend the solution of the enigma.

“Are you at large?” cried I, with indignation: “why then am I here?”

“You are here by my orders.”

“Execrable villain!” said I. “Did you not promise me my freedom?
Have you not received the price of it? How dare you show yourself in
my presence?” As I spoke, I shook my chains, I clenched my fists, I
trembled with resentment and rage.

“If you are not perfectly quiet and reasonable,” said he, “I shall
leave you to your fate and return no more.”

Nothing is more singular in a state of great mental effervescence, than
the rapidity with which our ideas succeed each other. At such times we
seem to think more in minutes than at other times in hours. I felt
how miserable a slave a man is, the moment he falls completely into
the power of another. The wretch who stood before me was more vacant
of human affections than any one I ever saw. Yet I was his creature,
to be moulded as he pleased. A thousand injuries he could inflict upon
me, for which neither the institutions of society nor the extraordinary
endowments I derived from the stranger could afford a remedy. He might
so torture my mind and baffle my wishes, as to kill in me every spark
of lofty adventure and generous pride. My liberty might, for aught I
knew, be for years at his disposal. I felt however that my best course
was to regard him with contempt, and use him as I would a spade or
a file, to execute my purposes, without suffering him to awaken my
passions. I immediately grew more calm, and he perceived the revolution
of my sentiments.

“You seem to wonder,” continued he, “that I did not keep my engagement
with you? I pride myself upon being superior to the prejudices, by
which other men are frightened, like children with a bugbear. I have
therefore no rule but my interest: and I did not see how my interest
bound me to keep my engagement with you.”

“And what became of the countess?”

“I neither know nor care. I suppose she stayed all night under the
walls; I knew she durst not disturb the prison.”

I felt I had still emotions to suppress. I curbed my tongue, but they
showed themselves in my eyes.

“How do you intend to dispose of me?”

“Keep you in close custody. I have got your thousand pounds; the next
thing for me to take care of is, that I do not lose my place.”

“And for what purpose do you come to me now?”

“Why to tell you a secret, I have not quite determined what conduct
to pursue, and therefore I came here that I might have a better
opportunity of judging.”

“Are you not afraid that I should inform the government how you have
cheated me?”

“You inform! Have not I got you under lock and key? I warrant you, I
will take care what goes out of these walls to the government.”

“The countess has a licence to visit me.”

“What care I for that? I can keep her at bay as long as I will. She
will not easily go to the government; and she is not such a fool as
not to know, that to lodge a complaint against me, is not the way to
procure the liberty of a man condemned to perpetual imprisonment. I
can at any time trump up a story of your attempting to corrupt the
turnkeys, and be sure, when I do, I will not want for proofs. That will
cover any thing I can do to annoy you, and answer any accusation you
can make against me. Do you think that the word of a jailor will not be
taken, before that of the murderer he has in custody?”

“I can bring your own servants as witnesses, three of whom assaulted me
last night.”

“Dunce, do you think I trusted them with my secret? They have nothing
to tell, and apprehend nothing but a plot between you and my black,
who has been put into the penitentiary for his offence. He is my only
confident; and I trust him, because his stupidity answers to me for his
faith.”

“Suppose I were to double the bribe for which you sold me my liberty,
what security should I have that you would abide by your bargain?”

“Oh, if you were to do that, it would alter the case.”

“Might you not then detain the money, and defy me, as you have done
now?”

“Suppose that a thing which might happen: can you help yourself? can
you do better?”

I saw there was no remedy, and I was constrained to allow the success
of this twofold perfidy. It was with an ill grace, and an attempt at
sullenness and indifference, that the jailor accepted my proposal.
The second thousand however had irresistible charms; and, in spite of
himself, the sensation that made his heart dance, relaxed his muscles,
and played about his mouth. He was puzzled what to think of me. The
facility with which I produced the sums he demanded, with less apparent
effort than they might have come from a duke or a sovereign prince,
startled and staggered him. He had still his qualms, and evidently
doubted whether he should not raise his price a third time. I saw no
safety but in pertinacity and firmness, and had the good fortune
ultimately to check his doubtful, half-formed experiments.

I was led by the accidents which have just been related, into further
and deeper reflections on the power of money, as well as on the nature
of the situation in which I found myself placed by the legacy of the
stranger. My present experiment had been made upon a subject apparently
the most favourable that could have been devised, upon a man whose
breast the love of gold occupied without a rival: yet with this man
I very hardly succeeded. I was not indeed so blinded by the present
dejection of my spirit and sickness of my heart, as to imagine that I
had not a secure game with this base-minded wretch, if I consented to
play it. I had only to enlarge my bribe, to change it from the limited
sum of two thousand pounds to the more brilliant offer of two thousand
per annum, and no doubt I might have led him with me to the extremity
of the globe. However he might have demurred, however he might have
doubted, however curiosity, whetted even to agony by the goadings
of avarice, might have prompted him to an incessant enquiry within
himself as to the solution of my character and my powers, his grasping
spirit would infallibly have chained his tongue, and been surety for
his fidelity. But I could not yet prevail upon myself to endow such
groveling and noxious propensities with so rich a reward. I considered,
in the language of the stranger, that the talent I possessed was of the
most momentous nature, and bestowed by the governor of the universe for
the highest purposes; and I should have held myself unjustifiable in
enriching by its means, however urgent the necessity might appear, the
most worthless of mankind.

The sentiments of my tyrant varied every hour; he was fickle, anxious,
and undetermined; harassed with the double fear of losing the sum
already obtained, and of not securing the whole of what was capable
of being acquired. He parted with me at last with all the pangs of a
lover, who witnesses the ceremony of his mistress’s taking the monastic
veil, and being sundered from him for ever. I was his Fortunatus’s
purse, and this was the last day he was to enjoy the use of it; I was
to him as the buried treasure of some long-forgotten hoarder, and
he feared he should quit his digging before he had carried off every
thing that the field concealed. At length however he began to apprehend
that he had urged the refinement of an unprincipled avarice as far
as it would go; and therefore in a few days, the negro being already
discharged from his penance, he suffered us to escape together.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Having rejoined the remainder of my family, we set out together for
the plains of Italy. My first interview with Marguerite after my
return from Dresden had been melancholy. But our situation was now
such as to give additional anguish to her serious thoughts. She had
then regarded me as ambiguous, mysterious, and impenetrable, qualities
from which the frankness of her nature spontaneously revolted; she saw
in me the destroyer of her son, the idol of her heart; she believed
me an alchymist, a character which she viewed as base, degrading, and
insensible; she had heard that rumour had been busy with my fame. But
now she saw in me a man of blasted reputation, arraigned and imprisoned
for robbery and murder. She did not credit these imputations. But did
the ingenuous and noble-minded Marguerite de Damville ever think to
find herself allied to a being thus loaded with the world’s abhorrence;
that she should be compelled to honour with the sacred name of husband
a fugitive, a prison-breaker, and an outlaw? If I had suffered these
things in the defence of my children, my religion, or my country,
the case would have been widely different. If, while encountering
the contempt of men, I had carried within me the glorious feeling,
that what they regarded as my disgrace was indeed my immortal honour,
Marguerite de Damville, beyond all women, was prepared to despise their
senseless blame, and proudly to demand her share in such a dishonour.

I know there are men who will listen with fretful impatience to a
detail of such sorrows as hers, and who will cry out, “If we must be
distressed, give us more substantial and genuine sources of distress!”
They will regard the dejection of Marguerite as an idle wilfulness of
grief, better entitled to aversion than to sympathy; and will tell me
that nothing but the most deplorable blindness could have prevented her
from discerning the happiness of her condition; that she had the world
before her, a rich, a brave, and an enterprising husband, with a lovely
family of children; that they could move from country to country,
and from climate to climate, carrying with them the means of luxury,
indulgence, homage, and usefulness. To such moralisers I write not. For
those who are incapable of sympathising with the delicate sensations of
Marguerite, I am as little qualified to enter into their feelings as
they into mine. In the sequel of the story however it is not impossible
they may meet with their gratification. I am hastening to events
corporeal and palpable. I and my family did wander from country to
country, and from climate to climate. With what resulting success will
speedily be seen.

Our destination at the present moment led us through the territory
of the Grisons, and over a limb of the Rhetian Alps, to Como, Milan,
Piacenza, Parma, and Pisa, in the neighbourhood of which latter city
we resolved to take up our immediate residence. In this passage we
met with few adventures that merit to be recorded in my history. One
however seems entitled to a place, both as it tends to display the
singular worth of a dumb and unpretending brute, and as it is in some
sort connected with the fortunes I encountered in the Pisan territory.
It occurred in our journey over the Alps.

One evening, in the wildest and most desolate part of the mountain,
after having lodged my family in an inn, I wandered forth to take a
survey of the neighbouring scenery. It was moonlight; our travel of the
day had been short, and had left on me no impression of fatigue; while
the romantic appearance of every thing around, tempted me to extend my
excursion further than I had originally purposed. Stories of robberies
and murders in the vicinity had been repeated to us, and Marguerite had
employed the precaution of desiring Hector, such was the name which
the caprice of his former masters had bestowed on my faithful negro,
to follow my steps and hold me in sight. No anticipations of danger
however disturbed my contemplations. I resigned myself, as all my life
I had been accustomed to do, to the impressions of the moment, and
sought to shut out memory and the world from all my thoughts. The scene
was inexpressibly beautiful; the silence was uninterrupted and awful.
The splendour of the moon gave a sober and silvery tint to every thing
by which its light was caught; soft white clouds were scattered in the
deep azure of the sky; the shades were of a blackness and profundity
that could not be surpassed. Every thing was calculated to soothe
and subdue the mind, to inspire a grand and expansive tranquillity.
The enthusiasm it spoke occupied every channel of my heart. I stood
still. It seemed as if motion would have jarred and broken the spell
that seized me; I yielded with eager transport to the sentiment that
shrowded and enveloped me in its ample embrace.

I had remained motionless for above half an hour, when a sudden and
eager sound burst upon my ear. It seemed to be the shriek of some
human creature in distress. It was repeated several times. My first
impulse was to fly to the spot from which the sound appeared to
proceed. Meanwhile Hector came up to me, and endeavoured to detain me
by violence. His first principle was obedience to every just and lawful
command; and the errand upon which he was commissioned, was to preserve
me from the approach of danger. He represented to me the stories of
banditti we had recently heard. He told me that we should too probably
fall in with a numerous party of these desperadoes, against whom all
our efforts, either for ourselves or for those I was desirous to
succour, would be nugatory. What would become of my children? what
would become of his mistress, if my rashness were succeeded by a fatal
event? While he was thus speaking, and exerting himself to detain me,
the cries ceased. I believed they were those of a person assassinated.
I conceived that I should be the vilest of poltroons if I suffered
any consideration to prevent me from endeavouring to afford to this
unfortunate the relief in my power.

I had not advanced far, before I perceived coming towards us, in the
same direction from which the sound had reached my ear, a dog, entirely
black, and of uncommon stature and strength. He was alone. Having
caught sight of us, he increased his pace, and had no sooner reached
the spot on which we stood, than he seized the flap of my coat, and
pulled it with considerable violence. I was somewhat alarmed at his
size and action, the latter of which I apprehended to have a hostile
design; and, having shaken him off, I put myself in a posture of
defence with a cane that I carried in my hand. Undeterred however by my
gesture, he returned to the attack, only pulling with something less
exertion of strength than he had done before. More accurate attention
convinced me that he had no intention to injure me, and I withheld
the action of Hector, who had raised his hand to strike in defence
of his master. I suffered him to guide me; and, after a considerable
circuit which the nature of the road obliged us to take, he led me to
a spot where I found a man lying on the ground, and weltering in his
blood, but with no person near, to whom to impute the violence he had
sustained.

His blood flowed copiously from two or three different wounds, one of
them in particular near his left breast; and my first care was to stop
the effusion. For this purpose we stripped him of his clothes, and tore
his linen into bandages. When we found him, he was insensible; but the
anguish of binding his wounds revived him a little, though only enough
to extort from him sighs and groans. This accomplished, I dismissed
Hector to the inn to procure something in the nature of a litter,
by which he might more easily be conveyed within reach of effectual
assistance.

I was now left for six hours with no other companions than the wounded
gentleman and his dog, upon the very spot upon which he had just
before sustained so ferocious a treatment, probably from the hands of
banditti. They might every moment be expected to return. This was no
agreeable notion to a person circumstanced as I was. I was compelled
to feel that a man possessed of boundless and illimitable wealth,
and of the power of repelling old age and disease, did not in these
advantages possess every thing. Notwithstanding the disappointments
and mortifications I had sustained, I was yet attached to life: and
though the bequests of the stranger had hitherto produced to me nothing
but evil, I still looked, with almost puerile eagerness and beating
of heart, for the time when I might spread out the whole extent of
my treasures without parsimony or the dread of reverse. During the
interval which I employed in these reflections, the wounded man was for
the most part in a state of insensibility, and constantly speechless.
I expected his death every moment, and I perceived, as I thought
with certainty, that there was no hope of his recovery. While we had
dressed his wounds, the dog had watched our motions with the most
restless attention, and, now that it was over, he came and licked my
hands, and laid himself down at my feet. The least motion however, so
much as a rustling among the leaves, startled him: he rose, looked
round, and seemed to enquire into the cause of the disturbance; but he
abstained from barking and every kind of noise; whether it were that
he was conscious of the advantage of quiet to a person in his master’s
condition, or that he had the sense to know, in the situation in which
we were placed, that whatever produced alarm, might eventually expose
us to undiscovered danger.

It was broad daylight before Hector re-appeared, and several other
persons in his company. Hector was not of a temper to have receded
from any thing he undertook, and the authority of Marguerite had in
this instance seconded his remonstrances with the surly and inactive
peasants of the place. I had at this time only one other male servant;
but, when Hector returned, he brought with him a crazy kind of litter,
and a recruit of four mountaineers. The wounded man still lived, and
was conveyed alive to the place at which I had taken up my lodging.
He survived three days; and, during the whole of that period, the dog
could neither be moved by force, nor prevailed on by entreaties, to
quit the apartment of his master. Before his death my unfortunate guest
recovered the power of speech. He told me that his name was Andrea
Filosanto, and, which struck me as somewhat extraordinary, that he
was of Pisa, the very place at which I purposed to take up my abode.
He had a brother resident in that city, and had himself been about to
marry a very beautiful and accomplished young lady, an heiress, of the
house of Carracciuoli in Pisa. Previously to his marriage, he resolved
to make a visit to his mother, who had espoused to her second husband a
French nobleman of Languedoc. He had travelled accompanied only by one
servant, contrary to the persuasions both of his brother and the family
of his intended bride; but that servant, though he had been a very
short time in his employment, was active, ingenious, and obliging, and
had established himself strongly in the favour of his master. Signor
Filosanto had taken with him a sum of money, the produce of one year’s
income of the dower of his mother; and it was but too probable that
the richness of the charge he bore, had been fatal to the life of the
bearer. His servant had disappeared from his side not a quarter of an
hour before his being attacked by the banditti; and various concurring
circumstances seemed to fix on this servant the accusation of being
an accomplice with the murderers. Having heard from the unfortunate
sufferer the tale of treachery of his human attendant, I related to
him the extraordinary example of fidelity and attachment shown by his
dog. The master was struck with the story I told, and called the dog
to him upon his bed. The poor animal first leaped up upon the foot of
the bed, and then warily and with great caution crawled to his master’s
face. Filosanto embraced the dog, who by his manner showed himself
fully sensible of the purport of the action. That very evening, having
requested me to convey his remains to the tomb of his ancestors at
Pisa, the master expired. The dog in dumb and constant grief watched
by the corpse, and followed the vehicle in which it was conveyed to
Pisa. After the funeral, he made the choice, from which he could not
be diverted, of living with me, and not with the brother and relations
of his master, to whom he was almost wholly a stranger, but who would
gladly have received him. One of the advantages I derived from this
adventure, was the friendship and protection of the Filosanti and
Carracciuoli, two of the most powerful families in Pisa.

I have not yet finished the history of my dog. A few months after our
establishment in the Pisan territory, the valet of the deceased had the
audacity to appear in that city. He believed himself to be entirely
unknown there, his master having taken him into his service during his
residence as a student in the university of Bologna; and having ordered
him, previously to his projected tour into France, to stay behind and
settle his debts and other affairs at that place. He found however an
adversary in Pisa that in all his anticipations had never occurred to
his thoughts. The dog saw him at a distance in the street, ran towards
him with incredible swiftness, and fell upon him with savage violence
and ferocity. The man was not extricated from his grip, till he had
been severely and dangerously wounded. Thus assailed, all the terrors
of superstition and an accusing conscience seized on this devoted
villain; he owned who he was, and confessed that he had made one among
the assassins and plunderers of his master, visible probably to the
dog, though unseen by the unfortunate Filosanto. He declared, that he
knew not what motive had brought him to Pisa, that he seemed to himself
under the guidance of an impulse which he had not power to resist,
and that he rejoiced that Providence had thus conducted him to the
expiation of his guilt. He was brought to his trial, and suffered death
for his crime.

Charon, such was the name by which my dog was distinguished, showed
himself in all his actions worthy of the character for attachment and
sagacity which he had in these instances acquired. He was therefore
the favourite of my whole family, and particularly of Hector. But his
own partiality was with the nicest discrimination reserved for me.
The ruling passion of his preceding master had been the sports of
the field, and his leading singularity an uncommon familiarity and
friendship towards his brute attendants. By this conduct he had won
the affections, and perhaps awakened the understanding and virtues,
of the faithful Charon. I own my weakness. I could not resist the
assiduities and regard of this generous brute; and, though I had never
before conceived any extraordinary partiality for creatures of his
species, his sagacity and nobleness of nature took a strong hold of my
affection. I admired his form and agility as he bounded and gamboled
before me upon the plain. In the midst of his gayest frolics he was all
attention, and the least sign I made him would instantly divert his
exertions to a different pursuit. He was accustomed to salute me with
honest, undesigning homage every morning as I came from my chamber, and
I should have missed his presence with heaviness of heart upon this
plain and homely occasion. He was the associate of my solitary walks,
and my companion when pensive meditations induced me to withdraw from
all human society. I became accustomed at such periods to observe him
by my side, and should have felt that all was not right if he were
not there. I was interested in his health, his well-being and his
enjoyments; and, if any calamity befell him, was prepared to feel it
more severely than a wise man is sometimes willing to confess.--It
would scarcely be necessary to add to this simple history of my
faithful Charon, the circumstance of his having saved the life of a
beautiful little boy of ten years old, who had unluckily slipped into
the Arno, and whom he seized by his garments and drew to the shore,
had it not some connection with what I shall speedily have occasion to
relate.



CHAPTER XXIV.


To return to the thread of my narrative, which in stating these
particulars I have in some points anticipated.--I sat down, as I have
already said, in the environs of the city of Pisa. Marguerite, as
well as myself, had a powerful attachment to the retirement of rural
life, and I judged it equally eligible for the health and intellectual
improvement of my daughters. I accordingly purchased a small domain,
delightfully situated, but of simple appearance, on the banks of
the Arno. Here I proposed to remain during the indisposition of my
wife, which I flattered myself retirement, tranquillity, attention
and kindness, would in no long time be able to cure. To this object
I resolved to devote my exertions. Well did she merit this return
from me, who had restored me in the guilty ruin of my fortunes, and
raised me from the abyss of insanity. Odious and detestable in the
utmost degree should I have appeared in my own eyes, if I could have
neglected any means I was able to devise, to heal a mischief of which
my own precipitation, selfishness, and folly were the only causes.
Every little, continual, nameless care I exerted, was as a drop of
healing balm to the burning fever and remorse of my conscience.
Nothing indeed could eradicate my distemper; I felt the ever-living
worm of perpetrated guilt gnawing at my heart. But my solicitudes for
Marguerite, at least during the moments they were in action, mitigated
my anguish; and this transitory relief, however insignificant it may
appear in the eyes of others, I cherished beyond the wealth of kingdoms.

Marguerite and myself appeared at this time to have changed characters.
She was languid, indisposed in body and mind, her thoughts gloomy, her
hopes blasted, her wishes bankrupt. Still however she maintained her
superiority to what I had been in a similar condition. She endeavoured
to make the best of what yet remained to her, though she declined
the vain attempt of forgetting what she had lost. She hung over her
daughters with inexpressible endearment. She consoled them; she
reasoned with them; she endeavoured to steel their minds for whatever
ill might be yet in store. She cultivated their understandings; she
breathed into them mingled sentiments of resignation and energy. There
was in her conversation with them a striking tone of celestial and
divine. Her eloquence was copious; her manner rich, unaffected, and
flowing; her speech simple, free from exaggeration and turbulence,
but mild, affectionate, and winning. It sank deep into the hearts
of her hearers, and seemed to give a new turn to their tempers
and disposition. It rendered the character of Julia at once more
distinctive, and yet more chastised; it inspired an unwonted mildness
and sensibility to that of Louisa; and rendered the cadette of the
family unusually grave, thoughtful, and sedate.

But upon me were devolved the more active occupations of our
establishment. Marguerite had formerly been, I was now, the steward.
Every kind of superintendence, from which the distinction of sex did
not unavoidably exclude me, was resigned to me by the lovely victim of
my indiscretions. Marguerite had been my nurse, I was now ambitious
to be hers. I made myself the schoolmaster of my children; Marguerite
confined her communications to general topics and the culture of the
heart. I initiated them in music, drawing, geography, several different
languages of Europe, and in every accomplishment that I believed would
be really ornamental or improving to them. I might, it is true, have
hired different masters to instruct them in each of these branches,
and it is not impossible that they might then have been better taught,
though I was myself no incompetent preceptor. But I had an honest
artifice for my guide in the plan I adopted: I was desirous of removing
out of the sight of my wife every thing that might remind her of the
fatal legacy, the effects of which she was induced so bitterly to
deplore. In some particulars I may affirm of myself that I was now
a better and a kinder husband, than I had been in the days of our
gayest prosperity, or the scene of our infant loves. I studied with
assiduity the temper of Marguerite; I watched her looks; I endeavoured
to anticipate her every wish. I meditated with care the plan of life,
which her simple and feeling heart, if solely consulted, would have
led her originally to have chosen; and I copied out in the whole
arrangement of our household the idea painted in my mind. Far from us
were now the ostentation and pomp of the family-château on the banks
of the Garonne. We lived now, not to awaken admiration and envy in the
bosom of guests and spectators: we lived for ourselves. Every thing was
elegant; every thing was tasteful; but not an article found its place
in our residence, that did not rest its claim to be there upon a plea
of usefulness. Though, by the nature of my situation, I was superior to
all restraint from a consideration of expense, yet our competent board
and orderly habitation approached nearer in their appearance to the
honest plainness of a rustic, than to the sumptuousness of hereditary
nobility. A table set out with striking propriety and neatness was
preferred to the richness of plate and the splendour of porcelain and
lustres. I was anxious that Marguerite should forget the change of our
situation and the extent of my resources. The objects of my present
pursuit were obscurity and content. That Marguerite might forget my
acquisition, I was studious to appear to have forgotten it myself. If a
stranger had entered our habitation, and surveyed our economy, he would
have judged that our revenues amounted to a decent competence, and that
we disbursed them with a judicious discretion. Nothing was to be seen
that would have betrayed the possessor of the powder of projection.

We had no guests. We cultivated no acquaintance. We were formed to
suffice to each other within our little circle; and, but for the
importunate recurrence of disquieting reflections, we should have
done so. To look at the exterior of our household, it might have been
thought that we had arrived at that sweet forgetfulness of anxious
care, that delicious leisure and unbroken retreat, which have in all
ages been the theme of panegyric to poets and philosophers. But it
was not so. Our reciprocal relations were changed; and the hope of
the house of St. Leon was no longer in the midst of us, to cheer, to
enlighten, and to warm our bosoms.

A life of leisure is often an active and a busy life. The grand, I
might almost say the single, object of present attention to me, was
the restoration of the health and tranquillity of Marguerite. For that
I watched with unwearied assiduity. Subordinate to this occupation
were the different arts and accomplishments in which I instructed my
daughters. Yet neither the former nor the latter of these engagements
filled up all the time of a mind so restless and rapid as mine was.
Intervals occurred, in which my attentions to Marguerite would have
been, not soothing, but troublesome, and in which I could no longer
impart a lesson to my daughters, without relaxing and weakening the
spring of progression in their minds. These intervals I sometimes
dedicated to chemistry and the operations of natural magic. The more
effectually to hide these pursuits from the eye of Marguerite, I
occupied, unknown to her, a sort of grotto, buried almost from human
observation in a hollow on the banks of the river, and which was
connected, by a winding path and a concealed subterranean passage,
with the garden of my own habitation. The secrets of the stranger had
given me a particular relish for this kind of pursuit. There are habits
of the mind and modes of occupying the attention, in which, when once
we have engaged, there seems a sort of physical impossibility of ever
withdrawing ourselves. This was my case in the present instance. My
habit was of no long standing. But no reading of my story, no mere
power of language and words, can enable a bystander to imagine how
deep it was sunk into my heart, how inextricably it was twisted with
all the fibres of my bosom. That he may in some degree enter into my
situation, I entreat the reader to consider what are the most imperious
passions of the human mind. They have rudely been described to be
wealth, power, and pleasurable sensation. How alluring to every one
of us are the visionary conceptions of the mind respecting these most
potent excitements! But mine were no visions. I had grasped them in
my hand, and known their reality. I had felt that the wealth of the
whole world was at my disposal, and that I held my life by a tenure
independent and imperial. These are not of the class of conceptions
that fade and perish from the mind. We cannot wake from them as from
a dream, and forget that ever such things were. They had changed the
whole constitution of my nature. It would have required a miracle,
greater than all the consecrated legends of our church record, to have
restored me to what I formerly was. If then I could have resolved never
henceforth to use the gifts I had received, I yet firmly believe that
I never could have refrained from the composition and decomposition of
simples, and from experiments on the nature of substances, chemical
and metallic. I was however far from having formed any such resolution
as that I have named. My present forbearance to bring forth the secret
treasure of my powers was purely an accommodation to the unhappy
condition of my wife; and I felt it as a meritorious exertion thus to
postpone the use of the faculties I possessed. In the mean time the
amusement I sought, that I regarded as properly and entirely my own,
consisted in these experiments. While I was busied with my crucible, I
was able more vividly to present to myself my seeming superiority to
the rest of my species. I used the employments of my grotto, as a sort
of starting-post from which to set forth in a series of intoxicating
reveries; not to mention that to improve in the facility of my secret
operations might become a valuable subsidiary to the pursuits of my
future life.

I took occasionally as my companion at these periods the negro of the
prison of Constance. I found him sufficiently adapted for my purpose;
his innocence and implicit obedience to whomever he served, rendering
me secure that he would anticipate nothing, that he would conjecture
nothing, that he would rest in what he saw, that I might almost
exhibit my whole process under his eye, without once awakening the
busy fiend of curiosity in a mind to which science had never unveiled
her charms. He was formed to be a pure, passive machine in the hands
of his employer, only with this singular difference from the lifeless
machine of the engineer or mechanical inventor, that he was susceptible
of attachment and affection, as well as of a certain species of
contentment and a certain species of goodness and virtue.

A feature of my individual character which has already frequently
presented itself to the attention of the reader is the love of
admiration and spontaneous deference. I am at this moment ashamed of
my vices and my follies; but it must be recollected, in the first
place, that they are human, and in the second that I am writing, not
their vindication, but their history. In the midst of my experiments
and chemical lucubrations, I could not help sometimes ostentatiously
exhibiting to Hector the wonders of my art, and those extraordinary
effects which have in all ages drawn upon the more eminent operators of
natural magic the reproach of being necromancers and conjurers. This I
did, partly perhaps that my attendant might learn to look up to me with
a kind of nameless respect and awe, but partly also that I might divert
myself with the simplicity of his nature, and the gaping and motionless
astonishment with which he viewed my performances. If I had not done
this, or digressed into idle and ostentatious experiments, he would
otherwise have seen enough, in the operations in which his assistance,
if not absolutely necessary, was extremely convenient, to have induced
a person, so void of the meanest European information, to regard me as
assisted by and in league with invisible powers.

The prejudice against me, with which this poor fellow had been
impressed at the commencement of our intercourse did not long hold out,
in his ingenuous mind, against the more favourable sentiments which my
present situation and mode of living were calculated to inspire. The
specimens he had hitherto seen of European society were of the most
unfavourable kind. His first master was a wretch of brutal disposition,
ferocious and insolent; disdaining to reason himself, and impatient of
remonstrance in others. This man had exercised the temper of his humble
and honest attendant with every variety of savage caprice; and, having
tired the restlessness of his own gloomy tyranny, without being able to
exhaust the modest and unexampled patience of his servant, had finished
by throwing him into gaol, upon a wanton and groundless charge of
dishonesty. This, which was intended as a further exercise of tyranny,
deserved to be hailed by the poor sufferer as a period of jubilee and
deliverance. His innocence, as I have already related, was speedily
recognised by his new task-master, who accordingly exerted himself to
obtain justice for the friendless victim; and from a reputed thief
proposed to elevate him to the rank of a turnkey. Hector had neither
kindred nor patron to assist him; the outcast of a gaol, he must again
have entered the world with a blasted character. Thus circumstanced,
and influenced beside by gratitude to the unlooked-for liberality of
his deliverer, he willingly accepted the situation proposed to him.
With his new master, who, not less unprincipled, was less tyrannical
than his predecessor, the humbleness of his hopes taught him to be
contented. Yet in the bosom of the gaoler all his fidelity and regard
could not enable him to detect one positive virtue; and, within the
walls of the prison, there had existed nothing that could by any
possibility cherish and refresh the human heart.

The scene presented to Hector’s observation in our little retreat, on
the banks of the Arno, was of a very different nature. To his frank
and affectionate spirit, it appeared a perfect paradise. He had yet
scarcely been acquainted with any but the refuse of mankind, from the
infection of whose vices his unapprehensive and invincible simplicity
had been his only safeguard; and he was now suddenly introduced to
the presence and intercourse of the most perfect of her sex. He loved
her as a benefactor, and he worshipped her as a god. There is no
receipt for begetting affection in others, so infallible as a warm
and susceptible heart. Hector accordingly soon became in a remarkable
degree the favourite of my daughters. His temper was naturally cheerful
and gay; and, warmed by their encouragement, it became a thousand
times more so. When he had completed the occupations of the day, the
lightness of his spirit would prompt him to sing and dance for ever. He
exhibited the whole circle of his sportive games for their amusement.
The infantine innocence of his understanding remarkably adapted him to
be the butt of their little waggeries and mischiefs. Whatever tricks
were played upon him, were however tempered by the forbearance and
regard his worth demanded; while the obstreperous cheerfulness with
which he would second their mirth, when most ignorant of its occasion,
gave uncommon zest to the amusement, and furnished eternal provocation
to the prolonging and varying its features.

Let not the fastidious reader complain of the inconsistency of this
part of my picture, or censure the levity of my daughters. I am not
writing a tragedy, but a history. Sad grief and melancholy cannot, and
ought not, for ever to reign in the human face or the human heart.
No daughters ever loved a mother more entirely, more fervently, than
Marguerite was loved by her children. They were unwearied in their
attention to her: often was their pillow watered with tears, occasioned
by the sad presentiment of the loss they were destined to sustain.
But the human mind, particularly in the season of youth, has an
unconquerable principle of elasticity in its frame. The bow cannot be
kept for ever on the stretch; and, when the whole soul appears to be
bent down by calamity to the grave, it will often surprisingly recover
its vigour and renew its strength. The ingenuous nature of these poor
girls led them indeed occasionally to reproach themselves with these
moments of cheerfulness as with a crime. But it was no crime. None
but the uncharitably rigorous and morose will charge it upon them as
a crime. It interfered with no duty; it diminished no affection; it
had no tendency to harden their hearts. It was a tax they paid to the
imperfectness of our nature; it was a tribute of gratitude to that God
who, while he deals out to us the most terrible calamities, fails not
to mix with the copious draught some solitary drops of beneficence.
Julia alone, whose temper was constitutionally serious and soft,
entered little into these sports, of which her youngest sister was
the eternal leader and untired partaker. Yet even upon the grave
countenance of Julia they would sometimes provoke an unwilling smile,
which upon her countenance sat with uncommon lustre.

The hilarity and loveliness which Hector found in the midst of my
family instigated and increased the attachment he began to feel for
myself. He could not believe that the father of such daughters, and
the chosen husband of such a consort, could be destitute of a title to
be loved. He reasoned in his own way upon the attempt I had made to
corrupt his fidelity, an attack which he never thoroughly digested. I
have reason to believe that his attendance upon my chemical processes,
and the wonders I occasionally showed to excite his astonishment, did
not tend to elevate me in his good opinion. But he could not avoid
witnessing in me many of the virtues of a good husband and a good
father, and these, so new to his observation, strongly impressed him in
my favour. The regularity of my habits and the mildness of my carriage
were also calculated to win his affection and esteem. Never had the
poor fellow’s affections been so forcibly called out as they were in
his new situation; and he would cheerfully have stretched out his neck
to the assassin’s knife, to have warded off impending evil from the
meanest of us.

Prosperity and ease have often been found the parents of wishes and
inclinations unfelt before. Adversity is the season of sober thought,
calls home the erratic mind, and teaches us to be cheaply satisfied.
But the man who has many gratifications is apt to wander in imagination
from daily and familiar joys, and confidently to reach after things
yet untried. Such was the situation of Hector: Hector was in love. Our
sweet and simple mansion was distant scarcely more than two hundred
yards from a characteristic Italian village. The maid of a little
_albergo_ in this place had caught his inexperienced heart. He had
been invited by some peasants to a moonlight festivity on the lawn
of the _albergo_; and, though I should have been better pleased that
my servants should decline this sort of amusement, I could not have
the heart to deny him. It was, so far as I knew, the first and the
last time that Hector had ever resorted to it. But I was deceived.
Hector had proved the gayest and most amusing of the whole circle. His
cheerfulness was inexhaustible, and his mirth in the utmost degree
harmless and good humoured. He had played a thousand antics, and danced
with an agility that knew no end. In a word, the accomplishments of
Hector, in spite of the jetty hue that stained his face, had won the
heart, or roused the coquetry, of the plump and rosy bar-maid. The
overtures she made and the lures she threw out were too glaring to
escape the notice even of the modest Hector. He felt himself flattered,
such is human nature, at suddenly becoming an object of admiration and
preference to a woman, whom his imagination, stimulated by her visible
partiality, attired in a hundred charms. He owned himself hers, in all
fair and honest fealty, to the world’s end.

Love taught Hector a lesson which he had never learned before. In
nature he was frank, and, as far as fidelity to his master permitted
it, wore his heart as naked as his face. Love taught him dissimulation.
A vulgar footman or clown is as forward as the most empty beau, in
boasting of the triumphs he has gained over the female heart, and in
sacrificing the reputation of those who have loved him at the shrine
of his vanity. Not such was Hector. He shut Up his new sensations
and reveries as a sacred deposit in his bosom. Nature worked within
him, and he would have been ashamed to speak, and distressed to hear,
of emotions, now felt, till now never experienced. His artless and
ingenuous temper in this one particular assumed the guise of cunning.
Never did he tell his love in the ear of any indifferent auditor;
assiduously did he avoid pronouncing even the name of her to whom he
was attached. In any other case he would have announced to me his
inclinations, and previously demanded my leave of absence for his
excursions. But love seemed to him imperiously to command privacy, and
he employed every imaginable precaution to prevent me and all human
beings from knowing whither he went, or that he was absent at all.

In one of his visits to his fair _donzella_, he happened incautiously
to drop some very remote hint of the scenes in which he had just
been engaged with me in my secret grotto. The curiosity of the girl
was strongly roused; she questioned him further. He started, and was
terrified to recollect what he had said. I had strictly enjoined him
secrecy towards every member of my family: my precaution had extended
no further; for, as I have said, I scarcely knew that he had the most
casual intercourse with any person beyond my own roof. But Hector
naturally dreaded that what I was so earnest to conceal from every one
in my house he would be highly to blame to communicate to a stranger.
He therefore peremptorily refused, and with many signs of distress, to
say another word on the subject.

The _donzella_, piqued at his resistance, had recourse to female arts.
She was cruel; she uttered words of sharp displeasure and disdain;
she knew that a person who refused her such a trifle could not have
an atom of regard for her; she commanded him never to see her more.
Unsuccessful in these expedients, she had recourse to expedients of
a different sort. She wept; she called him base, false-hearted and
unkind; she saw he was determined to be the death of her; she was
seized with strong fits of sobbing and hysterical affection. In the
midst of all this he was as unmoved as a rock of marble. He interpreted
every thing that passed in its most literal form; he felt more severely
her unkindness, and sympathised more truly in her distress, than
perhaps any human creature would have done. But no further could she
gain upon him. The confidence of his master was in question, and he
would sooner have died upon the rack, than run the slightest risk of
betraying it.

From these arts she descended to arts more congenial to the habits
of her life. She summoned all her skill to perplex him with cunning
and insidious questions. From her questions he ought to have fled;
but of this Hector was incapable. He was distressed by her severity,
he grieved for the unintentional pain he had caused her. All these
circumstances melted his heart; and he could not resolve upon any thing
that was not considerate and respectful towards her. As the framing
of artful questions was the strong-hold of the _donzella_, and she
might have challenged in this article the most hoary practitioner of
the quibbling bar, so it was exactly the weakest side upon which poor
Hector could be attacked. His simplicity yielded him up a defenceless
prey to the assailant; least of all human undertakings was he capable
of detecting the various faces of a doubtful question, and of guarding
himself against the traps of an insidious foe. It was not till the
fourth interview from Hector’s original hint, that the _donzella_
had recourse to this species of attack; and she did not withdraw her
forces, till she had extorted from him all he knew.

When Hector found that all his guards were baffled and put to flight,
he had then recourse to the only expedient that remained, conjuring
her by every thing sacred and every thing tremendous, not to betray a
trust she had so ungenerously obtained from him. She readily promised
every thing he desired. Soothed by her compliance, he determined not to
mention to me the lapse of which he had been guilty. It would in his
opinion have been little less than treason, to suspect his Dulcinea
of indiscretion or frailty. In the breast of this miracle of nature
was not his loyalty as secure as it could be even in his own? Why then
should he betray the secret of his love, which had never yet been
confided even to the senseless air? Why should he subject himself to
the inconceivable anguish and confusion, of owning, where my interests,
or where my wishes were concerned, that he had been found tripping and
imperfect? Why should he inflict a pain, or cause in me a fear, which
he knew, and he only could know, was groundless? Thus it happened that
I had one more confident of what I purposed should be secret, than I
was myself in the smallest degree advertised of.

The consequences of this indiscretion of my servant were not slow
in rendering themselves visible. The _donzella_ was by no means so
scrupulous or delicate in her sentiments, as my humble, but faithful,
attendant. As she had given her company to Hector, she had had an
opportunity of observing in him such integrity and goodness of heart,
as could not fail to extort the esteem of any human being. She really
honoured him; she was unwilling to give him any cause of uneasiness.
But she had another lover; perhaps she had more. The laws of chastity
she regarded as prejudices, and believed they were never formed for
persons in her situation in society. She was of opinion that the more
lovers she had, provided she satisfied them all, the more completely
did she improve the talents with which Heaven had endowed her. Few
women have any secrets for the man they admit to their embraces. In an
hour of amorous dalliance she communicated to Agostino, the ostler, all
that she knew of the conjurations and spells of Monsieur Boismorand,
such was the name I had assumed upon my entrance into Italy. Her
communication was probably attended with cautions, imitated from those
with which Hector had so industriously loaded the _donzella_ in the
preceding example. Perhaps the _illustrissimo Agostino_ had another
mistress, with whom he thought it would be unjust to practise greater
reserves than the _donzella_ had done with him. Be that as it will, the
rumours which were whispered to my prejudice speedily got air; and,
it may be, were repeated with the greater avidity, on account of the
mystery that attended them, and the injunctions of secrecy with which
they were accompanied.



CHAPTER XXV.


Italy may be considered as the very focus and parent of superstitious
credulity. The materials which Hector had furnished, after all
the interrogations of the donzella, were slight compared with the
superstructure which was presently erected on them. My grotto was
said to be the appropriated haunt where a thousand devils held their
infernal sabbath. The terrified imagination of the rustics, listening
with a temper horribly distracted between curiosity and alarm, created
to itself fictitious howlings and shrieks, and saw pale and sulphureous
flames dancing upon the surface of the stream. Poor Hector was early
the victim of their cruel and untamed ignorance; they believed that
the peculiarity of his complexion rendered him a singularly agreeable
intercessor between me and my infernal familiars. The colour of Charon
was similar to that of my confidential attendant; and he, like Hector,
fell under the calumnious misconstructions of the affrighted villagers.
Conspicuously noble, affectionate and useful as he was, the jaundiced
eye of superstition metamorphosed him into a devil. The storms of
thunder and lightning to which the climate in which I resided is
particularly subject acquired new terror from the ill fame which now
pursued the name of Monsieur Boismorand. At those times the shapeless
form of monsters vomiting smoke and flames were visible to the
neighbourhood, sometimes scudding along the blue tops of the distant
hills, and at others, with audaciousness incredible, brushing even
at the elbow of the almost lifeless clowns and dairy-maids, and then
suddenly dissolving into air, their place no longer marked but by the
noisome and deadly stench they left behind. All the misfortunes of the
district were imputed to me, the mortality of cattle, the convulsions
and death of children, and the pale and lingering decay of persons
recently advanced to an age of puberty. Innocent and blameless was my
conduct to all around us; often was I forward and eager for the relief
of the poor and afflicted; never was I the author of the slightest
inconvenience or prejudice to any. Yet nothing merely human could be
hated in the degree in which I was hated; few were daring and intrepid
enough to repeat the very name I bore; and, when it was inadvertently
pronounced, it produced through the whole extent of the astonished
circle an involuntary and supernatural shudder.

Agostino, the first lover who had made an impression on the heart of
Hector’s donzella, was, as I afterwards found, a fellow of a gloomy
and ferocious disposition, a true Italian _spadaccino_, determined
that none should perpetrate an affront against him with impunity, but
should expiate, in some refined and cruel vengeance, the levity by
which they had been so unfortunate as to give birth to his hatred.
He by no means relished or approved the liberal and good-humoured
sentiments of the donzella; often had they inflicted on him the
darkest torments of jealousy; nor had he failed, at least in one
preceding instance, to make his rival the victim of his resentment.
The donzella however went on in her career; she was light of heart,
gay in temper, and careless of consequences. She had always hitherto
succeeded, by playful blandishments, or more serious demonstrations of
contrition, in mollifying the temper of her brute; and every pardon she
received operated with her as a new permission to offend. She did not
sufficiently consider that she was thus continually raising to a higher
pitch the frenzy of his malice. Hector in the mean time was utterly
unconscious and ignorant of the perilous situation in which he stood;
while, to the apprehension of Agostino, the giving him a negro for a
rival, whom his pride regarded as belonging to an inferior species of
beings, and his devout ignorance likened to the leader of the infernal
squadrons, was the last and most intolerable insult.

His malice was ingenious and subtle. He disdained the vulgar revenge
of stabbing his antagonist in the dark, and supposing that his
enmity could be gorged by a blow. When the venom of his nature was
thoroughly put in motion, nothing could restore it to quietness and
tranquillity but some mighty stroke, to excite the wonder of every
bystander, and that should leave behind it a track of desolation,
never to be filled up again and erased. He heard therefore with unsated
appetite and eager joy the tale of necromancy and infernal machination
repeated to him from Hector by the donzella. The impression which the
narrative produced upon him was a mixed sentiment of transport at the
apprehension of such an instrument of vengeance and of palpitating
hatred; superstition teaching him to believe and to view with
abhorrence that which he desired to render tenfold more an object of
faith and aversion to his neighbours. He struck an auspicious and
august alliance between his revenge and his religion; his religion
exciting him to exterminate that, the destruction of which would
produce inexpressible gratification to his revenge. The darkness of
his spirit led him to proceed with double caution and vigilance in his
correspondence with the donzella. He discovered nothing to her of the
dark project which was engendering in his mind; and only betrayed so
much of his superstitious feelings and fears as, by giving new emotion,
might stimulate her to gratify his curiosity and her own by a detection
of further particulars. He was assiduous in the underhand and sinister
propagation of the tale, to which he did not fail to give his own
colouring and affix his own feelings. He was desirous that the train
should be laid in silence, and that the explosion he designed should
be free from all pre-signification of the event. Thus an individual,
of whose animosity I had no apprehension, and the meanness of whose
appearance would probably have made me neglect all precaution against
him, gave method and direction to an evil, of which however, upon a
review, I am not inclined to doubt I should have been the victim, if
the enmity and industry of this individual had been wholly withdrawn.

The mischief was long in preparation, before I received in any way the
slightest intimation of the predicament in which I stood. The first
circumstance at all calculated to excite alarm in my mind, was the
singular manner in which I found myself regarded, if I entered any of
the neighbouring villages, or met the rustics and their dames, as I
strayed along the roads or the fields. They fled my approach, deserted
the streets, and carefully shut themselves up in their houses, till I
had passed. Where it was impossible to avoid me, they bowed themselves
to the earth in the most submissive guise before me, while the most
lively terror was painted in their countenances, dreading lest they
should excite the resentment of a tremendous and inexorable foe. These
tokens however were far from inspiring me with a conception of the
truth. They perplexed, they astonished, they distressed me. Sore as I
was with my recent afflictions, my mind was but too fully prepared for
anticipations of evil. I had suffered from suspicions, I had suffered
from calumnious imputations, I had suffered from the malignant effects
of popular rumour. Had I yielded my confidence to any person but such a
one as Hector, it is probable my suspicions would have turned on that
side. But my reliance on him was not less than that which Alexander
the Great yielded to Philip the physician: I knew his rectitude, his
simplicity, his fidelity, and the singleness of his heart; and I could
not harbour the shadow of a doubt respecting him. My reliance was
of that entire and perfect sort, which did not express itself by a
recollection of the physical possibility and an acquittal founded in
deliberation, but by a total vacancy of doubt, or of retrospect that
way directed, just such as the state of my mind would have appeared, if
the thing had been naturally impossible.

I was not however ignorant and raw enough to be deceived by the
exterior of homage I have described; I sufficiently knew that what I
beheld was the offspring of hatred. To feel one’s self hated is in all
instances a painful and humiliating state of the human mind. To me
it was especially so. I was not formed to retaliate this species of
injury; I could not hate in my turn. I was formed to love. I could not
look upon my species with dark and gloomy contemplations; I was prompt
to admire their virtues, and perhaps even too prompt to extenuate
their errors. It may, I believe, be laid down as a rule, that they who
cannot hate can least endure to be made objects of hatred. Fettered
however as I now was, by the tenderest consideration for the health and
tranquillity of Marguerite, I thought it best to temporise and submit
in silence. My principal anxiety was to hide these symptoms from the
notice of my family. This I could not completely effect; some of them
were too glaring and obtrusive, entirely to escape the observation
of my daughters in their walks. But the filial forbearance they felt
towards their mother led them implicitly and without any concerted plan
to concur with me in my exertions for her quiet.

The animosity of Agostino was restless and inextinguishable. His
plans did not terminate in exciting against me a secret and covered
abhorrence; they aimed at nothing less than my utter destruction. The
next exertion of the conspiracy which was engendering against me was of
a tragical nature.

It happened one night, after all my family was retired to rest, and
I was myself sunk into a slumber, that I was suddenly alarmed at the
report of a musket, which seemed to be fired almost under the window
of my chamber. This was a very singular circumstance, and calculated
to convey an impression of danger. I leaped from my bed, and ran to
the window. The night was extremely dark, and every thing seemed
perfectly quiet. Presently I discerned a glimmering light, like that
of a lantern, which however appeared to be gradually retiring to a
greater distance. I was not thus satisfied, but determined to hasten
down stairs, and investigate the cause of the disturbance. Marguerite,
who had heard the firing of the musket as well as myself, now called me
to her, and entreated me not to expose myself to unnecessary danger.
In compliance with her remonstrances I promised, though unwillingly,
not to go out into the court or upon the lawn, but to content myself
with examining the state of every part of the house. When I came to
the staircase and the hall, I found that the alarm had communicated to
almost every person in the family, who presently assembled round me.
We patroled the house, but found every thing in the situation in which
it had been left, and nowhere any appearance of violence. I opened
several of the windows, but all was darkness and silence. Having thus
far satisfied myself, I listened with a degree of amusement to the
conjectures and sage remarks of several of the servants, a rank of
society who may usually be found to derive a degree of enjoyment from
incidents of this sort, which, for the moment, strikingly tend to
level all artificial distinctions, and confer on every one the liberty
of uttering his reflections without apprehension or constraint. I did
not however feel myself entirely easy; the circumstance which had just
occurred, combined with the forebodings which had lately impressed me,
had filled me with undefinable terror and alarm. Hector would willingly
have gone over the grounds contiguous to the house, to see if he could
discover any thing that related to or could explain the incident; but I
had promised Marguerite that I would search no further, and the temper
of my mind would not suffer me to expose another to a danger, which I
abstained from encountering in my own person. It was more than an hour
before the conclave in which we were assembled broke up, and every
one retired, fatigued with attention, and prepared to fall into the
soundest sleep. My dreams were uneasy and disturbed; my mind was in a
tumult of imaginary calamities; and I passed the greater part of the
night in a state of singular anxiety.

In the morning I was scarcely sunk into a refreshing slumber, before
I was suddenly roused from sleep by a repetition of shrieks of
astonishment and distress. I put on my clothes as quickly as I could,
and hastened towards the spot from which the sounds appeared to
proceed. The first object I beheld was the little boy of ten years’
old, whom Charon had a short time before dragged out of the river,
stretched along upon the lifeless body of this faithful and generous
animal. The musket, the report of which had alarmed us the night
before, had no doubt been aimed against Charon, and the greater part
of its contents appeared to be lodged in his body. As no further sound
had succeeded the firing, he had probably been killed on the spot.
He was at a small distance from the house, near a private footpath,
where he had been found in the morning by the lad whose life he had
recently preserved. The poor boy had not at first understood what
had happened to his benefactor, but only thought him asleep, and,
prompted by affection for the generous creature, had quietly sat down
by him till he should awake. He had not sat long however, before he
discerned about him the marks of blood. He put his hand to the wound;
the animal stirred not. He passed to his head; he saw his eyes fiery
and starting, and his lips distorted. He endeavoured to awake him, as
one would awake a human being to whom some mischief had happened of
which he was not aware. All his efforts were fruitless. He found his
body motionless, and his joints stiff in death. The apprehension of
what had occurred then suddenly flashed on his mind. He burst out into
shrieks of astonishment and anguish. Hector was the first person who
caught the sound, and hastened to the spot; I immediately followed. The
poor negro, who, in the innocence of his heart was uninitiated in the
proud distinctions by which civilised man is taught to place so vast a
barrier between the human nature and the brute, was struck speechless
with sorrow and amazement. He recognised the dead being before him for
his fellow-creature. He recollected in him his friend, his companion,
his intimate acquaintance, between whom and himself there had for some
time passed an uninterrupted reciprocation of acts of kindness and
assistance.

A morose and fastidious reader perhaps will ask me why I lay so great
a stress upon so petty and insignificant an incident as the death of
a dog. It might have been little to other persons; it was not little
to us. Let the reader recollect his ingenuity in procuring aid for
his dying master, his gratitude to the person by whom that aid was
afforded, and his unconquerable antipathy to his master’s murderer.
These are not common traits. There are many men whose premature fate
has been the most unrelentingly avenged, that in moral and useful
qualities could not have stood the comparison with my generous Charon.
It surely was no common cause for regret, that a creature who had
distinguished himself by a conduct so peculiarly admirable, should
have encountered so premature and unmerited a fate. His conduct the
reader may in some degree comprehend and appreciate; but I should in
vain attempt to delineate those admirable qualities in this faithful
domestic, which do not fall within the province of narrative, and which
to have justly appreciated you must have been personally and familiarly
acquainted with him. Beside, ours was a family of love. As we were
affectionately attached to each other, so we never admitted a servant
under our roof, who did not prove himself by his conduct utterly
unworthy, to whom we did not extend a share of that friendship and
affection, which seemed to be the right of every one that dwelt in our
family. Feeling does not stay to calculate with weights and a balance
the importance and magnitude of every object that excites it; it flows
impetuously from the heart, without consulting the cooler responses of
the understanding.

There was another circumstance which rendered the catastrophe of this
generous animal of great moment to us. It was a clear proof that
there was somewhere a strong animosity at work against his master. It
was impossible he could himself have provoked his fate. Never was a
creature more gentle and inoffensive. Though his bulk was great, and
his strength uncommon, the energies he possessed were always employed
in acts of justice and beneficence, never in acts of aggression. But if
a hatred were at work so busy and fierce as to prompt an action like
this, how were we to estimate it? What was its source, and whither did
it tend? These were very interesting and serious considerations. We
however dwelt for some time longer in the centre of general antipathy
and abhorrence, without being able in the smallest degree to explain
to ourselves what we saw. As we knew not in what we had offended, we
were unable to atone for our fault, or even to guard ourselves against
the repetition of it; nor were we by any means prepared to comprehend
the extent of our danger. Happily Marguerite, whose health was now
in a rapid decline, was least exposed to the observation of this new
mischief; though she felt enough of it to confirm her in the sentiment,
that she had nothing fortunate and happy to look forward to in the
small remainder of her existence. There was indeed one idea perpetually
present to her, which rendered the impression of ordinary occurrences
extremely feeble upon her mind:--Charles, Charles, wandering alone
in the world, unknowing and unknown, without a friend, a relative, a
counsellor, or a protector, without money and without a name! This
melancholy image followed her wherever she went, haunted her nightly
in her dreams, attended her in all her occupations, filled all her
intervals of leisure; and, though she laid it down as a law to herself
never to repeat his beloved name in my presence, she could think of
nothing else.



CHAPTER XXVI.


It was no long time after the death of Charon, that Hector came home
one evening in a state of the most violent anxiety and trepidation. He
burst upon me in my study, where I was sitting alone, buried in one of
those deep reveries which, especially since the legacy of the stranger,
had been among the most frequent habits of my mind. His perturbation
was such as to render it impossible for him to impose on himself the
smallest degree of caution and restraint. The noise he made in entering
the apartment startled me. I looked up, and perceived his features
swelled, his face bruised, and his garments disfigured with blood.

“For heaven’s sake, Hector,” exclaimed I, “what is the matter?”

He answered not. He advanced towards the upper end of the room, he took
down a pistol, one of those which I always kept loaded in my apartment,
he came towards me, he fell upon his knees, he tendered the pistol to
my acceptance.

“Hector!” cried I, “what am I to understand? what is the meaning of
this?”

“Kill me, dear master! For Christ’s sake I entreat you to kill me!”

I took the pistol from his hand; it pointed towards the floor.

“And will you not kill me?” in a mournful accent exclaimed he.

“What have you done, that deserves that I should kill you?”

“Kill me! only kill me! pray kill me!” He spread out his hands towards
me with a gesture of intreaty.

“Hector, what means this agitation? what has happened? You terrify me
beyond expression.”

“Must I speak?” replied he. “Must I be the accuser of my guilty self?”
He burst into an agony of tears.

“Would I were dead! Would I had been torn into a thousand pieces,
before this had happened! Indeed, sir, I am innocent! I thought no
harm! Indeed it is not my fault!”

“What have you done? Whence come these bruises and this wound?”

“It is all my fault! It is all my doing,--nobody else! Why will you not
kill me?”

“Hector, I cannot bear this uncertainty. Recollect yourself! Be
pacified! and tell your story!”

“Will you forgive me?”

“Forgive you what? What have you done to deserve my anger?”

“No, no, I do not wish to be forgiven! I only wish you to abhor, to
detest, to curse and to kill me!”

“This is beyond all patience.”

“I never loved any body but you, and my mistress, and my dear young
ladies. I never did any body else the least atom of mischief; and now
my folly will be the ruin of you all!

“Pardon me, sir! I will torment you no longer. I will get the better of
myself, and tell you all that has happened.”

He then informed me, though with many breaks and passionate
interruptions, of what he had just discovered, my evil repute as a
necromancer, the many strange and terrible stories that were circulated
of me, the antipathy universally entertained against me, the active
ferociousness with which this antipathy was accompanied, and the
consequences that he feared would result. He ascribed the whole to
his own imprudence, and to the particulars which the superior cunning
of the donzella, in spite of his invincible refusal to acquaint her
with a single circumstance, had wrung from him. Hector had collected
several of these particulars accidentally from a neighbouring rustic,
and had been vehement in my defence. While they were eager in debate,
others had joined them, but Hector had found them all opponents, not
one a supporter. Irritated with the contest, and the opprobrious
language heaped upon himself and his master, Hector had been provoked
to strike the most insolent of the disputants. Immediately several had
fallen upon him at once, and it was owing to the uncommon strength and
dexterity he possessed, that he had escaped alive out of their hands.
Beside innumerable blows with fist, foot, and stick, he had received
two or three stabs in different parts of the body, from the knives
with which the Italian is too much accustomed to assail his adversary.
It was easy to see that the gallant and generous defence of Hector
had considerably augmented the danger of my situation. They dismissed
him with a thousand execrations against both him and myself, and
vows that they would signalise their vengeance by setting fire to my
house. Having related his story, Hector concluded with again earnestly
conjuring me to kill him, that so he might expiate the imprudence and
folly by which he had made himself the author of my calamity.

The excessiveness of the poor fellow’s distress excited me to employ
every effort to pacify his mind. “Hector,” said I, “you have been
very imprudent, but I foresee no such consequences as your terrified
imagination has led you to forebode. The idle threats of clowns in
the midst of their brawls are entitled to little regard. I am not so
weak and infirm of soul as to be moved from my tranquillity by their
senseless prate. I entertain no doubt of your fidelity and affection.
I am not angry with you. The fault you have been guilty of, arose
from no defect of vigilance or attachment. You did what you could,
and where you failed, it was only in that to which your powers were
not commensurate. You have done well and wisely now, in acquainting
me with particulars and the whole extent of the danger: doubt not but
I will employ such precautions and be so awake to my situation, as to
forestall the possibility of mischief.”

Thus I endeavoured to assuage honest Hector’s perturbation, but with
no adequate effect. He hung his head in sorrow, and refused to be
comforted. Shame and terror assailed him together, and he knew not how
to support their united pressure. He intreated me not to lull myself in
fancied security, and fall blindfold on my ruin. He entreated me not
to forgive him. My clemency and forbearance served only to make him
regard with greater horror the crime of which he had been guilty. If
however I refused to punish him, and by penance or death to lighten the
remorse that hung upon his heart, he would at least devote himself in
opposition to the evil he had created, and die rather than it should
touch a hair of our heads. This idea he seemed to view with some
complacency; but the pleasure it gave was a glimmering and momentary
light; he could not remain in any place for an instant; he wrung his
hands with anguish, and exhibited every feature of the deepest despair.
I examined his bruises and wounds, the latter of which, though attended
with a copious effusion of blood, did not appear to be dangerous. I
warned him to be guilty of no further indiscretion, to betray nothing
of what had happened to any one of my family, and to engage in no
further controversies and broils in my vindication.

Though I endeavoured to make light of what I heard in compassion to
the distress of my servant, yet, when I came to reconsider the subject
in solitude, it by no means appeared to me in a light and trivial
point of view. One part of Hector’s story had related to the death
of Charon, who, I now found, had owed his fate to the superstition
of my uncultivated neighbours. I had always entertained a formidable
idea of the character of an Italian populace, whom I regarded as
more suspicious, sanguinary, and violent than any other race of men
in the world. I deplored my fate that exposed me to their rage. I
deplored my folly that had admitted any confidant into my individual
pursuits, though my confidence had been so limited, and its receiver
so trustworthy, that I could not have imagined any evil would have
resulted. I determined that I would not expose myself to the risk of
such sinister consequences, as in my opinion might in my present
situation easily overtake me. I grieved for the tender health and the
doubtful state of mind of my beloved Marguerite, which alone opposed
themselves to the adoption of an immediate change of scene. In the
state of her health I had been grievously disappointed. I had looked
for amendment; I found decay. The decay however was gradual, almost
imperceptible; from time to time I had even flattered myself that
the progress was in an opposite direction; but the delusion was soon
banished. Another difficulty arose in addition to the rest; Marguerite
appeared pregnant; a circumstance that now first presented itself after
a cessation of ten years.

The morning after the accident and disclosure of Hector I went to Pisa,
determined to consult with the marchese Filosanto, elder brother of
the unfortunate Andrea, who was probably more accurately acquainted
with the Italian character than myself, and understood the shades of
that character, as they were modified in the particular territory
in which I resided. The marchese was a man universally admired for
subtlety of reasoning, vigorousness of comprehension, and refinement
of taste. In the structure of his mind he was scarcely an Italian.
He had resided several years in England, and was the intimate friend
of Henry Howard earl of Surrey, who some time after fell a victim to
the jealous tyranny of his native sovereign, king Henry the Eighth.
The marchese was frank, generous and disinterested, and possessed
more fully the affections of every one within the circle of his
friendship than any other man I ever knew. He was of a sanguine temper,
always contemplating the world on its brightest side; and, from the
generosity of his own heart, incapable of crediting a distant danger,
or of discerning the storm in the embryo cloud where it was silently
engendering.

In the conference we held, I was influenced too implicitly by my
consciousness of his integrity and the gigantic powers of his mind, and
did not sufficiently advert to those peculiarities in his temper which
I have now described. The external facts with which the narrative of
Hector had furnished me I fully detailed to him; as to my particular
pursuits, I contented myself with stating that I indulged freely in
the study of chemistry, and was of those persons, ordinarily accounted
visionaries, who amused themselves with the expectation of finding the
philosopher’s stone. Having heard my story to an end, the marchese
ridiculed my apprehensions. He saw nothing in the facts that alarmed
me, but a cowardly superstition whose utmost flight reached no higher
than the shooting a dog, and a squabble between a boisterous rustic,
and a servant too acutely sensitive for the reputation of his master.
He assured me that the days of such superstition as I contemplated were
long since past, and that his countrymen less deserved the imputation
than any others, as, living at the very centre and source of catholic
imposition, they saw deeper into the mystery, and were not exposed to
the advantage which distance possesses for augmenting our reverence.
He expatiated with great eloquence on the vice of a suspicious temper.
A spirit of alarm and continual apprehension, like the jealousy of
lovers, he said, made the meat it fed on. It brooded over plots that
had no existence but in the wanderings of a disturbed imagination.
It was continually interrupting the quiet of its owner, and the
tranquillity of society; and, for the sake of avoiding imaginary
evils, often plunged into such as were real. He advised me to go home
and be contented. He recommended to me to clear up the clouds of my
mind, and cultivate a light heart, a cheerful temper, and a generous
confidence in the honest sympathies of mankind. In fine, he bade me
continue my pursuits, avoid éclat, and trust in his sagacity that no
ill consequences would ensue.

The remonstrances of the marchese Filosanto led me to suspect that I
had been idly credulous. I had too easily participated the feelings
and apprehensions of a poor uninstructed negro, and had suffered the
secret griefs that brooded in my heart, to discolour my perceptions,
and aggravate the features of circumstances in themselves trifling
or indifferent. I began to be half ashamed of the gloominess of my
conceptions. I could not, alas! follow the advice of the marchese as
to the cheerfulness of my heart; but I could exert myself to prevent
my present melancholy from disfiguring to me every thing I saw. The
influence exercised over my conceptions by persons of eminent intellect
has always been great. Not that the judgment I formed of the powers of
my own mind was peculiarly humble; but I reasoned thus. Perhaps the
person I consult is as well informed in the subject under consideration
as I am, in that case his decision is as fully entitled to attention
as my own; and thus, without cowardly self-contempt on my part, the
general balance of the argument was materially altered. Perhaps,
without being on the whole my superior, he may be more competent to
this particular question. In either case my idea of its merits became
perceptibly modified. I never listened to the sentiments of a man of
talents when they differed from my own, unless where he was evidently
visionary and irrational, without being shaken as to the credit due to
my own view of the subject.

Such then was the effect produced on me by the marchese’s
expostulation. I shook off my apprehensions, and laughed at my fears.
I was ashamed of the want of gallantry that had possessed me, when I
meditated flight from so trivial a menace. I concluded that dangers,
particularly such as arise from the irrational passions of a capricious
multitude, were increased when symptoms of apprehension discovered
themselves, and abated, when received with neglect or repelled with a
magnanimous serenity.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Meanwhile the unrelenting Agostino was fixed in his purpose and
incessant in his machinations. He believed that the destructive mine
was now sufficiently prepared, and that he might proceed in all surety
to the ultimate explosion. He apprehended that he had advanced too far
to retract, that the death of Charon and the assault upon Hector were
calculated sufficiently to announce what was to follow, and that it
would be injudicious and idle to grant me much respite for reflection.
The passions of his associates were wrought up to a frenzy of horror,
and needed only a bold and artful director to urge them to any point
of fury and destruction.

Implicitly as I had confided in the decision of the marchese, I had
speedily reason to know that it was the dictate of too sanguine and
presumptuous a spirit. On my return from his palace, and, on several
subsequent occasions, I found the manners of the populace altered
respecting me. They no longer viewed me with a sort of reverential awe,
or fled my approach. They insulted me with their eyes, they muttered
curses upon me in a voice sufficiently audible to be understood, they
broke forth in gestures of abhorrence and derision. They regarded me
with looks of ferocious hatred; and when I had passed them, their
murmurs gradually swelled into shouts of triumphant contumely. These
symptoms however were progressive; each day became more odious and
intolerable than the last. They who have never been placed in a
situation like mine, will never be able to do justice to my grievance.
They will perhaps say, that the calamity I now endured was a trifling
one, and that a weak mind only can be elevated by the acclamations and
huzzas of the multitude, or depressed by their hisses and scorn. I did
not, and I could not, feel it so. There is no pleasure more congenial
to the human heart, than the approbation and affection of our fellows.
I call heaven to witness that I could mount the scaffold, surrounded
with an innumerable multitude to applaud my fortitude, and to feel
as it were on their own neck the blow that ended me, and count it a
festival. But I cannot bear to be surrounded with tokens of abhorrence
and scorn. I cannot bear to look round me through an extended circle,
and see the impatience of despite in every face. Man was not born to
live alone. He is linked to his brethren by a thousand ties; and, when
those ties are broken, he ceases from all genuine existence. Their
complacence is a food more invigorating than ambrosia; their aversion
is a torment worse than that of the damned. While I write, I seem
again to hear resounding in my ears the hootings and clamours of these
infatuated peasants. When heard indeed, they went to my heart, and
sat there colder than the aspic’s venom: they rose to my throat with
a sensation bitterer than wormwood. They unstrung all my muscles and
nerves. I could not stay; I could not fly. I wished myself buried deep
in the centre of the earth. I felt something worse, more revolting,
more opposite to all the prejudices and propensities of the soul,
than annihilation. I have known in various situations and conditions
of human life, what it was to be distressed, to be dejected, to be
miserable; but never in any other situation have I felt a misery so
concentrated, so gnawing and insufferable.

I began however, like the critics I am figuring to myself, to despise
the pusillanimity of my submission, and to believe that, if I would
only make a stand and turn round upon my enemy, I should subdue him.
This resolution I could with difficulty have taken in the moment of
attack; it was formed in an interval of retrospect and reflection.
Having formed it, the contempt I should have felt for myself would have
been too exquisite, if I had failed to put it in execution. I was not
long at a loss for an opportunity. In one of my walks I found myself
pursued by a numerous populace with a peculiar degree of inveteracy. I
yielded for some time, till I came to a place that appeared convenient
for the purpose of haranguing them. It was a bench, placed upon a
rising ground and sheltered behind by a thicket, which had been erected
for the purpose of commanding a neighbouring prospect. I stopped; I
stepped upon the bench; I waved my hand towards the multitude. They
perceived my purpose with some degree of confusion and surprise; they
drew nearer. “Do not listen to him! Do not hear a word he has to say!”
cried some of them. “Oh, hear him! hear him!” exclaimed others. I
obtained an audience.

“What is the cause,” said I, “of all this hatred and persecution?”

“Because you are a wizard, a necromancer, a dealer in the black art;
because you are in league with hell, and have sold yourself to the
devil!” answered twenty voices at once.

“Hear me,” replied I, “and I will convince you of my innocence: but
hear me in silence, and do not interrupt me.”

“For myself, I have no belief in the existence of such an art.”

This remark produced a general groan.

“Why should I have sold myself to the foe of mankind? What could he
give me, that should compensate me for consigning myself over to him
for ever hereafter? The power of exhibiting strange and extraordinary
tricks. What a pitiful recompence? But, if I had bought this power at
so dear a price, should I hide it? Should I not take every opportunity
of exciting your reverence and astonishment? Who has seen me perform
any wonderful feat? I live quietly among you, and give no cause of
offence to any. I live retired in the midst of my family. I form no
party or connections. I do not intrude into any of your affairs,
political or private. I do not even enter into conferences with any of
you, unless induced by the apparent occasion of doing some good and
benevolent action.

“Quit then this ungenerous persecution! Do not turn the fury of your
resentment upon a harmless stranger! You are Italians, the most
polished and ingenious people on the face of the earth: the most
glorious monuments of art, in building, in statuary, and in painting,
are to be found in the midst of you: ancient Italy governed the world
by her arms; modern Italy governs the world through the medium of that
pure and sublime religion of which Providence has graciously made
her the repository. Do not stain the glory of this character! Show
yourselves worthy of the honour with which your name is heard in every
corner of the habitable world!”

While I was yet speaking, a large clot of mud reached me, and struck me
on the face and the upper part of my breast. I calmly endeavoured to
free myself from its effects with my handkerchief; and, looking round
me, demanded, in the sacred spirit of conscious innocence, “How have I
deserved this treatment?”

Thus far I had been heard with a doubtful sentiment of murmur and
approbation, and I began to feel that I was rather gaining ground upon
my audience. But this new insult seemed to turn the tide of popular
impression in an instant.

“Villain, renegado, accursed of God!” I heard from every side; “did not
you bewitch my cow? did not you enchant my child? have not you killed
my daughter? Down with him! exterminate him! do not suffer him to live!”

I continued my efforts to be heard. It was a critical moment, a last
experiment upon the power of firmness and innocence to control the
madness of infuriated superstition. It was in vain. I was deafened
with the noise that assailed me. It was no longer shouts and clamours
of disapprobation. It was the roaring of tigers, and the shriek of
cannibals. Sticks, stones, and every kind of missile weapon that
offered itself, fell in showers around me. It seemed a sort of miracle
that I escaped instant destruction. I eluded their pursuit: after
some time I ventured to return to my own house. I had in the interval
terrified myself with the idea that, having missed my person, they
might have hurried thither, and executed some terrible vengeance on my
helpless family. I found them however in safety: the mob had for this
time contented itself to disperse without further mischief.

As soon as it was dark, I hastened to Pisa, and related what had just
occurred to my friend the marchese. He was surprised; but he still
adhered to his opinion. He had never supposed, he told me, that a noisy
and clamorous mob was a proper subject upon which to make experiment of
the energy of truth; and he laughed at my attempt to reason them out
of their superstition. But they meant nothing by all that had passed.
It was the mere foam and fury of a moment, poured out with vehemence,
and then dissipated in air. A certain set of politicians had for
their particular ends represented a mob as a terrific and formidable
engine: alas! they were rather to be pitied than condemned. There
was no malice in their hearts. They were in reality a mere material
machine, led on without reflection, and, when they had committed a
momentary ravage, astonished themselves the most at the injury they had
perpetrated. They were as light and variable as a feather, driven with
every breath; and nothing could argue greater obliquity of intellect
than to suppose, because they were in a certain temper and sentiment
to-day, that they would be found in a similar temper and sentiment
to-morrow. The marchese however wished, he said, to relieve me from
the apprehension of this imaginary danger, and therefore offered me
the whole suite of his servants for the defence of my house. He added
that, among his friends and retainers in the city of Pisa, he did not
doubt in an hour’s time to be able to raise a troop of four hundred
men; and, whatever power of that sort he possessed, he assured me was
wholly at my service. I was not convinced by the marchese’s arguments,
but I declined his offer. I could not bear to think that blood should
be spilled, and the lives of these poor ignorant wretches sacrificed,
for the preservation of a thing so worthless in my eyes as the local
property I possessed. I therefore told the marchese, that I might
perhaps wait yet a day or two longer before I formed my resolution;
but that, the instant I saw one fresh symptom of the hostility of the
villagers, I was determined to take my family with me, and remove far
beyond the reach both of their terrors and their hatred.

I staid two hours with the marchese, and then set out to my own house.
The way I took was by a private road, open only to the neighbouring
gentry, but of which my servant carried the key. It led along the
higher ground, and commanded a view of the common highway. Considerably
before I reached my own habitation, I was struck with the appearance
of persons passing, in considerable numbers, and in a tumultuous
manner, along the public road. Some of them were armed with clubs, and
others with torches. Their march however led, not towards my house,
but in an opposite direction. I mended my pace, terrified with a sort
of vague apprehension of what might have happened, though I did not
disguise to myself that what I saw was not precisely that which I might
have expected to see, if they had been returned from demolishing my
property, and burning my house.

When I arrived, I found indeed that no mischief had been actually
committed, but that I was indebted for the preservation of my house,
and perhaps for the lives of my wife and children, to the sagacity
and presence of mind of Bernardin, the servant of my early years. My
residence had been the object against which the march of the populace
had been directed. Bernardin, perceiving their intentions, had with
great difficulty prevailed upon Hector to keep out of sight. Nothing
could be more adverse to the feelings and inclination of my faithful
negro; but, Bernardin having convinced him that his appearance would
only exasperate the rage of the assailants, and that perhaps every
thing of importance to his master’s service and happiness depended at
present upon his concealment, Hector yielded to his representations.
This accomplished, Bernardin next assembled the gardener and one or two
labourers in my employment, who happened to be at hand; and, having
furnished them with fire-arms, stationed them at different windows, in
the front of the house. With these preparations, when the mob arrived
he resolutely told them that he would fire on the first person that
attempted to break in. They were staggered: furious as they appeared
the moment before, this threat held them in awe. They paraded two or
three times round the house, clattering their arms, and pouring out
vehement execrations; and then withdrew, solemnly promising that they
would return the following night, and level the house with the ground.

I no longer yielded the smallest degree of credit to the unsuspicious
and confiding philosophy of the marchese Filosanto. I sent off my wife
and children before daybreak for Lucca, determined to take shipping
at the first convenient port, and pass over into Spain. I was little
solicitous, for reasons with which the reader is already acquainted,
about my property and moveables: I had no motive to induce me to fetter
and clog my retreat, at this hour of peril and terror, with a single
article of rarity and price. My furniture indeed was not splendid,
but it was handsome and valuable; and the indifference with which
I resigned the whole to the mercy of chance, was a matter of some
surprise to the persons around me. My servants offered to defend my
possessions, at the peril of their lives; but I peremptorily forbade
it. I would not even consent to their taking away certain articles, by
way of appropriating them to their personal use. I believed that if I
admitted a single act of that sort, I should find it no easy matter
to set limits to their avidity; and, as I had determined to take none
of my present servants with me, the negro and Bernardin excepted, I
feared that the apparent possession of a single article that had been
mine might hereafter mark its proprietor a victim to the senseless
rage of blindfold superstition. I could easily make up to these honest
and faithful dependants the injury they might sustain from the seeming
severity of this order. I determined to shut up my house, with all
its present contents, as Joshua, the captain of the Jews, drew a line
of separation round the profane possessions of Achan; and to leave
the villagers, if so it seemed good to them, to make of the whole a
burnt-offering, to propitiate the wrath of their avenging divinity.

The directions I issued being unhesitating and peremptory, met with a
ready submission from all my other domestics: Hector only, the mild and
complying Hector, of whom obedience had hitherto appeared to constitute
the very soul, met my commands with a resolute refusal. The present
distressed appearance of my fortunes seemed to have worked the poor
fellow’s mind to a paroxysm of insanity. He considered himself as the
sole author of my calamity. He reviled himself in the bitterest terms
of compunction and abhorrence. The language which the agony of his
soul forced from his lips, was such as could not fail to impress upon
my other servants a conviction of the justice of the imputations that
were now brought against us. This however was of little importance.
I must at all events have been contented to leave behind me, in my
present neighbourhood, a name loaded with the execrations of religious
fanaticism. Hector imprecated upon himself a thousand curses, if, so
long as he continued to live, the populace should lay hands upon a
straw of my property. He would not move so much as an inch from the
defence of my house. He would either, by preserving it, expiate in some
degree the mischief in which he had involved me, or fall and be crushed
to death in the midst of its ruins. Arguments and expostulations
were useless here: his mind was worked up to too high a tone, to be
susceptible of the patience necessary for hearing or understanding
any reasoning that was addressed to him. Authority itself was of no
avail: for the first and the last time he threw off the character of a
servant, and appeared obstinate, self-willed, and ungovernable. It was
only by direct violence that he could be forced from the spot. I gave
him in charge, with the most strict orders not to suffer him to escape
from their custody, to two of his fellows.

This business being despatched, I went, at the invitation of the
marchese, to a small cottage he possessed at no great distance from my
own house. Its situation was so private and retired, that few persons
knew or could perceive that there was any building on the spot. Here
therefore I could remain in the most perfect safety. I felt myself
unaccountably impelled to stay and witness the catastrophe of the
tragedy. I should not have been satisfied to continue in uncertainty as
to what it would prove. After all that had passed, like the marchese, I
should have been apt to accuse myself of cowardice, and a mind soured
and degenerate, if the mob had not put their threats in execution.
The marchese himself was well pleased with my determination in this
respect. He was not yet convinced that I had not painted to myself a
danger, which had no adequate counterpart in the world of realities.

I had not long to wait. The night had no sooner spread an even-coloured
and almost impervious veil over the world, than the marchese, as if
moved by a secret impulse to witness what he yet refused to believe,
came to me at the cottage. He had scarcely arrived, when he heard the
confused murmurs and turbulence of the populace; for we were near
enough to distinguish almost every thing. As they did not meet with
the defence of the preceding evening, the work they had undertaken
was presently despatched. We saw the flames ascend. We recognised the
shouts of infernal joy with which they witnessed the catastrophe.
When the marchese beheld what, till seen, he would never admit to be
possible, he burst out into a sort of transport of misanthropy. He
exclaimed that no innocence, and no merit, could defend a man from the
unrelenting antipathy of his fellows. He saw that there was a principle
in the human mind destined to be eternally at war with improvement
and science. No sooner did a man devote himself to the pursuit of
discoveries which, if ascertained, would prove the highest benefit
to his species, than his whole species became armed against him. The
midnight oil was held to be the signal of infernal machinations. The
paleness of study and the furrows of thought were adjudged to be the
tokens of diabolical alliance. He saw, in the transactions of that
night, a pledge of the eternal triumph of ignorance over wisdom. Above
all, he regretted that his countrymen, his dear Italians, should for
ever blot their honour and their character by such savage outrages.
Though myself the principal sufferer, I was obliged to perform the part
of the comforter and consoler, and endeavour to calm the transport of
agony that seized upon the susceptible Filosanto. He was astonished,
shocked, and beside himself: I viewed the whole with the gloomy
firmness of a desperate resolution.

The worst event of this detested evening remains yet unrecorded. Even
now I tremble, while I attempt to commit the story to my harmless
paper. So far as related to the mere destruction of my property, I
looked on with a philosophical indifference. I had no reason, and I
disdained to regret the loss of that which I had it in my power to
repair in a moment. I thought I had taken care that no human life
should be risqued upon this critical occasion. But I was mistaken.
I learned the next morning with anguish inexpressible that Hector,
the negro of the prison of Constance, was no more. He had eluded
the vigilance of his keepers. No sooner was he at liberty, then he
hastened, unknown to every one, to die, as he had declared he would, in
the defence of my house. The mob had burst into the house; they seized
him alive. They dragged him out in the midst of them; they insulted
over him, as the special favourite of the infernal king. They inflicted
on him every species of mockery and of torture; they killed him joint
by joint, and limb by limb.----The pen drops from my lifeless hand.

What right had I to make this man the victim of my idle and unhallowed
pursuits? What has the art and multiplication of gold in it, that
should compensate the destruction of so ingenuous, so simple-hearted,
so noble a creature? If I had myself fallen into the hands of the
populace, it had been well: I was a criminal, worthy of every
retribution they could inflict upon me! Some men perhaps will ask,
why I lamented so bitterly over so uncultivated and uninformed an
individual as this negro. There was however something so truly tragical
in the fate to which this creature in his generosity and remorse
devoted himself, that I believe for the moment I felt a sharper pang
in it, than in the strange and extraordinary loss of my only son, or
perhaps in the premature death of my beloved Marguerite.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Before the dawn of the succeeding morning I turned my face towards
Lucca. I beheld the last cloud of mingling smoke and flame ascend
from the ashes of my villa. The blaze sunk, its materials were nearly
consumed, and it yielded an uncertain and fitful light only, when
I withdrew from being any longer the melancholy and heart-wounded
spectator of the ruin. I took an everlasting leave of the marchese. I
had been introduced to him under a friendly aspect, as the man who had
had courage to perform the last offices of humanity to his unfortunate
brother; and he had conceived a warm affection for me. The painful
nature of the catastrophe he had witnessed melted his heart, and he
earnestly pressed me to draw upon him for any supplies I wanted,
or rather to receive from him a sum equivalent to the damage the
superstition of his countrymen had inflicted on me. This I positively
refused; but I found it impossible to silence his importunity, till I
submitted to the duplicity of promising that, if I found myself reduced
to any necessity, I would not fail to apply to him. It was in the very
moment of our separation that intelligence was brought me of the fate
of Hector. The reader may imagine with how heavy a heart I set out on
my journey.

Lucca is about seventeen miles from the city of Pisa; from the
place where I had spent the greater part of this memorable night it
was twenty. The marchese made me promise to take a serpentine and
circuitous route, the more completely to elude the possibility of
future danger. An adventure occurred to me in this passage, with the
relation of which I will not interrupt my narrative, which prevented me
from arriving at Lucca till the noon of the following day. Suffice it
to say, that it was of such a nature, that, impatient as I was under my
present extraordinary circumstances to rejoin my family, I should have
held myself destitute of every atom of humanity, if I had not submitted
to this short delay.

Short as it was, I found, when I reached Lucca, that my evil genius
had been busy to accumulate for me new misfortunes. Marguerite and her
daughters were wholly unknown in this place; and the intelligence of
the Pisan riot having reached Lucca in the course of the day, it was
related to my wife, as to a hearer unconcerned, with all its horrid
circumstances and the calamitous fate of our generous Hector, by the
hostess of the inn. The rapidity of events, during the last part of
our residence in the Pisan territory, was such as to have obliged me
to say little of the effect they produced upon Marguerite. But the
reader can scarcely be so inadvertent and unreflecting, as not easily
to imagine to himself that she felt them in the highest degree painful
and overwhelming. This last blow was too much. Marguerite had been some
months pregnant. She was immediately seized with the pains of labour,
and delivered of a dead child. The first intelligence communicated to
me upon my arrival was that my wife was dying.

Lucca however did not witness the period of her existence. After having
continued for several days upon the very extremity, as it were, between
life and death, she grew perceptibly better; and in a week more, though
in a very feeble state, it became apparent that her case was not a
rapid one. We agreed to proceed upon our Spanish voyage. It appeared
not improbable that the sea-air might be found beneficial, and the
experiment was warmly recommended by her physicians. They were not
however aware of the whole extent of her disorder. During the voyage
her crisis returned with such malignant symptoms, as scarcely to permit
us the hope she would reach the land alive. We debarked at Barcelona on
the 14th of April 1546.

We had no sooner taken up our abode in this city than, fully aware
of the state of her disease, she assembled her daughters, and poured
forth to them without restraint that flood of affection, that ardent
spirit of love, by which she was distinguished and elevated above
every creature that lived. Her mind was clear, her intellectual powers
were complete and entire. The enthusiasm with which she now expressed
herself was not of that inconsiderate nature which should tend to make
them feel with greater acuteness the loss they were about to sustain.
It was bright, unclouded and serene. It was the eloquence as of a
disembodied spirit, freed from the perturbation and alloy of human
passions. She reminded them that they were sisters, and exhorted each
to fulfil the duties of a sister and a mother to the other two. If
wise and good, they would be happy in each other, and their little
association would be a school, preparing them for the more genuine and
venerable duties for which nature had destined them. Her views of all
human things were altered by her present situation on the brink of the
grave. Our reserves and misunderstandings had wrung her heart; but she
forgave me. Things which had lately appeared of the highest magnitude
and moment, faded in the distance, and mingled with the vulgar crowd
of human concerns which was now retiring from her view: she must again
return, she said, to life, before she could again feel the passions
and the interests of this petty scene. For the sake of her daughters
she had lately desired to live. She was now reconciled and content to
die. She had formed the chain and link of connection between me and
my girls; perhaps it was better that we should burst our fetters and
be free. On the fourth day after our arrival at Barcelona Marguerite
expired.

There is nothing in the vast variety of objects which this wretched
world presents to our view so dreadful and distressing as the sight of
one we have loved, but who is now no more. I saw, these eyes beheld,
the lifeless corse of Marguerite. Great God of heaven! what is man?
and of what are we made? Within that petty frame resided for years all
that we worship, for there resided all that we know and can conceive of
excellence. That heart is now still. Within the whole extent of that
frame there exists no thought, no feeling, no virtue. It remains no
longer, but to mock my sense and scoff at my sorrow, to rend my bosom
with a woe, complicated, matchless and inexpressible. The cheek is pale
and livid; the eyes are sunk and circled with blackness. Corruption
and ruin have already seized their prey and turned it into horror.
Draw, for heaven’s sake, draw the pall over those lifeless features!
Bury, bury them deep in the bowels of the earth! Let not my imagination
follow them into the chambers of the grave, and dwell amidst
pestilential damps and all the series of destruction! Let me recollect
all that Marguerite was as she lived, her numerous accomplishments,
her unparalleled virtues,--ay, in all the magnitude and wealth of
their detail,--for that is a divine and celestial madness: but let me
not recollect her as I saw her on the bier, lest I become raving and
blaspheme!

I have no power to talk of the situation in which I was now placed, and
the reader must therefore explain it for himself,--if he can. I never
loved but once; I never loved but Marguerite. All other affection is
stillness and ice compared with this. This is the great crisis of my
history, the gap between life and death, the gulf that cut me off for
ever from every thing that deserves the name of human. Such was the
legacy of the stranger! my son an exile, myself publicly arraigned as
a murderer, the unmerited and tragical death of Hector, the premature
and self-deriving loss of the better half of my soul! Who would have
believed that this envenomed gift would, in less than two years, have
thus dreadfully changed the face of my affairs, and destroyed every
thing that composed the happiness of my life?

After some delay in this wretched and ill-omened town of Barcelona
(such it has ever since appeared to my thoughts), we proceeded to
Madrid. The reader will give me credit, when I tell him that, however
eager I had lately felt to exhibit my magnificence and my wealth,
I had no such eagerness now. I speak no more of the character of
Marguerite; I attempt not to compose her panegyric. The story of her
life is the best record of her virtues. Her defects, if defects she
had, drew their pedigree from rectitude of sentiment and perception,
from the most generous sensibility, from a heart pervaded and leavened
with tenderness. A simple stone in the western aisle of the great
church at Barcelona records her personal and her family name, with this
single addition, THE PRESERVER OF HER FAMILY IN POVERTY AND RUIN, THE
VICTIM OF HER DISCONSOLATE AND REPENTANT HUSBAND’S UNHALLOWED WEALTH.

But, dismissing for ever, and henceforth consigning to unviolated
silence her excellencies, could I avoid feeling that I could never
again form a similar, or indeed any real union, so long as I existed?
Being now indeed more than forty years of age, having spent near twenty
of that forty in a most enviable wedlock, and being blessed with a
sufficiently numerous offspring, it may be thought perhaps I might be
contented. But, without discussing the propriety of such a maxim as it
relates to the species in general, it must be recollected in my case
that my youth was to be recommenced by a perpetual series of renewals.
I never gave credit to that axiom of a sickly sensibility, that it is a
sacrilege, in him who has been engaged in one cordial and happy union,
ever to turn his thoughts to another. Much more reasonable than this is
the Indian doctrine, that the survivor ought to leap into the flames,
and perish upon the funeral pyre of the deceased. While we live, it
is one of our most imperious duties to seek our happiness. He that
dedicates his days to an endless sorrow is the worst and most degraded
of suicides. It is an important question in the economy of human life,
up to what age we should allow ourselves to contract engagements to a
wife and a probable offspring: but, separately from this consideration,
I should hold that in many cases he who entered into a second marriage,
by that action yielded a pure and honourable homage to the manes of the
first. But from genuine marriage I was henceforth for ever debarred.
An immortal can form no true and real attachment to the insect of an
hour.

Mourning, a depressing and speechless regret, was yet the inmate of our
house. Grief does not commonly lay a strong and invincible hold of us
in the morning of our days; and, though the temper of Julia was perhaps
at her age the most tender and susceptible I ever knew, even she, who
was now in her seventeenth year, reaped the benefit of that elasticity
which in early life is the portion of humanity. Nothing material
occurred to us in the first three months of our residence in Madrid.
It was impossible for any one to be surrounded with a more lovely and
blooming family than I was.

Yet from happiness I was immeasurably distant. Exclusively of my recent
and in every sense irreparable loss, my mind was full of dark and
gloomy forebodings. I feared not for myself, but I had an unconquerable
alarm and apprehension for my children. My youngest was but ten years
of age; the eldest was not seventeen. Sweet, tender blossoms, that
the cruelty and hardness of mankind might so easily blight, and that
required a concurrence of favourable circumstances to ripen into all
they were capable of becoming! When I recollected what had happened in
the course of the last two years, I could not flatter myself that our
misfortunes were at an end, or that I had not, to speak moderately,
many fierce trials yet to encounter. I seemed, like the far-famed
tree of Java, to be destined to shelter only to destroy, and to prove
a deadly poison to whatever sought its refuge under my protecting
branches. In this melancholy frame of mind the last words of my
adored Marguerite passed and repassed ten thousand times through my
recollection. “She had formed the chain and link of connection between
me and my girls; perhaps it was better that we should burst our fetters
and be free.”

Whatever she had said was sacred to the present temper of my
imagination: her last behest I would have died to execute. The idea
contained in the sentence I have just repeated was ambiguous and
obscure, rather hinted, than expressed. But was it worthy of the
less attention, because its author, with her usual gentleness and
sweetness, had modestly suggested an advice, instead, which she was
well entitled to have done, of prescribing a will? I determined to
part with my children, that I might no longer be to them a source of
corroding misery and affliction. I believed that the cloud that now
oppressed me was transitory. I seemed pursued for the present by a
malignant genius; but a man, endowed as I was with unbounded wealth and
immortal vigour, cannot easily be reduced to despair. When the tide of
my prosperity should unfold its rich and ample current, I might easily
communicate of its bounty to my daughters. If I parted with them now, I
did not lose them as I had perhaps lost their brother for ever. I could
turn to a particular point, and say, “There lies my soul!” I could cast
my eye upon a projection of the globe, and put my finger upon their
residence. Wherever I wandered, whether I were plunged in a dungeon or
mounted a throne, my heart, like the mariner’s needle, would tremble
towards that point as its cynosure. I had still something to love,
something to pant for, something to dream about, and be happy.

Having ruminated insatiably upon the last expressions of Marguerite,
having formed my commentary, and fixed my predilection, I recollected
a person, then a young woman upon my paternal estate, for whom my
wife had conceived a remarkable friendship. She was the daughter
of a peasant, her birth had been low, and her education confined.
But she had taste, she had discretion, she had integrity, I think I
may add, she had genius. As Marguerite had discovered her merits,
and distinguished her from her equals, she had been of great use to
this extraordinary rustic in unfolding her mind, and guiding her
propensities. This was not so much a matter of deliberate and meditated
purpose in _la dame du seigneur_; it rose out of the circumstances of
their situation. They were almost of an age; and Marguerite frequently
invited her to be the associate of her studies and amusements. Mariana,
that was her name, did not perhaps resemble my wife considerably in her
features, but her stature was the same, her complexion and the colour
of her hair. The similarity in carriage and gesture, Mariana having
never had an opportunity of contemplating the accomplishments she
admired in any one but madame de St. Leon, was still more striking.
There were points indeed in which no human creature could compare with
Marguerite, the expressive and flexible tone of her voice, and those
cadences, which sprung from, and communicated to every susceptible
hearer, the divinest sensibility. One of the unhappy consequences
of our exile from the Bordelois was the misfortunes of Mariana. Her
father had fallen to decay. To relieve his distress she had contracted
a marriage, not of sentiment and predilection, but with a man who had
promised her that her father should never come to want. This marriage
had been unhappy. The husband was a prodigal and a profligate. A period
of seven years however delivered her from her Egyptian bondage. She
had but lately become a widow; and the prudence and integrity of her
conduct had rendered this alliance, which to many women would have
proved a rock of destruction, an additional source of honour and
respect. Mariana, at the death of her husband, had no children; she had
buried her father; she was consequently entirely alone.

It was this woman I fixed upon as the protector of my daughters. I was
better pleased with the meanness of her extraction, than I should have
been with one of the high-born descendants of the houses of St. Leon
or Damville, had it been my fortune to have had in the female line any
near relations on either side. My daughters were no longer children;
they were singularly prudent, considerate, and unimpeachable in their
conduct and propensities. They wanted a protector in the eye of the
world; it was desirable for them that they should have an adviser; but
I should have been grieved and mortified to give them a dictator.

I wrote to Mariana Chabot, communicating my project, and requesting her
to give us the meeting at St. Lizier on the frontiers of France. She
was delighted with the office I tendered to her acceptance, and readily
consented to every thing I required. I conducted my daughters to the
place of rendezvous without imparting to them the design by which I
was actuated; I believed that they would of their own motion conceive
a partiality for the friend of their mother. I was not deceived in my
prognostic; the meeting was an interesting one. The eyes of Mariana
overflowed at meeting, after so long an interval, the husband and
progeny of the dearest and most revered friend she had ever known; the
mourning we wore reminded her how lately her incomparable patroness had
been committed to the grave. My girls were struck with the resemblance
of Mariana to their mother. Accident had prevented us from cultivating
almost any intimate connections out of our own family from the period
of our exile; my girls had therefore never met with a person who
approached in any degree so near their mother in accomplishments, in
skill, in turn of thinking and opinion. Mariana came up to my warmest
hopes as a protector and companion for my children; her unhappy
marriage, by concentrating her thoughts and expectations in herself,
had perhaps rendered her more exemplary in carriage, and more elevated
in sentiment, than she would ever have been without it.

At St. Lizier I passed myself for monsieur Valmier, the guardian of
the orphan heiresses of St. Leon. It fortunately happened that my
paternal estate was at this time upon sale. I determined to become the
purchaser, and to settle my girls in the scene of their nativity. I
procured an agent, and despatched him with an ample commission for that
purpose. Having adjusted this point, I resolved to make a tour with my
daughters, through Languedoc, Dauphiné, and the provinces usually known
by the denomination of the south of France. I wished to familiarise
them to the society of madame Chabot, and to assist them in discerning
her merits under a variety of points of view. I asked them whether they
would not be delighted to obtain her as a companion, who might assist
and conduct them in such points as only a woman of understanding and
experience is competent to. They, every one of them, listened to the
idea with pleasure.

At length I received the information that the purchase of St. Leon was
completed, and I proceeded to the critical disclosure that my daughters
were on the point of being separated from their father. They listened
to the communication with astonishment and terror. They had entered
successively into the feelings of their deceased mother, and I am well
persuaded felt a less ardent attachment to my person than they had done
at the cottage of the lake of Constance. But, culpable and criminal as
I had been, I was not destitute of every virtue, and they could not
extinguish in themselves the respect they had so long entertained for
me. Habit has a resistless empire over the human mind; and, when we
reflect with how much reluctance we consent to the removal of a tree
or a hedge, to the sight of which we have been accustomed, it will not
be wondered at that my daughters could not calmly think of so complete
a separation from their father. The impression of their mother’s death
was yet green, and to lose me, was to become orphans a second time.
But I had fully meditated my plan, and was peremptory. That I might
withhold from them no advantage it was in my power to confer, I gave
them Bernardin for their superintending bailiff and steward of their
property. Our parting was not less painful and melancholy, than its
occasion was extraordinary and its mode uncommon. It took place at the
town of Montauban.

I saw my dear children set forward on their journey, and I knew not
that I should ever behold them more. I was determined never again
to see them to their injury; and I could not take to myself the
consolation,--on such a day, in such a month, or even after such
a lapse of years, I will again have the joy to embrace them. In a
little while they were out of sight, and I was alone. The reader will
perhaps agree with me, that no man had more exquisitely enjoyed the
dearest ties of society than I had, and that perhaps few men were ever
better formed to enjoy them. This complete and dreadful separation,
this stroke that seemed to cut me off abruptly from every thing most
valuable that the earth contains, was not the result of any of the
ordinary necessities of human life. Still less was it the dictate of
alienation or indifference. No; it was the pure effect of love, of a
love so strong, complete, and uncontrollable, as inflexibly to refuse
every thing that could be injurious to its objects. I own I could not
thus have parted with Marguerite. Her idea was mingled with the vital
springs of my existence; and scarcely any power less resistless than
death could have made me consent to pass an entire day without her
society. But then it is to be considered, that my daughters were in
the morning of life; their hopes were untarnished, their prospects not
obscured by a single cloud; and that the crime would probably have been
greater, obstinately to have made them the partners of my misfortunes
and disgrace. There are persons who will regard this passage in my
history as culpable, and the testimony of a cold and unsusceptible
heart. I contemplate it, even at this distance of time, as the noblest
and most virtuous effort of my life; and a thousand circumstances have
occurred since, to induce me to congratulate myself that I had the
courage to achieve my purpose.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Nineteen years had now elapsed from the day that had witnessed my union
with Marguerite de Damville. In all that time I had never been alone.
Alone in a certain sense indeed I had stood at Paris in the period
that had led to my exile, and at Soleure in that which immediately
succeeded it. In each case I was solitary, and my solitude was unhappy.
But my unhappiness was then in a certain sense spontaneous; my solitude
was a luxury in which I felt myself impelled to indulge. He that has
experienced both, will readily acknowledge the extreme difference
between the misery we embrace and the misery from which we shrink
with abhorrence and loathing. I relinquished in the former instances
my dearest connections, my proper post and situation; but I felt that
I could return to the one and resume the other at pleasure. I repeat
it therefore, Then I had not been alone, and now I was alone. The
same motive, which in this instance made me cut myself off from my
daughters that I might not be the cause of their misery, forbad me to
be the parent of a future offspring upon whom I might entail similar
misfortune. Tell me then, was I not alone? I recollected the words
of the stranger, wrung from him by the excess of his misery at the
summer-house of the lake, “Alone--alone!--friendless--friendless!” I
began to penetrate the enigma of his history.

I fixed my daughters with an ample revenue in the château of St.
Leon; I re-purchased for them all my paternal property. I waited some
time at Montauban to hear of the event of my project, and their final
settlement. I learned with pleasure that they found their situation
peaceful, easy, and reputable; I enjoined them that they should speak
and think of me as dead. I led them to suppose, when I left Montauban,
that I should set out upon an extensive tour, that I should traverse
the Indus and the Ganges, and penetrate into the furthest extremities
of the East. How uncommon, how pitiable a fate! I became prematurely
dead to my country and my race, because I was destined never to die!
The first sensation I derived from their prosperity, as I have already
said, was pleasure: my second was that which the devil might have felt,
when he entered paradise for the seduction of our first parents. I
contemplated with some degree of malignant envy a happiness of which
it was little probable I should ever partake. Let me not be censured
for this: let any man put himself in my situation, and say, whether the
pleasure he feels at contemplating the separated happiness of those he
loves be not a mingled sensation? With heavy heart I sought again the
road of Madrid.

Though my spirits underwent an extreme depression, I determined not
to desert myself or the advantages I had purchased at so inestimable
a price. I exerted myself to shake off my lethargy, and rouse the
faculties of my soul. I refused to give way to omens of evil portent,
and resolved to see what might yet be made of my endowments. There
is no misfortune that has not in it some slight mixture of good. My
being now alone, and detached from every relative tie, left me at
liberty to pursue my projects with a bolder enterprise. The mistake
of which I accused myself in the former instance, was the entering
too precipitately into the exercise of the gifts of the stranger,
before I had properly measured my strength, and investigated the
use and application of my tools. I had suffered sufficiently from
the past uncertainty and irresoluteness of my march. I determined,
as far as human precaution could secure its ends, to encounter no
more misfortunes, to subject myself to no further miscarriages, but
to take care that henceforth the tide of my pursuits should move
smoothly onward. I dedicated the six months immediately succeeding my
separation from my daughters, to the joint contemplation of morals and
natural philosophy. I was resolved to ascertain the simplest mode of
manufacturing wealth, the wisest methods for lulling the suspicions and
controlling the passions of mankind, and the true science of the use
of riches. Alas! I had in the sequel frequent occasions to confess,
that, though I had fortuitously entered into possession of the leading
secrets of natural magic, I was a mere tyro in the science of man, at
least in the degree in which the exercise of these secrets required the
possession of it.

Nothing material occurred to interrupt the occupations of the winter.
My apathy--intellectual activity, palsy of the heart,--went evenly
forward. I made no acquaintance; I was a mere spectator of the busy
scenes that passed around me. I was resolved not to entangle myself
with rashly formed connections; and it will commonly be found, that
he, whose contemplations are principally employed upon some secret and
guarded hoard of reflection, has little propensity to communicate upon
idle and indifferent matters.

A slight incident indeed disturbed me for a few days during this
interval; but it passed away, and for the present I thought of it no
more. During the festival of Christmas it happened that I felt an
inclination to be the spectator of a celebrated bull-fight, that was
exhibited before the emperor and his court. For the most part I was
studious of privacy; I therefore felt the less scruple in indulging
this unusual caprice. At the commencement of the spectacle, I was
attentive only to the exhibition. I was delighted with the form and
beauty of the animals, with the freedom and grandeur of their motion,
with the terrible energy of their assault and repulse. It was not
long, however, before my eye was transiently caught by an individual,
who sat in a gallery at no great distance, and who seemed to view me
attentively. His figure bespoke some degree of refinement; but his eye
was fiery, malicious, and savage. Presently however I turned again
towards the area, and thought of him no more. Some time after by mere
accident I looked towards the same gallery, and observed this man still
in an attitude to examine me. It seemed as if he had not removed his
eyes from me during the whole interval. This was repeated three or
four times. Without knowing why, I became anxious and uneasy. I had a
confused feeling that I had seen the man before, but whether in France,
Switzerland, or Italy, I could not tell. I experienced that sort of
disagreeable sensation from looking at his face, which arises in the
mind from an association of the object present, with some mischief or
suffering that was contemporary with its being perceived in a preceding
instance. I am now persuaded that this man was one of the multitude to
whom I had addressed myself from the bench on the hill a short time
before my flight from Pisa, and that he was among the most eager to
interrupt and molest me. But he was apparently a Spaniard by birth,
and I could not at this time develope the mystery that hung about his
features. Finding that I could neither rid myself of his curious and
watchful observation, nor of the disturbance it gave me, I withdrew
from the gallery where I had hitherto been sitting, and removed to
another gallery on the opposite side of the area. About half an hour
after, looking accidentally round, I saw this very man at my elbow. I
then accosted him with the enquiry, “Do you know me, sir?” to which he
immediately returned, with a pure Castilian accent, “_No, señor!_” He
then began to be more reserved in his attention to me, without however
entirely withdrawing it.

As soon as the entertainment was over, I went away, and saw no more
of my Spaniard. I began to tax myself with pusillanimity in suffering
so insignificant an incident to disturb me. A few days after however
I suddenly lighted upon him in the street. He was talking to three or
four of his countrymen, and in the progress of his discourse frequently
pointed to me. I could now perceive something particularly hostile
and ferocious in his countenance. The first impulse I felt was,
that I would no longer suffer the unquietness and anxiety the sight
of him produced in me, but would go up to him, and force him to an
explanation. I believed however that, in the temper he indicated, this
could not be done without involving myself in a quarrel; and I thought
it wiser to endeavour to conquer in silence an unreasonable sensation.
I therefore passed on; he immediately broke from his company, and
attempted to follow me. This I determined not to endure. I laid my
hand on my sword with a peremptory look, and waved to him to desist.
His countenance then assumed an air of diabolical malignity, he shook
his head furiously, and turned down another street. A strange sort of
animosity this, between two persons utter strangers to each other,
and which had as yet not deigned to express itself by a word! But
such is the world! We hate we know not why. We are ready to cut each
other’s throats, because we do not like the turn of a feature, or the
adjustment of a sword-knot. Prejudice, party, difference of countries,
difference of religions, and a thousand wild chimeras of fanaticism or
superstition, are continually arming us against a man, of whose virtues
and qualities we are ignorant, and into whose benevolent or evil
intentions we disdain to enquire.

I saw this Spaniard but once more. It was as I was on the point of
entering the house, a part of which I occupied. I was particularly
mortified at this circumstance. It was plain the man entertained, for
whatever reason, a determined animosity against me; and I was grieved
to furnish him with that advantage for injuring me, which consisted in
being acquainted with the place of my residence. I would have turned
away and gone down the street; but I had too fully marked my design of
entering the house, before I reconnoitered my enemy. The displeasure I
felt was so unaccountably great, that it was with difficulty my courage
got the better of it; and I determined not to change the place of my
abode. In a short time however, as I have already said, I thought of
this incident no more. That it should have disturbed and unhinged
me, in the degree that it had done, even for a moment, was a thing I
could not account for. Had the calamities in which the legacy of the
stranger involved me, converted me in so short a time, from a knight
and a soldier, into a character of that morbid timidity, as to tremble
at every shadow? Or, is there in some human countenances a fascination,
a sort of mysterious sympathy and presentiment, that makes us cower and
quail whenever we meet their eye-beams?

Several weeks now passed away, and I had nearly forgotten all the
circumstances of this seemingly foolish story, when, in a little
excursion I chanced to make from Madrid to a place about twelve miles
distant, I was overtaken upon the road by a cavalier of respectable
appearance, who presently took occasion to enter into conversation
with me. He explained to me several of the objects that presented
themselves on either side, told the names of the different nobility and
grandees who occupied the villas we saw, and sometimes entered into the
particulars of their history. I at first gave little encouragement to
this communicative traveller; but there was something so polite in his
manner, and intelligent in his discourse, that I could not prevail upon
myself to treat him with rudeness or disrespect. After having talked
for some time upon indifferent topics, he led to the general state of
literature in Europe. Few subjects could appear less dangerous than
this, as there were few upon which I felt myself better qualified to
converse. By degrees I threw off some of my original reserve, and I
found my companion well informed and ingenious, lively in his manner,
and pertinent in his remarks.

By this time the unknown, having discovered that I had only come from
Madrid for a day’s relaxation, invited himself to dine with me at my
inn. I departed from my established system of conduct on this occasion,
and admitted his overture. After dinner he gave me some account
of himself and his family, and seemed to expect from me a similar
explicitness. I was less pleased with him in this particular, than
I had been with his frank and undesigning conversation on the road.
Strictly speaking however the expectation implied was only a breach
of politeness; I had no reason to suppose that he foresaw it to be
particularly offensive to me. Observing my backwardness, he immediately
changed the subject. Presently he remarked, that by my physiognomy
and accent he perceived I was a Frenchman, and asked me if I had known
Cornelius Agrippa, who died about twelve years before at Grenoble. I
answered in the negative. The unknown then entered into a warm eulogium
of the talents of Agrippa, inveighed against the illiberal treatment
he had experienced in consequence of his supposed proficiency in
magic, and spoke with great asperity of the priests and inquisitors
who had been his persecutors. I became attentive, watchful, and
suspicious. He went on to expatiate upon the praises of the art magic,
which nothing, he said, but the jealousy of churchmen had brought
into disrepute; affirmed that it had been treated with respect, and
counted illustrious, by the ancients, in the instance of Pythagoras,
Apollonius Tyaneus, and others; and expressed a great desire to become
a student of the art himself. This kind of discourse made me repent
that I had been drawn in so far as to sit down with this unknown, and
admit him as my companion of the day. During the whole time he was
the principal speaker. Sometimes he paused, with a seeming desire to
hear my sentiments. But I had now formed my resolution, and gave him
no encouragement. Presently after I called for my horse. I should have
observed, that his servant who followed him engaged in conversation
with mine, at the same time that the dialogue began between their
masters. Seeing me about to depart, the unknown motioned as if to
accompany me. Upon this I became serious.

“_Señor caballero_,” said I, “I have now had the pleasure of your
company to dinner: I am going home, and have the honour to bid you
farewell. It is neither my disposition, nor the habit of the grave and
dignified nation among whom I at present reside, to form permanent
acquaintances upon casual rencounters: you will not therefore think I
violate the hospitality for which I am indebted to them, if I intimate
to you my desire to return alone.”

All this I said with the grave and formal tone becoming a Spaniard,
and the unknown had nothing to reply. It was evident however that
my dryness chagrined him; and he even muttered words of resentment
between his teeth. I could observe now a degree of hostility and fury
in his countenance, which remarkably contrasted with the pliancy and
obligingness of his preceding demeanour. I took no notice however
of these circumstances, and rode away. I have since had sufficient
reasons to convince me that these two persons, whose story, but for
that explanation, may appear to the reader exceedingly frivolous, were
the one an informer, and the other a spy of the holy inquisition.
The man who had seen me at Pisa had his imagination terrified and
his superstition set in arms by all that he had heard of me in that
place; and thought he could not perform a more meritorious work, than
by giving intelligence to the fathers what sort of person had taken
refuge in the metropolis of this most Catholic kingdom. It was with
this view he had watched me, and at length, by an accident he deemed
peculiarly fortunate, lodged me in my proper habitation. Having given
in his denunciation, my travelling companion was next fastened on me by
the contrivance and zeal of the fathers inquisitors. He was a familiar
of the holy office; and it is well known that persons of the fairest
prospects and most polite education in Spain are led by their religious
impressions to place a pride in performing menial and even perfidious
offices in the service of the inquisition. The kind of dishonour I put
upon him in parting, though of a nature he could not openly resent,
I fear conspired with his zeal for God’s and the church’s honour,
to induce him to relate a story concerning me, more modelled by the
bitterness of his personal feelings, than distinguished by a regard to
truth.

Such was the snare, woven and drawing close round me on all sides for
my destruction. I was made uneasy by the rencounter of the traveller,
but by no means aware of the whole extent of the mischief that impended
over me. When I came to retrace, point by point, the discourse he had
held, I could not conceive that the turn it had taken originated in
accident. I perceived, with no little grief of heart and concern, that
I was known. It was however necessary that I should reflect maturely
upon the conduct to be pursued by me. I ought not gratuitously to
expose myself to danger. But then, on the other hand, it is a point of
general wisdom, and was particularly incumbent in my extraordinary
circumstances, not to suffer vigilance to degenerate into restless
anxiety. It would be easy for me, if I were not strictly on my guard,
continually to find food for suspicion, and to surround myself with
imaginary plots and dangers. This was a vice that I was willing enough
to pity in others; but there was no character that I more cordially
disdained for myself. There was none more pointedly in opposition to
that gallant, generous, confiding spirit, which had distinguished
those military heroes of my native soil, who had been the exclusive
object of my earliest admiration, and whom, in my present dejected
and deserted situation, I still desired to resemble. When I came to
reflect, I easily perceived that this vice was particularly allied to a
life of solitude; and that he who is cut off from the genuine and happy
connections of husband, father, and friend, is of all men most liable,
in their absence, to conjure up for himself the unnatural intercourses
and reciprocations of hostility. It was thus that I artificially
reconciled myself to my situation, and obstinately closed my eyes upon
those equivocal demonstrations of danger which from time to time were
presented to my view.



CHAPTER XXX.


Such was the state of my mind, when it happened, one gloomy evening in
the latter end of March, that my valet announced to me three gentlemen
who were come to visit me. It was strange: I had no visitors; I
indulged no relaxation but that of the street, and of public places.
Do you know who they are? said I. I accidentally looked up, and saw
paleness and terror written in his countenance. He had not however time
to reply, before they burst into the room. They were alguazils of the
inquisition. They told me their errand was to conduct me to the holy
office.

I submitted, and accompanied them. It was already dark. They put me
into a litter with the curtains drawn, and then arranged themselves
in silence, one on each side, while one brought up the rear. I was
taken by surprise: nothing could be further from my expectation than
such an event. As we passed along, I ruminated with myself on the line
of conduct it was incumbent on me to pursue. To make an immediate
experiment of the fidelity of my guides was a doubtful attempt. If, for
want of time and the opportunity of a tranquil hearing, I miscarried
with them, the trial would be converted into evidence against me. If I
succeeded, I had then to escape out of Spain, in the centre of which I
now was, from the hostility of a tribunal, which was said to surpass
all the tribunals on the face of the earth in activity and vigilance. I
knew of nothing that the fathers of the inquisition could have against
me. I had lived in the most entire seclusion; and I could defy any one
to report a single action of mine, since I had entered Spain, to my
prejudice. I had been wholly occupied with melancholy reflections on
the past, and solitary inventions and devices which I purposed to bring
forward for the future. I determined not to live for ever the slave of
fear. I believed that the best method for defeating a danger, in many
cases, was undauntedly to encounter it; and I did not imagine that I
could have a more favourable opportunity for that purpose than the
present. I had heard much indeed of the terrors of the inquisition; but
a generous and liberal spirit lends no very attentive ear to horrors,
the trite and vulgar rumour of which only has reached him. I disdained
to be blown down with a breath. I believed that the inquisition itself
would not venture to proceed criminally against a man against whom
nothing criminal had been alleged. In every event, I believed it would
never be too late to have recourse to my peculiar prerogatives.

Upon entering the prison of the inquisition I was first conducted to
a solitary cell. It is not my intention to treat of those particulars
of the holy office which are already to be found in innumerable
publications. I have no pleasure in reviving the images of this sojourn
of horrors. I know it is unreasonable to despise a man for the miseries
and wretchedness he has endured; but I know that such is the human
heart, and I will not expose myself to be scoffed at and trampled upon
for my misfortunes. I found myself under the necessity, while in the
inquisition, of submitting to that most profligate of all impositions,
an oath of secrecy as to what I had seen, and what I had suffered; and,
whatever may be the strict morality of such an obligation, I will not
ambitiously thrust myself forward in violation of it. I will restrict
the story I have to relate to the peculiarities that characterised my
case, and enter as little as possible into the general policy of this
frontier intrenchment of the Christian faith.

When I was brought up to be interrogated, I was assailed with
innumerable questions, the obvious purport of which was, as much as
possible, to extort from me evidence of every kind that might be
injurious to my cause. The object of the inquisition is to defend
our holy mother, the church, from whatever might defile her sanctity
and whiteness. Every thing that calls into question the truth of
her doctrines, that pollutes and turns from their original purpose
any of her ordinances, or that implies commerce and league with the
invisible enemy of saints, it is its peculiar province to investigate.
The fathers are therefore particularly cautious that they may not,
by confining their questions too much to a single object, preclude
themselves from the chance of discovering danger under all the forms
it may assume. It is presumed that he who is a corrupt member of the
church of Christ in one point is unsound and unfaithful in others.

The inquisitor who examined me, first demanded, whether I were informed
for what cause I was brought before that tribunal? Whether I did not
find myself able to conjecture the nature of my offence? Whether I did
not know the sort of crimes for which men were detained in that prison?
He then desired me to recollect myself, and consider, whether I were
not conscious of offence against the holy Catholic church? Whether I
had never asserted or maintained any doctrines contrary to what mother
church asserts and maintains? Whether I had never, to my knowledge,
defiled any of the ordinances of God, or applied things sacred to
unholy and profane purposes? Whether I had never invocated the devil?
Whether I had never held any commerce, or entered into any league,
with the enemy of saints? Whether I had never performed, or sought to
perform, preternatural and miraculous acts by unholy means? Whether I
had never vexed, or sought to vex, those against whom I had enmity, by
secret and forbidden arts? Whether I had never resided in countries the
inhabitants of which were heretics, and whether I had never listened
to their discourses and arguments? Whether, when I inhabited such
countries, I had never assisted at the celebration of divine ordinances
performed by heretics, or in a form which holy church disapproves or
condemns?

Finding that he could gain nothing upon me by these general
interrogatories, the inquisitor next descended to particulars. He
enquired concerning the incidents of my Pisan story, which, having
first assured myself from the train of his questions that some
representation of that unfortunate affair had reached his ear, I
willingly related, to the same extent that I had previously done to the
marchese Filosanto.

He then proceeded to a great number of questions, the source of which
is to be traced to the commonly received notions respecting sorcerers
and necromancers. They were so artfully contrived, and so large in
their scope, that it was not easy to guess whether they related to
any particular accusation alleged against me, or were formed entirely
on general principles. Yet some of them were so minute, so connected,
and arranged so perfectly in series, that I could not but believe they
were an echo of the calumnies invented against me at Pisa, of which,
however, as I had never collected any regular and detailed account, I
could not accurately trace the influence on the present occasion.

The inquisitor demanded of me, Whether I had never seen or held
conversation with any supernatural being, or the spirit of a man
departed? Whether I had never practised diabolical arts to raise the
dead? Whether I had never had a familiar in the form of some insect,
domestic animal, or reptile? He was particularly subtle and copious
in his questions respecting the history of my unfortunate dog,
endeavouring to surprise me in some slip or contradiction in what I
affirmed on the subject. He asked, Whether I had never assumed a form
different from my real one, either a different age and appearance, or
a different species of animal? Whether I had never, by the agency of
my demon, inflicted sickness, convulsion-fits, or death? Whether I
had never caused the mortality of cattle? Whether I had not the power
of being in two places at once? Whether I had never been seen riding
through the air? Whether I had never been wounded in my absence, by
a blow aimed at my astral spirit or apparition? Whether I had never
possessed books of conjuration or the art magic? Whether it had never
happened to me that an indifferent person, indiscreetly perusing a
spell or incantation in my possession, had been maimed or killed by the
spirits he had undesignedly evoked?

A further object particularly pursued in my interrogatory, was the
detection of my property; and the questions constructed for this
purpose were uncommonly artful and multiplied. The inquisitor told
me that the holy office was, by the nature of its institution, the
guardian and administrator of every person that fell under its
animadversion. Shut up, he said, as I must be, during the pendency
of my cause, and separated from the rest of mankind, I was wholly
incapable of superintending my worldly affairs, which, unless they
were properly looked into, might in the interval be materially
injured. I ought therefore implicitly and without reserve to refer
myself in this point to the care of the fathers. If my innocence were
established, as he hoped, and earnestly prayed to the mother of God,
and the saints of Jesus, might ultimately happen, I should find the
holy office a faithful and qualified steward. If, on the contrary,
I should be proved a heretic and an alien to the Most High, I ought
then to rejoice in the beneficent interference of the fathers, who, by
dedicating my wealth to consecrated purposes, would mitigate in the eye
of the just Judge of heaven and earth the duration or fierceness of
my punishments in a future world. The inquisitor had apparently heard
various reports of my riches, and was inexpressibly chagrined that he
should be found so unskilful a member of his profession, as not to be
able to extort from me a full confession on that head. After having
employed every artifice of menace and terror, after having endeavoured
to soothe and cajole me by blandishments and persuasion, and finding
all his expedients fruitless, he poured upon me the full storm of his
indignation. He said, it was apparent that I was dealing disingenuously
and fraudulently with the delegated guardians of religion; it was
impossible that the expenditure I was well known more or less to have
incurred could be supported without considerable funds; and my evident
duplicity and concealment in this point must be regarded as a full
confirmation of every crime my accusers had alleged against me.

In the course of my examinations, the inquisitor who questioned me
gave himself the trouble of entering into a full vindication of the
tribunal of which he was a member. He said, that every thing that
was valuable to mankind, not only in a future state, but also in the
present, depended upon preserving in full vigour and strength the
sacred institutions of the Christian faith; and that those who were
endowed with powers sufficient for that purpose would be in the highest
degree inexcusable in the sight of God, if they did not vigilantly and
inflexibly maintain the exertion of those powers. It was an egregious
mistake of self-willed and opinionated men, to suppose that the
maintenance of our holy religion was sufficiently provided for by the
clearness of its evidence. It was no less dangerous, to pretend that
the stability and duration of the church of Christ might be confided
to the providence of God. Providence acts by human means; and it was
presumptuous for those who neglected the means to trust that they
should nevertheless see the end adequately secured. Why had Providence
thought proper to generate an alliance between church and state, and
to place the powers and authority of human society in the hands of the
adherents of the Christian faith? Magistrates and governments were
thus made the vicars of Heaven, and great would be their condemnation
if they neglected the trust reposed in them. The great adversary of
mankind was incessantly watchful for the destruction of souls; and,
while he spread abroad his delusions, it was folly to imagine that
evidence alone was powerful enough to counteract them. What judges were
the great mass of mankind of the integrity and validity of evidence?
The jest of the scorner was ever at hand to turn into ridicule the most
sacred mysteries. The opposers of our holy faith were indefatigable
in their industry, and as anxious in their exertions to deprive their
fellow-men of every comfort and hope, as if infidelity, which was the
curse of the human species, were the greatest blessing that could
be conferred on them. The devil was a hard task-master, and granted
no vacation, night or day, to those who enlisted themselves in the
support of his cause. It might answer well enough the purpose of the
vain-glorious theorist, to suppose that man was a rational animal;
but they who had regarded human society with an observing eye knew
that it was otherwise. Delusion would ever be too hard for evidence,
and the grossest falsehoods prove victorious over the most sacred
truths, if what was illiberally and maliciously styled persecution
were not brought in aid of the cause of religion. The passions of
mankind were on the side of falsehood; man, unrestrained by law, was a
wild, ferocious, and most pernicious beast, and, were it not for the
wholesome curb of authority, would speedily throw off all ties and
limitations, human and divine. Nothing could more clearly prove, that
the heretical followers of Luther and Calvin, who had lately sprung up
for the plague of mankind, whatever they might pretend, were in reality
the determined enemies of all revelation, than their continual demand,
that the cause should be tried by discussion, and that every man should
be defended in the exercise of his private judgment. They could not but
know,--every man not totally robbed of all power of discernment must
know,--that, if this demand were once granted, it would prove a blow
at the root of every sentiment of religion. The inquisition therefore
was the most salutary institution that had ever been devised; and the
future welfare of mankind wholly depended upon the maintenance of
its powers and its maxims. By a moderate and judicious exhibition of
terror, it superseded the necessity of innumerable punishments. The
inquisition was not capricious and uncertain in its policy; it acted
under the direction of immutable laws; it held a tender, but a firm
rein upon the extravagances and madness of mankind. Nothing was more
notorious, than that a regular and systematical proceeding was both
more effectual and more generous than one that was fickle. He defied
the whole history of the world to produce an example of so merciful a
tribunal. The great end of its policy was the reclaiming of sinners
and the multiplication of penitents, who, after a gentle and salutary
discipline, were again by holy church received into her bosom; and
even when they delivered the finally impenitent to the flames, it
was to the flames of a purifying fire, which by destroying the flesh
redeemed or diminished the punishments of a future world. He knew that
an outcry had been artfully raised against the proceedings of the holy
office. But it was easy to see that its enemies, under the pretence
of compassion for its victims, concealed an inveterate animosity
against property, religion, and civil society. The anabaptists had
thrown off the mask, and discovered their true designs; and the rest
were only more plausible and specious, in proportion as they were
more timid. The present was the most important crisis that ever
occurred in the history of the world. There was a spirit at work, that
aimed at dissolving all the bonds of civil society, and converting
mankind into beasts and savages. Who had not heard of the levellers,
millenarians, and fifth-monarchy-men, who, under the specious guise of
disinterestedness and an universal love of mankind, had nothing in view
but the most sacrilegious and unprincipled depredations? It was true
that the preachers of these doctrines were utterly contemptible both
for numbers and talent: but it would be found a short-sighted policy,
to overlook these desperate assailants on account of the poorness and
meanness of their qualifications. For his own part he did not hesitate
to say, that human society would owe its preservation, if it were
preserved, to the merciful yet vigorous proceedings of the court of
inquisition. The misrepresentations that were invidiously made of the
present firm and vigilant system of policy would be heard for a day,
and then universally abandoned. Posterity, he was well assured, would
do full justice to the sagacity and soundness of the conduct of this
calumniated and much injured institution.

The reader will forgive me if the panegyric thus elaborately pronounced
by the inquisitor who examined me, upon the court of which he was a
member, had not all the weight with my mind at the moment I heard it
which he will probably ascribe to it in the calmness of the closet.
It is so difficult to be impartial in our own cause! The candid mind
will no doubt make a large allowance for the unhappy situation in which
I now stood, and the bitter and galling thoughts that preyed upon
my memory. But, if I am chargeable with temporary injustice in the
judgment I then passed on the arguments of the inquisitor, I flatter
myself that I have been able, after the interval that has elapsed, to
give a true and adequate statement of them.

Beside these reasonings on the necessity of a wholesome restraint on
the privileges of speaking and writing, the father in another of my
examinations condescended to delineate to me the mysteries of the world
of spirits. He reminded me that in the first grand rebellion upon
record, that of the fallen angels, of which he considered the present
defection under Luther and Calvin as in some measure a counterpart,
a third of the host of heaven had been thrust out of the celestial
mansions. These accursed spirits had since been permitted to pursue
their machinations on the face of our earth. “The devil, like a roaring
lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.” The oracles of the
heathens, the temptations of Job and of our Saviour, and the demoniacs
of sacred writ, were examples of the extensive power which Heaven had
thought fit to allow him. Men of a sceptical and feeble understanding
had been tempted to doubt whether this was consistent with the wisdom
and goodness of God. But, though it was in vain for us to pretend to
fathom the depth of the divine mysteries, there were certain reasons
that were sufficiently obvious to every ingenuous mind. There were
persons in all ages of the world, who, like the Sadducees in the
time of our blessed Saviour, were inclined to affirm “that there was
no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit;” and God permitted the
lying wonders of infernal agents the more completely to confound the
unbelief of his enemies. He who witnessed the wonderful operations of
witchcraft, or saw the ghost of a man departed, could not doubt of
the interference of invisible agents in the concerns of our nether
world; and, if there were devils and apparitions, it would be to the
last degree unreasonable to deny the existence of God, or the miracles
of Christ. These were to be received as the grounds of the divine
permission of sorcerers, necromancers, and witches. But the rules of
the divine conduct were not to constitute the rules of ours. He might
permit the agency of invisible malice, because he saw things upon an
unlimited scale, his judgments were infallible, and he could say to
Beelzebub himself, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no further.” Those
to whose care was intrusted the welfare of mankind here or hereafter
were bound as far as possible to oppose themselves to the empire of
Satan. His power was given him only for a time, and, if not strictly
restrained of God and the powers ordained of God, it would over-run
every thing, and replunge all this beautiful scene of creation in its
original chaos. There was an endless and eternal war between God and
the devil, and the governors of the church were Heaven’s field-officers
and pioneers for carrying it on. Of all the crimes, he added, to which
the depravity of human nature had given birth, the most astonishing
and the most horrible was that of diabolical commerce. That human
creatures should be so far infatuated, as to enter into league with
the declared enemy of souls, and for the possession of a short-lived
and precarious power to sign away their spirits to eternal damnation,
was so extraordinary as to have been wholly unworthy of credit, were
it not supported by evidence as strong and irresistible as that of the
miracles of Jesus Christ himself. The persons who thus voluntarily made
themselves accursed before God deserved to be regarded with alienation
and horror by the whole human race. Every man that saw them was bound
by his baptismal engagements to destroy them; and whoever administered
to them the smallest portion of food, drink, or comfort, thereby
rendered himself a party to their guilt. The inquisition especially had
declared against this race of men eternal war, and considered their
crime as more complicated, audacious, and pestilential, than any other
branch of heresy. Having, for his own part, no doubt that I was one
of these noxious and enormous reprobates, he exhorted me to make a
voluntary confession of my evil deeds, and, by submitting readily to
the tortures and punishments of this world, endeavour to free myself,
if it were yet possible, from those of the world to come.

These discourses of the inquisitor were variously interspersed through
the three examinations to which I was subjected a short time after I
became an inhabitant of the holy house. On my part I endeavoured to the
best of my power to repel the imputations cast upon me, to establish my
innocence, and to confound the severity of my oppressors. I told the
inquisitor, whatever might be the force of his arguments respecting
heresy and dealings with the devil, they were nothing to me. I was no
Lutheran, no anabaptist, no necromancer, no underminer of the faith
of others, or ally of the prince of the infernal regions. I proudly
and earnestly demanded to be confronted with my accusers. I asked my
examiner in his turn, What sort of justice that was, which pretended
to proceed capitally against its prisoners upon secret and unavowed
accusations? He endeavoured to stop me. He told me that I was not
brought there to arraign the methods and practices of their court;
that it did not become a prisoner put upon his defence to insult his
judges; that this contumacy could not be regarded but as an aggravation
of my guilt; and that I was bound strictly and simply to answer the
interrogatories that were proposed to me. The rebuke of the inquisitor
was unavailing. My spirit was wrought to too high a pitch to be thus
restrained; I was too firmly resolved to give the utmost force of mind
and truth to the topics of my just defence. It is the practice of the
inquisition for the prisoner to sit during his examination. I started
upon my feet.

“The mode of your proceeding,” cried I, “is the mockery of a trial.
From your fatal bar no man can go forth acquitted. How is a story to be
refuted, when hardly and with difficulty you suffer your prisoner to
collect the slightest fragments of it? If I would detect a calumny, is
it not requisite that I should be acquainted with its history, and know
its authors and propagators? Then I may perhaps be able to confound
their forgeries, to show the groundlessness of their allegations, to
expose the baseness of their purposes and the profligacy of their
characters. I am informed of nothing; yet I am bid, first to be my
own accuser, and then to answer the accusations of others. It is only
by following a falsehood through all its doublings that it can be
effectually destroyed. You bid me unravel a web, and will not suffer me
to touch it with one of my fingers. The defence of the purest innocence
is often difficult, sometimes impossible, against the artfulness
of a malicious tale, or the fortuitous concurrence of unfavourable
appearances. But you strip innocence of those consecrated weapons by
which only it can be defended. Give to an accusation the particulars
with which what really happens must always be attended, give to it
the circumstances of place and of time, lay aside the ambiguity and
generalities in which you shelter yourselves, and then, perhaps then
only, it can be victoriously repelled. You ask me a thousand various
and artfully constructed questions. What sort of a man do you imagine
me to be? I am not a fool, that I should be inveigled; I am not a
boy, that I should be menaced into confessions. Cease your base
and unprincipled arts! I will furnish no materials against myself.
If you know anything against me, avow it! Propose it, and I will
answer. Think not to patch up a miserable accusation out of the words
which inadvertence or weariness may cause me to utter. Shame on your
institution! May infamy overtake the system of your proceedings! That
religion which is supported by such means is viler than atheism. That
civilisation which has its basis in despotism, is more worthless and
hateful than the state of savages running wild in their woods.

“Do you not perceive that the language I am now holding to you is the
exclusive privilege of conscious innocence? The indignation I express
is no artificial rage, studiously contrived to overbear accusation.
You have it, as it flows spontaneously to my tongue, warm from the
promptings of an honest heart. If I could have consulted a friend, it
is probable he would have dissuaded me from my present demeanour as
impolitic. If I were governed by the dictates of an ordinary prudence,
I should have displayed less ardour, less resentment. But I am willing
to try whether shame cannot yet be lighted up even in the cheek of an
inquisitor.”

The father who examined me, having in vain endeavoured to check the
current of my invective, changed his manner, and assumed a tone
diametrically the reverse of mine. He professed that he felt much
compassion and interest for my misfortune, and should deem himself
happy if he could be the instrument of my deliverance. The language
I had uttered was highly indecorous, and such as seemed in itself to
call for a rigorous penance. But he should not think himself worthy the
name of a man, if he did not make suitable allowance for the bitter and
extravagant sentiments, that would occasionally find their way into
the mind of one in my unfortunate situation. So circumstanced, men
would often mistake their friends for their enemies. I regarded the
inquisition as my enemy: it was in reality my firm and disinterested
friend; zealously watchful for my body, my soul, and my estate. Other
courts had other maxims of proceeding, because their motives of action
were different; and it was but just that they should furnish their
prisoners with a defence against their frailty. But the breast of an
inquisitor was accessible to no sentiment but that of love; a burning
love of God; love of the church; love of the prisoner, who might be
wrongfully accused; love of the penitent, whom he reconciled to our
common mother, the church; love even of the incorrigible heretic
whose body he burned for the good of his soul. The inquisitor did
not discover to the prisoner the evidence adduced against him; that
was between God and the inquisitor’s conscience. But the suppression
which was thus practised rendered him doubly scrupulous and sceptical
as to the evidence he received; he sifted it with a severity that the
prisoner would in vain endeavour to imitate; and the rules of evidence
in that court were so guarded, punctilious, and minute, as to render
any mistake in its proceedings altogether impossible. For a man to be
once a prisoner of the court of inquisition, by a salutary prejudice
which prevailed through the catholic world, rendered him for ever
infamous. This was another cause of the extreme wariness and caution,
with which that court was accustomed to proceed. They first listened
to the accuser, who was obliged to give in his information on oath.
They then instituted a secret enquiry against the party accused; and,
till they had collected abundant ground for their proceeding, they did
not venture to touch a hair of his head. They elaborately classed all
the different degrees of evidence into half proof, full proof, proof
less than half, and proof less than full. When these things were duly
considered, it would appear certain that no court that had at any time
existed on earth, had ever been so tender in its proceedings, so pure
in its incitements, and so every way superior to the attacks of calumny
and malice, as the court of inquisition.

With respect to myself in particular, he said, they had not apprehended
me and put me upon my defence, without previously assembling a large
body of miscellaneous and circumstantial evidence. The evidence
they had drawn from myself was negative only, but it was strong:
the obscurity that hung about my person, who I was, and whence I
came; and the obscurity that hung about my fortune, a great visible
expenditure in Spain or in Italy, and no visible means. These were
not the signatures and tokens of innocence. They tended strongly to
confirm the accusation under which I laboured. Yet so tender was the
inquisition in its proceeding, and so chary of its reputation, that
upon these accumulated proofs and presumptions, they were not prepared
to pronounce against me. They would hear me again and again. They would
give me time to recollect myself, and for this purpose they would order
for me a coarse and scanty fare, and a solitary cell. I might depend
upon it my contumacy should be overcome. The fundamental principle of
their proceedings was borrowed from that humane and compassionate maxim
of the old Roman law, _De vita hominis nulla cunctatio est longa_;
and I should accordingly find them free from all precipitation and
impatience, and ready to indulge me with a residence, however long, in
their prisons, till my case had been sifted to the bottom.



CHAPTER XXXI.


The indulgence thus ostentatiously proclaimed by the father-inquisitor
was not exactly to my taste. Finding that all the energy of mind I
could apply to my defence was vain, I determined to have recourse to
a different mode of proceeding. I received three admonitions, as they
call them, the substance of which I have already recited, in the course
of the first ten days of my confinement, and I then for some time
heard of the inquisitor no more. I understood that it was frequently
the practice, after three admonitions, not to bring up the prisoner
for further hearing during a whole year; and it appeared sufficiently
probable from the last words addressed to me by my judge, that this
policy was intended to be employed in my case. Without further delay
therefore I resolved to recur to the expedient in the use of which my
power was unbounded, and by a brilliant offer at once to subdue the
scruples, and secure the fidelity, of the person or persons upon whom
my safe custody might be found to depend. All that was necessary was to
convince the party to whom I should propose the assisting me, of the
reality of my powers; and then to put _carte blanche_ into his hands,
or rather to ascertain at once the extent of his hopes and demands, and
by a spirited and peremptory conduct to yield them all. In the period
which, immediately previous to my present imprisonment, I had devoted
to the meditation of my future plans and the review of my past, I had
severely accused myself of half measures, and had determined to abjure
all hesitation and irresoluteness for the time to come. It is not
indeed to be wondered at, that, possessing a power so utterly remote
from common ideas and conceptions, and which, speaking from experience,
I do not hesitate to affirm no mere effort of imagination is adequate
to represent, I should have acted below the prerogatives and demands
of my situation. This mistake I would make no more. I would overwhelm
opposition by the splendour of my proceedings, and confound scruples by
the dignity and princely magnificence of my appearance. Unshackled as
I was with connections, and risking no one’s happiness but my own, I
proposed to compel the human species to view me from an awful distance,
and to oblige every one that approached me to feel his inferiority. It
would be to the last degree disgraceful and contemptible in me, being
raised so far above my peers in my privileges, if I were to fall below
the ordinary standard of a gallant man in the decision and firmness of
my system of conduct. Decision and firmness were the principles to be
exercised by me now; dignity and magnificence must await their turn
hereafter.

It was not long before I embraced an opportunity of speaking to the
man who waited on me with my daily allotment of provisions, and I
designed as shortly as possible to proceed to that species of argument,
in which I principally confided to engage him in my cause. But he
did not suffer me to utter a sentence before with a very expressive
gesture he interrupted me. I had remarked already the silence which
seemed for ever to pervade this dismal abode; but I had not ascribed
importance enough to this circumstance, to suppose that it could
materially interfere with the project I had formed. I now perceived the
countenance of my attendant to be overspread with terror and alarm. He
put his hand upon my mouth, and by his attitude seemed earnestly to
insist upon my conforming to the rules of the prison. I was not however
to be thus diverted from my purpose. I seized his hands, and began
again to pursue the discourse I had meditated. This proceeding on my
part induced him to break the silence he had hitherto preserved. He
told me that if I did not instantly set him at liberty, he would alarm
the prison. I loosed his hands. I then by every gesture I could devise
endeavoured to prevail on him to approach me, to suffer me to confer
with him in the lowest whisper, and assured him that he should have no
reason to repent his compliance. I might as well have addressed myself
to the walls that inclosed me. He would not stay an instant; he would
yield in nothing. He burst from me abruptly, and, closing the door of
my cell, left me in solitude and darkness.

In the evening of the day of this attempt the keeper of the prison
entered my apartment. When he appeared, I began to flatter myself that
in this man I should find a better subject for my purpose than in
the poor turnkey who had given me so unfavourable a prognostic of my
success. I lost no time in saying to him that I had something important
to communicate; but he peremptorily commanded me to be silent, and
listen to what he was about to say to me. He told me that I had already
been complained against for speech, and I was now repeating my offence.
He advised me to ponder well the consequences of what I was doing. The
orders of the inquisition were rigorous and inflexible. The cells were
not so substantially separated but that a voice might be heard from one
to the other; yet it had happened more than once, that a husband and
wife, a father and child, had for years been lodged next to each other,
without the smallest suspicion on either part of the proximity of
their situation. He was astonished at the pertinacity of my behaviour.
There was no government on the face of the earth, he would venture to
say, that had subjects more obedient, more dutiful and exemplary than
the holy inquisition. Not a murmur was ever heard; not a discontent
ever expressed. All was humbleness, thankfulness, and gratitude. He
recommended to me to conform myself to my situation, and let him hear
no further complaints of me. He had no sooner finished his harangue,
than he left me as abruptly as his servant had done. It is not possible
to impart any adequate image of the inflexibility of his features, or
the stern composure of his demeanour.

I now saw my situation in a different point of view. Bribery was of no
use, where all intercourse was denied. Great God! into what position
was I got? In the midst of a great and populous city, at this time
perhaps the metropolis of the world, I heard occasionally from beyond
the limits of my prison the hum of busy throngs, or the shouts of a
tumultuous populace. Yet I was myself in the deepest solitude. Like
the wretched mariners I have somewhere read of, shipwrecked upon a
desert shore, I might remain encaged, till I lost all recollection
of European language, and all acquaintance with the sound of my
own voice. A jailor from time to time entered my apartment; but to
me he was simply a moving and breathing statue, his features never
moulded into the expression of a meaning, nor his mouth opened for
the utterance of a sound. From the first I had been struck with the
extreme and death-like silence that characterised the place of my
confinement; but my mind was occupied with other thoughts, and I had
not adverted to the cause of the phenomenon. I had then felt little
inclination to the converse of a jailor; my natural disposition was
somewhat singular for a Frenchman, and inclined to taciturnity: I had
resolved to make a fair and ample trial of the power of a just defence,
where my innocence was so complete and I was entirely disengaged from
those unfavourable appearances which had constituted my misfortune at
Constance; and I even rejoiced, that a silence, which I regarded as
casual and individual, delivered me from all fear of impertinence in my
attendant. With how different a temper do we contemplate an incident
which, we persuade ourselves, continues to operate only because we
want inclination to remove it; and an incident which is violently
imposed, and to which, with the utmost exertion of our strength, we
cannot succeed to impart the slightest shock! The external object
is the same; its picture in the intellectual sensorium how unlike!
What a profound and inconceivable refinement in the art of tyranny is
this silence! The jailor might well tell me, that beneath his roofs
there was neither complaint nor murmur, that the very soul of its
inhabitants was subdued, and that they suffered the most unheard of
oppressions without astonishment or indignation. This is the peculiar
prerogative of despotism: it produces many symptoms of the same general
appearance as those which are derived from liberty and justice. There
are no remonstrances; there is no impatience or violence; there is a
calm, a fatal and accursed tranquillity that pervades the whole. The
spectator enters, and for a time misinterprets every object he sees;
he perceives human bodies standing or moving around him; and it is
with the utmost surprise, if he has leisure and opportunity to observe
a little further, that he finds at last the things he sees to be the
mere shades of men, cold, inert, glaring bodies, which the heaven-born
soul has long since deserted. Wonderful, I hesitate not to affirm, is
the genuine and direct power of such a situation as that in which I
was now placed, upon the human imagination. What was it then to me, to
whom speech was not merely one of those things, misnamed indulgences,
misnamed luxuries, upon which the desirableness and the health of human
existence depend; but who had looked to it as the only and the assured
means of my rescue from this scene of horrors! I intreat the reader to
pardon me, when I confess, that the operation of the discovery I made
was so overwhelming and apparently desperate, that it was some weeks, I
might say months, before my mind recovered its wonted bias and activity.

It was towards the close of the period I have named, that a new
incident, concurring with that familiarity which serves in some measure
to disarm every mischief of its sting, restored and re-awakened my
mind. I had vegetated now for some time, if the metaphor can with
propriety be applied to existence in a noxious and empoisoned air,
by which all vegetation would have been undermined, and which the
vital principle in man is scarcely competent to surmount; and in
all this period had encountered nothing from without, nor received
any intimation, that could in the slightest degree interrupt the
progressive destruction and waste of the soul. One day, at the
customary hour of my being attended by my warder, I was surprised to
see him bring with him a visiter to my cell. The unknown was a man
with grey hairs and a silver beard: though once tall, he now stooped
considerably, and supported himself with a staff: his dress was simple
and neat, and his whole appearance prepossessing. A sweet serenity was
diffused over his countenance; yet there were occasionally a fire,
and a contemplative grasp of thought, expressed in his eyes, which
sufficiently proved to me that his serenity was not the result of
vacancy. All this I discerned by the faint and uncertain light of a
small lamp which the warder had brought with him, and placed upon my
table. The introduction was performed in silence, and the warder left
us alone. The unknown beckoned me to be seated, for the first emotion
of surprise at the entrance of a stranger had caused me to start on my
feet; and, opening a folding stool he had received from my attendant,
he placed himself beside me.

He then addressed me in a low voice, and told me, that the humanity
of the fathers of the inquisition had given him permission to visit
me, and that, if I would be so obliging, in conformity to the
regulations of the prison, as to lower my voice to the standard of
his, we were at liberty to confer together. He hoped the conference
would be some relief to my solitude, if not lead to my complete
liberation. He then unfolded to me his story. He told me that he, like
myself, had been committed to the prisons of the inquisition upon an
accusation of sorcery. Having advanced thus far, he stopped. He talked
miscellaneously and digressively of wizards and their familiars, of
possessions and demons, of charms, spells, talismans and incantations,
even of the _elixir vitæ_ and the philosopher’s stone. Sometimes in
the progress of this discourse I could perceive him observing me
with the utmost narrowness, as if he would dive into my soul; and
again, particularly when he caught a glance of suspicion in my eye,
with infinite address changing his attitude and tone, and assuming
a surprising air of ingenuousness and gaiety. In a word he was a
consummate actor. It was evident, whether his designs were hostile or
friendly, that his purpose was to make himself master of my secret. I
asked him whether the accusation of sorcery which had been preferred
against him, were well founded or a calumny. He evaded that question,
and was only influenced by it to talk more copiously and fluently on
other topics, with the apparent design of making me forget the enquiry
I had made. He avoided anticipation, lest he should miscalculate and
take wrong ground in my affair; and, though superficially he seemed
communicative, I found that he scarcely told me respecting himself any
one thing definite and clear. He celebrated the clemency of the fathers
of the inquisition. He said, they seemed to regard themselves as the
adoptive parents of those they held in their custody, and were anxious
solely for the restoration of souls. In their exterior they were
austere, and had unfortunately contracted a forbidding manner; but he
had soon found, upon a closer inspection of their character, that the
only way to deal successfully with them was to repose in them a perfect
confidence. This panegyric was not resorted to till he had exhausted
the various topics by which he had hoped himself to extort my secret
from me. I asked him, whether the effect of his reposing confidence
had been an abjuration of sorcery, and reconciliation to the church?
But this question experienced the fate of every other that I addressed
to him. He only told me generally, that he had every reason to be
satisfied with, and to speak well of, the treatment he had experienced
in the house of the inquisition. He possessed, or rather, as I
believed, affected, a character of thoughtless garrulity and loquacity,
well adapted to cover the strange deviations and abrupt transitions
that marked his discourse. It was certainly singularly contrasted with
that close and penetrating air which from time to time I remarked in
him.

The reader may deem it surprising and unaccountable; but certain it is
I took uncommon delight in this man’s company. I pressed him earnestly
to repeat his visits, and would scarcely suffer him to depart, till he
had promised to come to me again the next day or the day after. Yet I
looked on him as my mortal enemy, and had no doubt that he was one of
the infamous wretches, employed by the policy of the inquisition, and
well known beneath those hated roofs by the appellation of _moscas_.
Various reasons may be assigned for my conduct in this particular.
Let it first be remembered that I was alone, and for months had not
heard the sound of my own voice. No incident marked my days; no object
arrested my attention. A dull, heavy, pestilential, soul-depressing
monotony formed the history of my life. If in this situation I had
been visited by a mouse or a rat, I should indefatigably have sought
to get within reach of it, I should have put it to my bosom, and have
felt with exultation the beat of an animal pulse, the warmth of animal
life pressing responsively on my heart. With what eager appetite I
should have mixed in scenes of calamity and cruelty, intolerable to any
other eye, glad for myself that even upon such terms I could escape
the frostbound winter of the soul! How I should have rejoiced, like
king Richard of England, to see four grim and death-dealing assassins
enter my cell, like him to struggle and wrestle and contend with my
murderers, though, as in his case, wounds and a fatal end should be the
result! Thus feeling then, it is little wonderful that I should have
hailed with pleasure the visit of the _mosca_.

But this was not all. While I conferred with, or rather listened to my
visiter, that pride and self complacency, which I suspect to be the
main, or at least the indispensable, ingredient of all our pleasures,
revived in my heart. I believed that he was set upon me by these
insatiable bloodsuckers of the inquisition, that he might ensnare
me with his questions, and treacherously inveigle me to the faggot
and the stake. I felt a last, lambent intimation of pride within me,
when my heart whispered me, “This man shall not attain his ends.” I
secretly defied his arts, and amused myself with baffling his most
cunning devices. I had now some one with whom to measure myself. The
comparison, I own, for a descendant of the counts of St. Leon, was a
humble one; but it is not permitted a prisoner in the jails of the
inquisition to be fastidious in his pleasures. This man I played with
at my ease, and laughed at his stratagems. I therefore felt that I
was his superior, and, which was a sensation I had not lately been
accustomed to, that I was somebody. These feelings recommended to me
his visits.

But what was much more material, I looked further, and proposed an
ultimate end to this occurrence. Let it be recollected what was my
unhappiness, when I found myself, if I may be allowed the expression,
suddenly deprived of speech, and then it will easily be understood
how sincerely I rejoiced to have this faculty restored to me. Speech,
as I have already said, I had regarded as the only and assured means
of my deliverance from this scene of horrors. I therefore doubted
not that from this miserable tool of my oppressors I would obtain my
enlargement. I stood firmly on my guard. I permitted him to run out the
whole length of his own project without interruption. By this delay I
should better understand his character, and finally seize it with a
more decisive grasp. Thus purposing, I allowed three or four visits
to pass before I opened to the _mosca_ my own proposal. I designed
unexpectedly to turn the tables upon him, to surprise and finish with
him at once. I knew not that all this precaution was necessary, but I
played for too deep a stake, not to be anxious to omit nothing, which
hereafter in retrospect I might reproach myself that I had omitted.

The time was at length come, at which I judged it convenient to execute
what I had planned in my mind. I began with an attempt to mortify and
humble my guest in his own eyes, that he might lose the pride to make
the smallest resistance to my proposal.

“Do you think, my good sir,” cried I, “that I have not perfectly
understood your intentions all this while? You have pretended to be
my friend, and to come to me for my good. I know that every secret I
reposed in your fidelity, every word that I might unguardedly have
dropped, every look and gesture that could have been interpreted to my
disadvantage, would have been instantly reported to the fathers of the
inquisition. Why, what a poor and miserable fool must you have imagined
me to be! How came you into my cell? Had you a secret key by which
you found your way hither unknown? Could you ever have come into my
apartment, if you had not been employed? You fawn upon me, and are the
tame and passive agent of my merciless destroyers! Shame on such base
and perfidious proceedings! Is this religion, that you should flatter
and cajole and lie to a man, purely that you may have the gratification
at last of burning him alive? If you or your masters can make out any
thing to my disadvantage, let them make it out in the way of fair and
open trial, by the production of direct evidence, and calling on me
for my defence. They style themselves the champions of Christendom and
ornaments of our holy faith; they pretend to an extraordinary degree
of sanctity, and would have all men bow down in mute reverence and
astonishment at their godliness; and yet they have recourse to means
so base, that the most profligate and abandoned tyrant upon record
would have disdained to employ them. But, base as are the judges and
assessors of the court in whose prison I stand, even they scorn the
meanness of the perfidious task in which you have engaged.”

The vehemence I put into the suppressed and under-tone with which I
delivered these reproaches, seemed to produce no emotion in my guest.
He dropped his staff upon his shoulder; he meekly folded his arms
upon his bosom, and answered, that he had long since learned to bear
every contumely for the cause of God and the Redeemer: they were
heaven-directed chastisements, which his manifold sins and iniquities
had amply deserved.

“Hypocrite!” replied I, “would you make me believe that a conscientious
motive can prompt such conduct as yours, can mould your features into a
treacherous expression of kindness, and fill your mouth with lies and
deceptions innumerable?”

“No proceedings,” rejoined he, with an unaltered air, “are base, that
God and his church prescribe. I take up the cross with cheerfulness,
and glory in my shame. The more ignominious in the eyes of an
unregenerate world is my conduct, the more entire and implicit does it
prove my obedience to be.”

My heart swelled within me as he talked. I could lend no attention
to such despicable cant, and was ashamed to see the most profligate
conduct assuming to itself the pretensions to an extraordinary degree
of sanctity and disinterestedness.

“Come, come,” said I, “dissembler; I know that nothing could buy a man
to so loathsome an office but money. You are some galley-slave, some
wretch, who by your complicated crimes have forfeited your life to the
community, and are now permitted to earn a miserable existence by lying
in wait for the unfortunate, and engaging in arts at which humanity
shudders. I take you upon your own terms; you are the man I want.
Assist me to escape; go with me to some safer and less cruel country;
I will reward you to the extent of your wishes. Give me your hand; an
estate of six thousand pistoles per annum, without further condition,
waits your acceptance. I invoke all the powers, sacred to truth and
punishers of deceit, to witness, that I have ability to make good the
whole of what I promise.”

While I spoke, I could perceive an extraordinary revolution taking
place in my guest. The meekness and tranquillity of his countenance
subsided; his eye became animated and alive. I hailed the auspicious
omen; I urged my proposal with all the impetuosity I could exert and
all the arguments I could devise. At length I paused. I looked again
at the countenance of the _mosca_; I was less pleased than before. The
expression did not seem to be that of assent and congratulation; it was
rather of horror and alarm.

“St. Jago, and all the saints and angels of heaven, protect me!”
exclaimed he. “What do I hear? A full confession of guilt! And art
thou then the confederate of the prince of the powers of darkness? If
we were not here, in the holy house of inquisition, I should die at
this moment with fear that the roof would fall and crush us together.
I should expect hell to swallow me alive, for being found in thy
unhallowed society.” He trembled with every expression of the sincerest
terror and aversion.

“‘Thy money perish with thee,’ thou second Elymas, like him ‘full
of all subtlety and mischief, child of the devil, enemy of all
righteousness!’ Blasted be thy offers! Have I for this devoted myself
to the service of God, assiduously sought out the basest and vilest
offices of that service, and loaded myself with ignominy here, that I
might obtain a crown of glory hereafter? and am I now to be assaulted
with the worst of Satan’s temptations? Even so, Lord, if such be thy
will! Oh, poor, miserable, deluded victim of the arch-deceiver of
mankind, what has the devil done for thee? He has persuaded thee that
thou art rich; and thou wantest every joy and every necessary of life.
He has promised to be thy friend; and he brings thee to the faggot and
flames in this world, as an earnest of thy eternal damnation hereafter.”

My visiter had no sooner thus poured out the tumult and agitation of
his soul, than he left me abruptly, and I saw him no more.

Such was the event of my attempt to bribe the officers of the
inquisition. In my first experiment I could not even obtain a hearing;
in what followed, my proposals were rejected with all the transports
of religious abhorrence. What I offered indeed, however dazzling in
the statement, had not in fact the nature of a temptation. He to whom
I addressed it gave no credit to my assertions; he thought that I was
the mere drivelling dupe of him he called the arch-deceiver of mankind,
or that my money, when possessed, would soon change its figure, and
from seeming pieces of solid coin be converted into pieces of horn or
of shells. Even if he had not apprehended such a metamorphosis, he
would yet have regarded every doubloon he received as the price of his
continual adversity here, and damnation hereafter. I gained nothing
favourable for my situation by the trial I had made, but I added a
new chapter to my knowledge of human nature. I found, that to be a
knave, it was not necessary to be an infidel: I corrected the too hasty
conclusion which I had adopted with the rest of my contemporaries,
that he whose conduct was infamous, must inevitably be destitute of
religious impressions and belief; and I became satisfied that a man,
while he practised every vice that can disgrace human nature, might
imagine he was doing God service.

Enough of the interior of the prison of the inquisition. I remained a
tenant of this wretched mansion twelve years. Though the wretch who had
been placed upon me as a spy, was, from my proposal to him, satisfied
of my guilt, his superiors were not so. They found nothing in what he
reported definitive as to the nature of my unlawful practices, and they
could extort from me no further confession. They therefore adhered
to their favourite maxim, to avoid the precipitate mistakes of other
tribunals, and to allow their prisoner full time to develop his guilt,
or, as they pretended, to establish his innocence. Perhaps too the
temper of the prince who now filled the Spanish throne, contributed to
my safety. They could not content themselves with a less punishment for
so obstinate and incorrigible a heretic, than that of the flames; but,
during the reign of the emperor Charles, this species of punishment
for heresy was rarely inflicted, and only one or two contumacious,
at intervals, were delivered over to the executioner at a time. The
institution whose victim I had become, looked for a richer and more
abundant harvest from the well-known piety and zeal of his successor.

I pass over the rest of the years of my tedious imprisonment They had
in them a sad and death-like uniformity. What surprising or agreeable
adventures can be expected from a man closed up within the four walls
of a dungeon? Yet it is not altogether the uniformity of this period
that determines me not to dwell upon and expand it. Twelve years
cannot pass in the life of man without many memorable incidents and
occurrences. He that should be buried alive in the deepest cavern
of the earth, if he were not an idiot, or incapable of the task of
narration, and could subsist twelve years in that situation, could
tell of things that occurred to him, that might fill the busy man of
the world with thoughts and speculation almost to bursting. I might
unfold the secrets of my prison-house, but that I will not. I refuse
the consequences of that story both to my readers and myself. I have no
inclination to drive the most delicate or susceptible of my readers mad
with horrors. I could convince such, if such there are, who suppose my
faculties were altogether benumbed or dead, that it was not so. I did
indeed pass days, perhaps weeks, in a condition of that sort. But at
other times my mind was roused, and became busy, restless, impatient,
and inventive. There was no mode of escape that I did not ruminate
upon or attempt; not to mention that, though my body was restrained,
my mind occasionally soared to the furthest regions of the empyrean,
or plunged into the deepest of the recesses in which nature conceals
her operations. All systems of philosophising became familiar to me. I
revolved every different fable that has been constructed respecting the
invisible powers that superintend the events of the boundless universe;
and I fearlessly traced out and developed the boldest conjectures and
assertions of demonism or atheism. As the humour of the moment led me,
I derived misery or consolation from each of these systems in their
turn.--But memory, bitter memory, unperceived by its lord, is seizing
my pen, and running away with my narrative. Enough, enough of the
interior of the prison of the inquisition!



CHAPTER XXXII.


Philip the Second, king of Spain, succeeded to the throne of that
monarchy about the close of the year 1555; but his affairs in England
and the Netherlands long withheld him from visiting his beloved
country, and he did not reach its shores, after a seven years’ absence,
till the twenty-ninth of August, 1559. It may be thought that a public
event of this sort could be little interesting to me, a forgotten
prisoner, immured in the dungeons of the inquisition. The fact was
otherwise. The king was desirous of distinguishing his arrival on
his native soil by some splendid exhibition or memorable event, that
should at once express his piety to God, and conduce to the felicity
of his people: and he could think of nothing that so signally united
these characters as an _Auto de Fé_. The Lutheran heresy, which in the
course of forty years had spread its poison so widely in the different
countries of Europe, had not failed to scatter a few of its noxious
seeds even in this, the purest and most Catholic of all its divisions.
But Philip had early proclaimed his hostility against this innovation;
and, prostrating himself before the image of his Saviour, had earnestly
besought the divine majesty, “that he might never suffer himself to
be, or to be called, the lord of those in any corner of the globe,
who should deny Him the Lord.” Previously to his arrival in Spain,
directions had been given, and arrangements made, respecting the pious
and solemn exhibition he demanded. Formerly those who by the fathers of
the inquisition had been delivered over to the secular arm, had been
executed in the different places where their crimes had been committed,
or their trials been held: but now it was proposed that all those
throughout the kingdom, who were found properly qualified to satisfy by
their deaths the sublime taste of the royal saint, should be divided
into two troops, and sent, the one to Seville, long the capital of an
illustrious monarchy, and the other to Valladolid, which had the honour
to be the birthplace of the present sovereign. The troop destined to
feed the flames at Seville was composed of fifty persons, many of them
distinguished for their rank, their talents, or their virtues. The
troop to be escorted to Valladolid, of which I was a member, amounted
only to thirty: but to compensate this deficiency, Philip himself had
signified his gracious intention to be present, together with the heir
apparent and his whole court, at that exhibition. The Spanish nation,
rejoicing in the approach of a monarch who was born among them, whose
manners and temper happily accorded with theirs, and whom they believed
about to fix his perpetual residence in their land, expected him with
all the longings of the most ardent attachment. We, the unhappy victims
of pious and inquisitorial tyranny, also expected him. Our hearts did
not pant with a less beating quickness; though our anxiety arose from
emotions of a different nature.

Valladolid is distant from the metropolis eighty-four miles. We had
already been some weeks prepared for this journey, and piously directed
to hold ourselves in readiness to take our part in the solemn national
sacrifice. We waited however to receive a previous notice of the day
on which the monarch would enter the place of his birth, since so
great was his royal zeal for the cause of religion and civil society,
that he would not consent to be absent from any part of the spectacle;
and accordingly it was not allowed us to enter the scene of our final
destination, till the king of Spain and the Indies should be already
on the spot, and prepared to receive us. The _auto da fé_ performed at
Seville had the precedence of ours: it took place on the twenty-fourth
of September; and we were indulged with an accurate account of it,
and were present at a public reading of the record of the act, in the
chapel of our prison, previously to our removal from the metropolis.

I will not enter into a minute detail of the scene of this reading,
though the recollection will never be effaced from my memory. Of the
persons present who were destined to suffer capital punishment, eight
were women. Four of them were taken from a single family, being a
grandmother, a mother, and two daughters of the noble house of Alcala.
They had all been beautiful of person, and of a graceful figure; the
youngest of the daughters was in the nineteenth year of her age. Their
crime, together with that of the majority of their fellow-sufferers,
was obstinate and impenitent Lutheranism. The seats of the women were
separated from the rest, and fronted with a close lattice. The men
were twenty-two in number, and their appearance was truly impressive.
Their persons were neglected, and their figures emaciated; their eyes
were sunk and ghastly, and their complexions of a sallow and death-like
white. Most of them were crippled by their long confinement and the
severities they had endured, and were supported to their seats, upon
an elevated scaffolding with benches raised one above another, by two
apparators, one on each side of the condemned heretic. God of mercy
and benevolence! is it possible that this scene should be regarded
as thy triumph, and the execution destined to follow, as a sacrifice
acceptable in thy sight? If these papers of mine are ever produced to
light, may it not happen that they shall first be read by a distant
posterity, who will refuse to believe that their fathers were ever
mad enough to subject each other to so horrible a treatment, merely
because they were unable to adopt each other’s opinions? Oh, no! human
affairs, like the waves of the ocean, are merely in a state of ebb and
flow: “there is nothing new under the sun:” two centuries perhaps after
Philip the Second shall be gathered to his ancestors [he died in 1598],
men shall learn over again to persecute each other for conscience
sake; other anabaptists or levellers shall furnish pretexts for new
persecutions; other inquisitors shall arise in the most enlightened
tracts of Europe; and professors from their chair, sheltering their
intolerance under the great names of Aristotle and Cicero, shall
instruct their scholars, that a heterodox doctrine is the worst of
crimes, and that the philanthropy and purity of heart in which it is
maintained, only render its defenders the more worthy to be extirpated.

What were the ideas and reflections of my fellows, seated on the
benches above, below, and on either side of me, I am unable to affirm;
my own could not fail to be pungent and distressing. I understood
continually more and more of the mysterious and unuttered history, of
the stranger who died in the summer-house of the lake of Constance: I
found that I was only acting over again what he had experienced before
me. His legacies had served to involve me in the bitterest and most
unheard of miseries, but were wholly destitute of ability to rescue
from the evils themselves created. Unbounded wealth I found to have
no power to bribe the dastard slaves of religious bigotry; and the
elixir of immortality, though it could cure disease, and put to flight
the approaches of age, was impotent to repel the fervour of devouring
flames. I might have been happy----I was happy when the stranger found
me. I might have lived to a virtuous and venerable old age, and have
died in the arms of my posterity. The stranger had given me wealth, and
I was now poorer than the peasant who wanders amidst polar snows. The
stranger had given me immortality, and in a few days I was to expire in
excruciating tortures. He found me tranquil, contented, in the midst
of simple, yet inestimable pleasures; he breathed into me the restless
sentiment of ambition; and it was that sentiment which at length
had placed me on high in the chapel of the prison of the Catholic
Inquisition.

Our progress to Valladolid was slow and solemn, and occupied a space of
no less than four days. On the evening of the fourth day we approached
that city. The king and his court came out to meet us. He saluted
the inquisitor general with all the demonstrations of the deepest
submission and humility; and then, having yielded him the place of
honour, turned round his horse, and accompanied us to Valladolid. The
cavalcade that attended the king broke into two files, and received us
in the midst of them. The whole city seemed to empty itself on this
memorable occasion; and the multitudes that crowded along the road,
and were scattered in the neighbouring fields, were innumerable. The
day was now closed; and the procession went forward amidst the light
of a thousand torches. We, the condemned of the inquisition, had been
conducted from the metropolis upon tumbrils; but, as we arrived at the
gates of Valladolid, we were commanded, for the greater humiliation, to
alight and proceed on foot to the place of our confinement, as many as
could not walk without assistance being supported by the attendants. We
were neither chained nor bound; the practice of the inquisition being
to deliver the condemned upon such occasions into the hands of two
sureties each, who placed their charge in the middle between them; and
men of the most respectable characters were accustomed from religious
motives to sue for this melancholy office.

Dejected and despairing I entered the streets of the city, no object
present to the eyes of my mind but that of my approaching execution.
The crowd was vast; the confusion inexpressible. As we passed by the
end of a narrow lane, the horse of one of the guards who rode exactly
in a line with me, plunged and reared in a violent manner, and at
length threw his rider upon the pavement. Others of the horse-guards
attempted to catch the bridle of the enraged animal. They rushed
against each other. Several of the crowd were thrown down, and trampled
under the horses’ feet. The shrieks of these, and the loud cries and
exclamations of the bystanders, mingled in confused and discordant
chorus. No sound, no object could be distinguished. From the excess
of the tumult a sudden thought darted into my mind, where all, an
instant before, had been relaxation and despair. Two or three of the
horses pushed forward in a particular direction. A moment after they
resiled with equal violence, and left a wide, but transitory gap. My
project was no sooner conceived than executed. Weak as I had just now
felt myself, a supernatural tide of strength seemed to come over me. I
sprung away with all imaginable impetuosity, and rushed down the lane
I have just mentioned. Every one amidst the confusion was attentive to
his personal safety, and several minutes elapsed before I was missed.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


In the lane every thing was silent, and the darkness was extreme. Man,
woman, and child were gone out to view the procession. For some time I
could scarcely distinguish a single object; the doors and windows were
all closed. I now chanced to come to an open door; within I saw no one
but an old man, who was busy over some metallic work at a chafing-dish
of fire. I had no room for choice; I expected every moment to hear the
myrmidons of the inquisition at my heels. I rushed in; I impetuously
closed the door, and bolted it; I then seized the old man by the collar
of his shirt with a determined grasp, and swore vehemently that I
would annihilate him that instant, if he did not consent to afford me
assistance. Though for some time I had perhaps been feebler than he,
the terror that now drove me on, rendered me comparatively a giant. He
intreated me to permit him to breathe, and promised to do whatever I
should desire. I looked round the apartment, and saw a rapier hanging
against the wall, of which I instantly proceeded to make myself
master. While I was doing this, my involuntary host, who was extremely
terrified at my procedure, nimbly attempted to slip by me and rush into
the street. With difficulty I caught hold of his arm, and, pulling him
back, put the point of my rapier to his breast, solemnly assuring him
that no consideration on earth should save him from my fury, if he
attempted to escape a second time. He immediately dropped on his knees,
and with the most piteous accents intreated me to spare his life. I
told him that I was no robber, that I did not intend him the slightest
harm, and that, if he would implicitly yield to my direction, he might
assure himself he never should have reason to repent his compliance.
By this declaration the terrors of the old man were somewhat appeased.
I took the opportunity of this calm to go to the street door, which I
instantly locked, and put the key in my bosom.

Nothing but the most fortunate concurrence of circumstances could
have thus forwarded my escape. The rearing of the horse of the
life-guardsman was purely accidental. The concourse and press of the
crowd from all sides could alone have rendered this circumstance of any
magnitude. The gap which was made by the pushing forwards and resiling
of the horses continued barely long enough for me to spring through,
and closed again in an instant. It is astonishing that the thought
of escape should have thus suddenly darted into my mind, which, but
a moment before, was in a state of dejection, equally incompatible
with activity and with hope. That in the lane down which I rushed I
should have met no human creature, and that the first open door I
saw should lead to the residence of a decrepid old man, who appeared
to be its single inhabitant, were occurrences equally extraordinary,
yet seem to have been both indispensable to my safety. One point
more concurred with this fortunate train, and assisted to still the
palpitations of my beating heart: I perceived, by certain indications
in the countenance of my host, that he was by parentage a Jew. I
presently concluded, that he was what in Spain they denominate a new
christian; for that otherwise he would not have been allowed to reside
at large in a Spanish city. But, upon that supposition, I did not
believe that christianity was very deeply mingled up in him with the
vital principle: the converts of the inquisition are not conspicuous
for their sincerity. Now, then, for the first time I thought, in the
course of twelve years, I had opportunity to communicate with a man,
whose soul was not enslaved to the blood-thirsty superstition of this
devoted country. All I had seen during the period of my confinement
were hyenas, tigers, and crocodiles--they were not men.

I had no sooner soothed my host into a temper to listen to my story,
than I told him with all imaginable frankness whence I came, and
to what I had been destined. The mention of sorcery however, and
preternatural practices, I suppressed; for I suspected that persons of
all religions entertained an equal horror against these. I suffered
him to imagine that the allegation against me had been the crime of
heresy: all sects of the christian superstition might be supposed
equally obnoxious or acceptable to a Jew. I emphatically appealed to
the persecutions which had been so long directed against the religion
of his ancestors, and observed how disgraceful it would be in him
to assist the operation of a principle, the effects of which his
fathers had so deeply deplored, and so perfectly abhorred. I assured
him that I would bring him into no danger, and that all I asked was
the protection of a few hours: I would leave him in the course of
the following day, and he should hear of me no more. I reminded him,
that the danger he had to fear was in betraying, not in protecting
me. The inquisition looked upon every new christian with an eye of
the severest jealousy; and the mere fact, if known, that I had taken
refuge in his house, would infallibly subject him to the purgation of a
temporary imprisonment in their dungeons. It would be in vain for him
to affirm that he had no choice in what had occurred; he was without a
witness to confirm his relation, and the assertions of a man born of
Jewish parents never obtained credit in the court of the inquisition.
I added, with solemn asseverations, that the moment I set foot beyond
the territory of Spain, I would remit to him the sum of six hundred
pistoles as an acknowledgment for his kindness.

During the whole of my discourse, I watched his countenance with the
utmost minuteness. It gradually relaxed from the terror which had at
first appeared in it, to expressions of compassion and complacence.
I saw nothing that ought to alarm me. When it was his turn to speak,
he earnestly assured me that he took a warm interest in my story,
and would cheerfully perform every thing I required. He was happy
that my favourable stars had led me to his habitation, and would
rejoice, to the latest hour of his existence, if they rendered him
instrumental in preserving the life of a human being from so deplorable
a catastrophe. While I talked to him, I easily perceived that the
arguments I used, which produced the most sensible effect upon his
features, were those of the dangers arising to him from betraying
me, and the reward of six hundred pistoles which I promised him in
the event of my success. His motives however were blended together
in his mind; and he had no sooner formed a determination, grounded
perhaps upon the meanest considerations, than he became eloquent in
a panegyric of his own benevolence, by which he was not, I believe,
more anxious to impose upon me, than to put the change upon himself. I
considered all that he said, his gestures, and the very tones of his
voice, with eager anxiety; the terror of the inquisition penetrated to
the marrow in my bones; and the fate awarded against me by that court
became inexpressibly more horrible to my thoughts, now that I saw the
probability of escaping it. Every thing that I observed in the Jew was
apparently fair, plausible, and encouraging; but nothing had power to
quell the agitations of my apprehensive soul.

We were still engaged in discussing the topics I have mentioned, when
I was suddenly alarmed by the noise of some one stirring in the inner
apartment. I had looked into this room, and had perceived nothing
but the bed upon which the old man nightly reposed himself. I sprung
up however at the sound, and, perceiving that the door had a bolt on
the outside, I eagerly fastened it. I then turned to Mordecai, such
previously to his conversion had been the name of my host: “Wretch,”
said I, “did not you assure me that there was no one but yourself in
the house?” “Oh,” cried Mordecai, “it is my child! it is my child!
she went into the inner apartment, and has fallen asleep on the bed.”
“Beware!” I answered; “the slightest falsehood more shall instantly be
expiated in your blood.” “I call Abraham to witness,” rejoined the once
more terrified Jew, “it is my child! only my child!” “Tell me,” cried
I, with severity of accent, “how old is this child?” “Only five years,”
said Mordecai: “my dear Leah died when her babe was no more than a year
old; and, though we had several children, this single one has survived
her.” “Speak to your child; let me hear her voice!” He spoke to her,
and she answered, “Father, I want to come out.” I was satisfied it was
the voice of a little girl. I turned to the Jew: “Take care,” said I,
“how you deceive me now; is there no other person in that room?” He
imprecated a curse on himself if there were: I opened the door with
caution, and the little girl came forward. As soon as I saw her, I
seized her with a rapid motion, and retired back to a chair. “Man,”
said I, “you have trifled with me too rashly; you have not considered
what I am escaped from, and what I have to fear; from this moment this
child shall be the pledge of my safety; I will not part with her an
instant as long as I remain in your house; and with this rapier in my
hand I will pierce her to the heart, the moment I am led to imagine
that I am no longer in safety.” The Jew trembled at my resolution;
the emotions of a father worked in his features, and glistened in his
eye. “At least let me kiss her!” said he. “Be it so!” replied I: “one
embrace, and then, till the dawn of the coming day, she remains with
me.” I released my hold; the child rushed to her father, and he caught
her in his arms. “My dear Leah,” cried Mordecai, “now a sainted spirit
in the bosom of our father Abraham! I call God to witness between us,
that, if all my caution and vigilance can prevent it, not a hair of
this child shall be injured! Stranger, you little know by how strong
a motive you have now engaged me to your cause. We poor Jews, hunted
on the face of the earth, the abhorrence and execration of mankind,
have nothing but family affections to support us under our multiplied
disgraces; and family affections are entwined with our existence, the
fondest and best-loved part of ourselves. The God of Abraham bless you,
my child! Now, sir, speak! what is it you require of me?”

I told the Jew that I must have a suit of clothes conformable to the
appearance of a Spanish cavalier, and certain medical ingredients that
I named to him, together with his chafing-dish of coals to prepare
them; and, that done, I would then impose on him no further trouble.
Having received his instructions, he immediately set out to procure
what I demanded. He took with him the key of the house; and, as soon
as he was gone, I retired with the child into the inner apartment, and
fastened the door. At first I applied myself to tranquillise the child,
who had been somewhat alarmed at what she had heard and seen: this
was no very difficult task. She presently left me, to amuse herself
with some playthings that lay scattered in a corner of the apartment.
My heart was now comparatively at ease; I saw the powerful hold I had
on the fidelity of the Jew, and firmly persuaded myself that I had no
treachery to fear on his part. Thus circumstanced, the exertion and
activity with which I had lately been imbued left me; and I insensibly
sunk into a sort of slumber.

The night was now far advanced, and I was still reclined insensible
upon Mordecai’s bed, when suddenly a jargon of various sounds seemed
from all sides to assail me. My mind was confused; I heard something,
but seemed wholly unconscious what I was, and where. I wanted to
escape from the disturbance; but it continued, and even increased.
At length I was forced to command my attention; and the first thing I
perceived was a beating at the door of the chamber. The little girl
was come to the bedside, and endeavouring to shake me. “Sir, sir,” she
cried in an eager accent, “my father wants to come in, and I cannot
slip the bolt of the door.” By slow degrees I began to comprehend my
situation, and to recollect what had happened immediately before.
I felt greatly alarmed; I feared by the disturbance that Mordecai
had not returned alone. I essayed to speak; my organs refused their
office. I endeavoured to move; my limbs felt palsied, and absolutely
lifeless. I experienced a sinking and sickness of heart that seemed to
be the immediate precursor of death. By listening occasionally to the
discourse which the father and the daughter began to hold with each
other, I became satisfied that Mordecai was without a companion. I
endeavoured to make the little girl understand that I was incapable of
rising from the bed; and, having at length succeeded, she communicated
the information to her father. With considerable trouble he loosened
the door at its hinges, and entered the room. I found myself in the
extremest degree feeble and languid; the Jew however assiduously
administered to me of cordials he had in his possession, and by degrees
I felt myself considerably restored.

Now, for the first time, I was at leisure to attend to the state of
my strength and my health. My confinement in the inquisition, and the
treatment I had experienced, had before rendered me feeble, and almost
helpless; but these appeared to be circumstances scarcely worthy of
attention, in the situation in which I was then placed. The impulse I
felt, in the midst of the confusion in the grand street of Valladolid,
produced in me an energy and power of exertion which nothing but the
actual experience of the fact could have persuaded me was possible.
This energy, once begun, appeared to have the faculty of prolonging
itself; and I did not relapse into imbecility, till the occasion
seemed to be exhausted which called for my exertion. I examined myself
by a mirror with which Mordecai furnished me: I found my hair as
white as snow, and my face ploughed with a thousand furrows. I was
now fifty-four, an age which, with moderate exercise and a vigorous
constitution, often appears like the prime of human existence; but
whoever had looked upon me in my present condition, would not have
hesitated to affirm that I had reached the eightieth year of my age.
I examined with dispassionate remark the state of my intellect: I was
persuaded that it had subsided into childishness. My mind had been as
much cribbed and immured as my body. I was the mere shadow of a man,
of no more power and worth than that which a magic lantern produces
upon a wall. These are thy works, Superstition!--this the genuine and
proper operation of what is called Christianity! Let the reader judge
of what I had passed through and known within those cursed walls by the
effects; I have already refused, I continue to refuse, to tell what I
suffered, and how those effects were produced. Enough of compassion,
enough of complaint: I will confine myself, as far as I am able, to
simple history.

Being recovered, as far as the cordials and attention of Mordecai were
capable of recovering me, I desired for the remainder of the night
to be alone, except that I was still resolved to retain the little
Jewess as the pledge of my safety. I was greatly obliged to my host for
the punctuality he had already displayed: he had found considerable
difficulty in procuring the articles of which I stood in need, owing
partly to the lateness of the hour, and partly to the presence of the
king, and the general hurry and confusion which had been produced by
the solemn entry of the inquisition. His efforts too to recover me
from the languor and lethargy into which I had sunk, had a character
of generosity; and perhaps I ought now to have trusted him without a
hostage. But my heart was too earnestly bent upon accomplishing its
present object, to afford harbour to the punctilios of delicacy. The
same earnestness caused me to insist upon Mordecai’s repairing the
injury which the hinges of the door had sustained; and I was careful
to satisfy myself that every thing was restored to a state of perfect
security.

I was now once again alone. The little girl, who had been unusually
disturbed, and roused at an unseasonable hour, sunk into a profound
sleep. I heard the noise which Mordecai made in undressing himself,
and composing his limbs upon a mattrass, which he had dragged for the
present occasion into the front room, and spread before the hearth. I
soon found by the hardness of his breathing that he also was asleep.
I unfolded the papers he had brought me; they consisted of various
medical ingredients I had directed him to procure; there were also two
or three vials, containing syrups and essences. I had near me a pair
of scales with which to weigh my ingredients; a vessel of water; the
chafing-dish of my host, in which the fire was nearly extinguished;
and a small taper, with some charcoal to relight the fire, in case
of necessity. While I was occupied in surveying these articles and
arranging my materials, a sort of torpor came suddenly over me, so as
to allow me no time for resistance. I sunk upon the bed. I remained
thus for about half an hour, seemingly without the power of collecting
my thoughts. At length I started, felt alarmed, and applied my utmost
force of mind to rouse my exertions. While I drove, or attempted to
drive, my animal spirits from limb to limb, and from part to part,
as if to enquire into the general condition of my frame, I became
convinced that I was dying. Let not the reader be surprised at this:
twelve years’ imprisonment, in a narrow and unwholesome cell, may
well account for so sudden a catastrophe. Strange and paradoxical as
it may seem, I believe it will be found in the experiment that the
calm and security which succeed to great internal injuries are more
dangerous than the pangs and hardships that went before. I was now
thoroughly alarmed: I applied myself, with all vigilance and expedition
to the compounding my materials. The fire was gone out; the taper was
glimmering in the socket: to swallow the julep when I had prepared
it, seemed to be the last effort of which my organs and muscles were
capable. It was the elixir of immortality, exactly made up according to
the prescription of the stranger.

Whether from the potency of the medicine, or the effect of imagination,
I felt revived the moment I had swallowed it. I placed myself
deliberately in Mordecai’s bed, and drew over me the bed-clothes. I
fell asleep almost instantly. I believe my first sleep was perfectly
sound and insensible; but in no long time I was visited with the
pleasantest dreams imaginable. Nothing was distinct; nothing was
attended with the consciousness of my former identity; but every thing
was gay, cheerful, invigorating, and delicious. I wandered amidst
verdant lawns, and flower-enamelled gardens. I was saluted with the
singing of a thousand birds, and the murmuring of a thousand fountains.
Kids, fawns, and lambs frisked and gamboled before me. At a distance,
through an opening in the trees, I discerned nymphs and their swains
dancing a variety of antic measures. I advanced towards them; they
approached towards me. Fifes, oboes, recorders, and instruments of a
hundred names, commenced a cheerful and melodious concert. Myself and
the dancers now were met; they placed me in the midst of them. They
began a choral song; the motion of their limbs conformed to their
numbers. I was the theme of the general chaunt; they ascribed to me the
beauty of Apollo, the strength of Hercules, the invention of Mercury,
and the youth of Bacchus.

My sleep was not long; in a few hours I awakened. With difficulty I
recognised the objects about me, and recollected where I had been. It
seemed to me that my heart had never beat so vigorously, nor my spirits
flowed so gay. I was all elasticity and life; I could scarcely hold
myself quiet; I felt impelled to bound and leap like a kid upon the
mountains. I perceived that my little Jewess was still asleep; she had
been unusually fatigued the night before. I know not whether Mordecai’s
hour of rising were come; if it were, he was careful not to disturb his
guest. I put on the garments he had prepared; I gazed upon the mirror
he had left in my apartment. I can recollect no sensation in the course
of my life, so unexpected and surprising as what I felt at that moment.
The evening before, I had seen my hair white, and my face ploughed with
furrows; I looked fourscore. What I beheld now was totally different,
yet altogether familiar; it was myself, myself as I had appeared on the
day of my marriage with Marguerite de Damville; the eyes, the mouth,
the hair, the complexion, every circumstance, point by point, the same.
I leaped a gulf of thirty-two years. I waked from a dream, troublesome
and distressful beyond all description; but it vanished, like the
shades of night upon the burst of a glorious morning in July, and left
not a trace behind. I knew not how to take away my eyes from the mirror
before me.

I soon began to consider that, if it were astonishing to me that,
through all the regions of my countenance, I could discover no trace of
what I had been the night before, it would be still more astonishing
to my host. This sort of sensation I had not the smallest ambition to
produce: one of the advantages of the metamorphosis I had sustained,
consisted in its tendency, in the eyes of all that saw me, to cut off
every species of connection between my present and my former self. It
fortunately happened that the room in which I slept, being constructed
upon the model of many others in Spain, had a stair at the further
end, with a trap-door in the ceiling, for the purpose of enabling the
inhabitant to ascend on the roof in the cool of the day. The roofs
were flat, and so constructed, that there was little difficulty in
passing along them from house to house, from one end of the street to
the other. I availed myself of the opportunity, and took leave of the
residence of my land host in a way perfectly unceremonious, determined
however speedily to transmit to him the reward I had promised. It may
easily be believed that Mordecai was not less rejoiced at the absence
of a guest whom the vigilance of the inquisition rendered an uncommonly
dangerous one, than I was to quit his habitation. I closed the trap
after me, and clambered from roof to roof to a considerable distance.
At length I encountered the occasion of an open window, and fortunately
descended, unseen by any human being, into the street. Having with
difficulty succeeded, on this occasion of public solemnity, in engaging
an apartment in one of the hotels of Valladolid, I sent into it, as
soon as I was able, a chest, containing every necessary of apparel, and
particularly a suit of clothes. I then changed my dress, and threw the
clothes which Mordecai had provided into the chest I had purchased. As
long as they continued safely locked up, and the key in my possession,
no faculty possessed by any human creature could detect my identity,
and expose me afresh to my former jailors. The only peril under which
I had before laboured, was from Mordecai, who, if he had seen me in the
garments he had procured, might have recognised them; and, though a
peril from this source came barely within the limits of possibility, it
was easily avoided, and I therefore chose to avoid it.

I passed the whole of this day in a species of enjoyment, which, as it
has no parallel in the ordinary transactions of mankind, so are there
no terms in the received languages of the world that are adequate
to the description of it. It has often been a subject of melancholy
and complaint among mortals, that, while the whole vegetable system
contains in it a principle of perpetual renewal, man alone,--the
ornament and lord of the universe, man,--knows no return to youth.
When the sun declines in the west, the flowers droop, and fold up
their frail and delicate leaves; but soon the eyelids of the morn
are again opened, and again they rejoice in his invigorating beams.
Upon the approach of winter, the beech, the ash, and the monarch-oak,
scatter their withered foliage over the plains; but spring reappears,
and nakedness is no longer their reproach, and they clothe themselves
anew in their leafy honours. With what a melancholy sensation does
the old man survey his decaying limbs! To me, he cries, there is no
second morning, and no returning spring. My head, pressed down with
years, shall never again erect itself in conscious manhood. These hoary
locks shall no more be adorned with the auburn of glossy youth. My
weather-beaten trunk shall at no time clothe itself with a smoother
rind. A recruited marrow shall never fill these bones, nor a more
vigorous sap circulate through my unstrung limbs. I recollect what I
was in the prime of manhood, with vain regrets; the memory answers no
other end than to torment and upbraid me.

The useless wish of the old man, the object of his hopeless sigh, was
mine. Common and every-day blessings have little value in the eye of
their possessor. The young man squanders the endowments of youth, and
knows not to prize them. If the young man had once been old, if the
old man could again be young, then, and then only, they would justly
estimate their wealth. The springy limb, the bounding frame, the vigour
that sets fatigue at defiance, and revels in pleasures unexhausted,
would then by the near and conscious comparison, of feebleness and
lassitude, the drooping limb, the aching head, and the frame decayed in
all its senses, be well understood. Such was my situation. Yesterday
I was fourscore; to-day I was twenty. Yesterday I was a prisoner,
crippled in every articulation; to-day I was a citizen of the world,
capable of all its delights. To-morrow I was destined to have been
dragged to the stake with ignominy, and to suffer intolerable anguish
amidst the shouts and huzzas of an unfeeling populace; to-morrow I was
at liberty to employ as I pleased, to choose the theatre upon which it
should be spent, and the gratifications that should be crowded into
it. What was most material, my mind was grown young with my body.
Weary of eternal struggle, I had lately resigned the contest, and sunk
under the ill-fortune that relentlessly pursued me. Now I felt within
me a superfluity of vigour; I panted for something to contend with,
and something to conquer. My senses unfolded themselves to all the
curiosity of remark; my thoughts seemed capable of industry unwearied,
and investigation the most constant and invincible. Ambition revived
in my bosom; I longed for new engagements and new relations; I desired
to perform something, that I might myself regard with complacence, and
that I might see the world start at and applaud.

I determined, for reasons that I shall presently have occasion to
unfold, that my first visit should be to my daughters at my paternal
estate of St. Leon. I proposed to spend two or three days in
preparations for this journey. By mere accident, by a most censurable
heedlessness, I became in some degree a spectator of the _auto da fé_
in which I was destined to have been a victim. Unawares I had become
entangled in the crowd, and could with difficulty escape, or even
prevent my being carried nearer the centre of the scene. I saw the
galleries and accommodations that had been erected for the spectators:
I saw the windows and roofs of the houses crowded with beholders. The
shrieks of the sufferers I could not hear; they were drowned in the
infernal exultations of the multitude. But what was worst of all,
I discerned some of the condemned, fixed as they were upon small
boards, near the top of stakes about four yards high, and therefore
greatly above the heads of the assembly, while the flames, abundantly
fed with faggots and dry fuel, climbed aloft, and seemed eager to
embrace their victims. As I have already said, there were thirty of
these death-devoted frames; and, if my eye did not count them all, my
fancy well supplied what sense was unable to discover. The impression
I felt at that moment was horrible beyond all conception. I exerted
my new-found strength, and pushed out of the press with irresistible
vigour. If at that instant I could have felt exultation, even in the
consciousness of my own safety, I should regard myself as the most
execrable of monsters.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


The first employment in which I purposed to engage my new-found liberty
and youth, was a visit to my daughters. I now carried a disguise
perpetually about with me, that would render my journey incapable of
proving injurious to them. My daughters were all that remained, if
indeed they still remained, of my once idolised family. For twelve
years I had continued totally ignorant of their fortune, and even of
their existence. Part of the plan I had adopted for their advantage
necessarily precluded me from all correspondence or communication
with them or any one near them, that might satisfy and tranquillise
the anxieties of a father. If it had been otherwise, deprived, as
I had been, of the common benefits of light and air, and cast out
from the society of mankind, I could have obtained no intelligence
of their welfare. In visiting, I determined not to make myself known
to them; yet, notwithstanding the greatness of this disadvantage, I
felt that one of the most exquisite gratifications the earth could
afford me was to behold my children. What a multitude of adventures
and incidents might they not have encountered in the space of twelve
years! Imagination and affection dwell impatiently on the interval;
nor can any thing quiet the conjectures of him that loves, short of
the most complete information. What a difference must twelve years
have produced in the very persons and figures of creatures so young?
With what mingled and exquisite emotions does the father contemplate
his daughter, whom he left a child, grown up into a woman? He sees her
with astonishment and rapture, displaying maturer beauties, discovering
in her countenance new traces of knowledge and sentiment, and in her
gesture and manners a character finished, matronly, and sedate. The
very circumstance that I should visit them unknown, and converse
intimately with them without being discovered, while it cut me off
from many pure and ingenuous pleasures, added in some respects a new
relish to the indulgence; for it gave it a character, singular, and
perhaps unprecedented, in the history of mankind. I anticipated with
eager transport the hour at which I should revisit the place of my
birth, wander amidst the shades where my careless infancy had strayed,
recognise objects made sacred to my heart by associations with my
venerable mother and my adorable wife, now illumined with the presence
of my children, and steal a joy, unsuspected and unknown, to which the
very secrecy with which it was ravished would give a tenfold gust.

I embraced the nearest route, by Pampeluna and the Pyrenees, to the
banks of the Garonne. One particular pleasure that I reaped during
this tour, which the climate and scenery might alone have rendered
delightful, consisted in the youthful sensation with which every thing
I saw was enjoyed. Every one who can call to mind the amusements of
his childhood will be conscious that during that period all his senses
were in a tone adapted to convey the most exquisite gratification.
This is not merely, as is vulgarly supposed, the result of the
novelty and freshness with which at that time every thing strikes us.
The extremities of the nerves are in a state of the most delicate
susceptibility, upon which no touch, however slight and evanescent, is
lost, and which makes us, upon every occasion favourable to enjoyment,
gasp and tremble with the pleasure we imbibe. We feel it thrilling
through every pulse, and communicating its tone to every part. Our
attention is engrossed by a single object; or, if we are sensible to
accompanying incidents, it spreads over them an animating sunshine,
and totally varies their appearance and hue. Age, on the contrary,
imperceptibly brings along with it callosity and sluggishness of
sensation, our gratifications are coldly relished, and our desires
feebly awakened. Such is the difference in our perception, of delicious
fruits, of fragrant smells, of smooth and glossy surfaces, of the
vividness of colour, and the heavenly sweetness of sound. If this be a
just account, I leave the reader to imagine how I enjoyed my tour from
Valladolid to the beautiful and romantic retirement of St. Leon.

There was however one sentiment with which I was at this time
impressed, that I shall find it difficult to make the reader understand
in the extent in which I felt it, and that formed a powerful drawback
upon the pleasures I have just described. A short time ago I had been
old; now I was young: I had quaffed of the elixir of immortality. The
revolution this had produced in my sentiments was not less memorable
than that which it had effected in my corporeal lineaments and my
mental elasticity. It is so different a thing to conceive a proposition
theoretically, and to experience it in practice! The case is parallel
to that of the expectation which an ordinary Christian entertains of
eternal bliss. It is an article in his creed; he repeats it every
night when he lies down, and every morning when he rises. He would
be both offended and surprised if you told him he was not persuaded
of it; and yet how faint and indistinct a picture it produces in
his intellectual retina! The affairs of the world strike him with
all the force of vision; to them he cannot make himself a stranger
and a pilgrim; he cannot transfer all his affections to the mere
creature of his imagination, engendered in solitude, and nurtured by
enthusiasm,--heaven. How different must have been the feelings of the
celebrated apostle, who had been taken up into the third heaven, and
had beheld the new Jerusalem with all its jaspers, its chrysolites, its
emeralds, and its sapphires!

My situation was similar to this. I had long known, as far as
reflection could assure me of it, that I possessed the elixir of
immortality. But never till now had I felt the julep tingling in my
veins, and known the effects of it in every joint and articulation
of my frame. I before believed, I now felt, that I was immortal. The
consequence of this intimate persuasion was not without its portion of
melancholy. I still bore the figure and lineaments of a human creature;
but I knew that I was not what I seemed. There was a greater distance
between me and the best constructed and most consummate of the human
species, than there is between him and an ant or a muskito, crushed
by the first accidental tread, or consumed by the first spark wafted
by the wind. I can no longer cheat my fancy; I know that I am alone.
The creature does not exist with whom I have any common language, or
any genuine sympathies. Society is a bitter and galling mockery to my
heart; it only shows in more glaring colours my desolate condition.
The nearer I attempt to draw any of the nominal ties of our nature,
the more they start and shrink from my grasp. From this moment I could
not shake off the terrible impression of my loneliness; no, not for an
hour. Often does this impression induce me to regard my immortality
with loathing indescribable; often do I wish to shelter myself from it
in the sweet oblivion of the grave. From this hour I had no passions,
no interests, no affections; my heart has never expanded with one
natural emotion; I have never delivered myself up to the repose of one
genuine amusement. If at any time I have had a glimpse of pleasure, it
has irritated, only to deceive; it has increased the appetite, while
it displayed in stronger colours my impotence to gratify it. What is
worse, every added year has still subtracted something from the little
poignancy and relish which the bowl of human life continued to retain.
I have the power of assuming a youthful and glossy appearance whenever
I think proper; but this is only a bitter mockery of the furrows
ploughed in my heart. In so much of my adventures as remains for me
to describe, I feel that I shall be obliged to employ the established
terms of human description. I cannot interrupt the history of my
sensations, by a recital of those pangs by which they have been every
moment interrupted. The terms I must use may delude the reader into an
imagination that I still participate of enjoyment and of hope. Be it
so; they may cheat the reader; they cannot cheat myself!

Previously to my arrival in the vicinity of the Garonne, I equipped
myself in the habit of an Armenian, and assumed the character of
a merchant travelling from country to country for the sale of his
commodities.

It was in the close of a wintry day in the bleak and cheerless
month of December, that I first viewed from a distance the turrets
of St. Leon. I procured myself accommodations for the night in the
adjoining village. Being now, after so long an absence, within reach
of the residence of these lovely treasures, I sought, without any
direct consciousness of the sentiment, to delay our interview. When I
entered the little _auberge_, sheltered under a small plantation of
olives, I dreaded to hear the repetition of my family name. I longed
most fervently to be informed of the welfare of my daughters, yet I
could have died sooner than utter a single question on the subject.
I found that that ardent love which had urged me with rapid steps
from Valladolid to St. Leon, gradually, as the distance grew little,
changed from an impetuous vehemence to hear of, and to see them, to
fearful, awe-struck, motionless anxiety. Their light and airy figures,
as I last saw them at Montauban in 1547, danced before the eyes of my
imagination: what casualties, what calamities might not have overtaken
them since! I was afraid almost to breathe, lest I should dissolve
the unreal scene that played around me. How did I know that I did not
indulge this cheerful imagination for the last time? Again and again
in the course of the evening, I felt as if I could have wasted ages in
this _auberge_ and the neighbouring fields, still believing that my
daughters inhabited yonder towers, still hovering round their fancied
residence, but never daring to utter their name, lest it should be
found the prelude to some fatal intelligence. How rich and refined a
repast in some cases is uncertainty! It had the power to impart to
these precious pledges a share of that immortality of which I was the
destined monopolist.

Why had I not the courage never to overpass the limit at which I was
now arrived, and, wherever I afterwards wandered on the various
surface of the globe, still to be able to repeat to myself the
complacent whisper, “I have visited my daughters in their separated
abode, and my visit was productive of none but agreeable sensations?”
My passions were too much afloat to suffer me really to rest in this
patient, contemplative gratification. Before the morning’s dawn, I
walked forth, and turned my eyes towards the castle. I loitered from
bank to bank, and from point to point. Daylight slowly broke in upon
me, but all was silent and quiet in my paternal château. “The family
is not yet stirring,” said I to myself. I turned my steps to the spot
where the ashes of my mother were mingled with their parent earth.
The time that had intervened since her decease, the various fortunes
and impressions I had experienced, had somewhat obliterated the
vividness of her picture in my memory, and deadened the tremblingness
of sensation with which I once thought of her. Yet enough was left,
to make it an interesting moment to me, when I kneeled at her tomb.
Why, oh why, as it had been with my great forefathers, was it not a
moment of exultation to me, when I thus feelingly saluted the shade
of a parent! He that exults in such an hour, must feel that he has
illustrated his birth, and honoured his progenitors. I had done nothing
of this: I was an exile on the face of the earth, had acquired no
trophies, and accumulated no fame. I had none to honour, none even to
know me; I had no family, I had no friend! These bitter recollections
started up in array before me, and cut me to the heart. The spirit of
my mother frowned upon her son; and I returned along the path by which
I came, disgraced and disconsolate.

“I am now,” said I, “in a fit temper to learn intelligence of my
daughters: if they have been unhappy, to hear it will not make me more
forlorn; if they have been fortunate, that knowledge, and that alone,
may revive my courage.” I hastened towards the avenue. I looked into
the thickets and winding paths, as I passed. They communicated to me
mingled pictures of my own boyish days, and of the amusements of the
present inhabitants.

I told the nature of my pretended traffic to the servants of the house,
and proposed an exhibition of my commodities; I was admitted, as I
desired, to the apartment of their mistresses. I saw two young ladies,
who appeared to be respectively about twenty-eight and twenty-four
years of age, and whom without much difficulty I recognised for my
daughters Louisa and Marguerite. Their situation and their ages
identified them; and when afterwards I came to peruse their features
attentively, I could easily discover traits of the amiable young woman
and the playful child they had been when last we parted. I found them
employed upon a piece of embroidery; a comely and respectable looking
young woman, a servant, was sewing in another part of the room. Every
thing about the ladies bespoke the ease of their circumstances, and the
propriety of their sentiments. Both had on an elegant morning-habit;
both had an air of sedateness and sobriety, that to my apprehension
told that they had not lived unchastened by misfortune.

They each slightly looked up, as I was ushered into the apartment; they
saluted me with a graceful and condescending bend of the head, such as
we are accustomed to use to an inferior whom we are willing to put at
his ease. What were my sensations, a father, disguised and unknown,
in the presence of his children! I attempted to stand, as is usual
for a tradesman, when he waits on his customers at their own house. I
attempted to speak. My tongue refused its office; my legs tottered as
if sustaining an unusual weight. Louisa observed me, and desired me to
be seated. I had no power of choice; I accepted her civility. No sooner
was I seated, than in spite of myself a flood of tears gushed from my
eyes. She was astonished; she begged to know if I were indisposed;
she requested me to make use of every assistance the house could
afford. I now found my speech. I apologised for my behaviour; said I
had felt suddenly ill, but that the tears I shed would prove the most
effectual relief to me. My appearance, it may be proper to mention,
was not that of a vulgar pedlar; it was tall, graceful, and ingenuous,
with a certain air of refinement and politeness; my Armenian dress,
though formed of uncostly materials, was such as to display my person
to considerable advantage. Both the young ladies showed themselves
interested in the symptoms of my distress. After a few minutes internal
struggle, I rose, made an excuse for the abruptness of my departure,
and requested permission to repeat my visit in the afternoon, when I
should have something not unimportant to communicate to them.

I had seen two of my daughters; I had been satisfied that they still
existed; I had witnessed their exterior health and beauty. As I
withdrew, I laid my hand upon my heart, and congratulated myself: “Thus
far,” said I, “it is well!” I felt relieved from part of the weight
that lay there. With my right hand I struck upon my forehead: “but, oh,
where,” cried I, “is my other daughter?” The thought came over me with
the force of a demonstration: she is dead! A servant was attending me
to the door; I requested to speak to the housekeeper; I was introduced
to Mariana Chabot. She was struck with my appearance, as I believe my
daughters had been, as if my features were those of some person with
whom she was intimately acquainted. She would probably have mistaken me
for my own son, but that I looked considerably too young. I intreated
her to pardon my curiosity; but, I assured her, I had a particular
reason to interest myself in the family of Monsieur St. Leon, and I
therefore requested that she would have the goodness to inform me of
their affairs, as far as she could with propriety communicate them
to a person who was not so happy as to be in the catalogue of their
acquaintance. I told her that I had just seen two of her ladies, but
that I had understood there had been three, and I particularly desired
some information as to the young lady who had not made her appearance
in the parlour. My presentiment was true; the impression that smote
me when I left the parlour, was her funeral knell; my beloved Julia
was dead; she had been dead four years! If it had not been for the
agitation of my mind when I visited the tomb of my venerable parent,
I should have discovered her monument near that of her grandmother.
That would have been too overwhelming a mode of learning the painful
intelligence; I was glad at least to have escaped that!

In this and some subsequent conversations I held with this respectable
matron, I learned a variety of particulars respecting my daughters.
Madame Chabot expressed herself sorry that she had nothing pleasing
to communicate. Her young ladies had been pursued by a train of
misfortunes, though, heaven knew, they had merited every happiness.
A few years after they had been settled at St. Leon, Julia had been
addressed by a lover in every sense worthy of her. He was rich, noble,
of a gallant spirit, of a cultivated understanding, and a truly kind
and affectionate heart. Their attachment had been long and tried;
habit and experience of each other’s virtues had caused it to take
a deep root. The father of the young man had destined him to marry
the daughter of a duke and peer of the kingdom; but, finding his
affections unalterably fixed, he had at length yielded, and sanctioned
their mutual passion with his consent. Every thing was now prepared
for the nuptials; a day was fixed, and the appointed time was fast
approaching. Just at this juncture, the father changed his mind, and
became more obstinate and inexorable than ever. A report had begun to
be circulated that monsieur St. Leon, the father of the young ladies,
was still alive. Madame Chabot expressed her fear that this report had
originated in some indiscretion of Bernardin, who, however, had always
proved himself a most zealous and faithful servant, and who had since
paid the debt of nature. Be that as it might, the father of the lover
of Julia was found no longer accessible to expostulation or entreaty.
He was of an avaricious disposition, and he regarded the fortune of the
young lady, which would otherwise have been considerable, as entirely
alienated and annihilated by this flaw in the title. But what was
more material, it by no means accorded with his ideas of nobility and
honour, that the father-in-law of his only son should be a fugitive
and a wanderer, with whose residence no one was acquainted, and of
whom no one could tell whether he were living or dead. The manner in
which the ladies had entered into the repossession of their paternal
estate, when minutely investigated, was thought to have something
in it of an ambiguous and unpleasant nature. It was well known that
monsieur St. Leon had left the country in consequence of his having
ruined himself by the vice of gaming. “Surely,” said some, “it is a
little mysterious, how his children came, after an interval of nine
years, to be able to repurchase all he ever possessed.” In short, the
more the old vicomte was reasoned with, the more furious he grew. At
length he made use of the power which the government of France vests
in the father of a family, and shut up his son in one of the royal
prisons. This was a fatal blow both to the chevalier and his mistress.
Disappointed in the object of his warmest affections, maltreated and
disgraced by the severity of a father, his health sensibly declined.
Nothing however could shake the inflexibility of the vicomte; he would
release his son upon no other terms than a renunciation of his love,
terms which the sense of dignity and honour in the young gentleman,
equally with his passion, forbade him to accept. To all representations
of the necessity of granting liberty to his son, if he would not make
himself answerable for his death, the vicomte sternly replied, “that
he preferred his dying to the idea of his connecting himself with a
family of dishonour.” It was not till a few weeks before he expired,
that the father had consented to his release from prison, and had
removed him to one of his castles in a remote province. But the malady
of the chevalier was found incurable; the vital principles of the
system were fatally deranged. The lover died; and the consequences of
this unhappy affair had put a premature close to the existence of the
unfortunate Julia. Madame Chabot added that, the circumstance of this
story having become a subject of public animadversion, it had had a
most unfavourable effect on the prospects of the surviving sisters.
They bore their situation with dignity; but they could not but feel the
unhappy coincidence, which cut them off from the happiest condition of
human life, an honourable and well assorted settlement in marriage.

While madame Chabot related to me the tragical history of Julia, I
felt convulsed with passion, and more than once burst into an agony
of tears. Fatal legacy! atrocious secrets of medicine and chemistry!
every day opened to my astonished and terrified sight a wider prospect
of their wasteful effects! A common degree of penetration might have
shown me, that secrets of this character cut off their possessor from
the dearest ties of human existence, and render him a solitary, cold,
self-centered individual; his heart no longer able to pour itself into
the bosom of a mistress or a friend; his bosom no longer qualified to
receive upon equal terms the overflowing of a kindred heart. But no
mere exercise of imagination, nothing short of the actual experience
through which I had passed, could have adequately represented the
mischiefs of a thousand various names, that issued from this Pandora’s
box, this extract of a universal panacea. I regarded myself as the
murderer of these two lovers, than whom I concluded, from my personal
observation of the one, and all that I heard of the other, two purer
and more affectionate beings, more singularly qualified to form each
other’s happiness, had never existed. I felt as truly haunted with the
ghosts of those I had murdered, as Nero or Caligula might have been;
my wife, my son, my faithful negro; and now, in addition to these,
the tender Julia and her unalterable admirer. I possessed the gift of
immortal life; but I looked on myself as a monster that did not deserve
to exist.

It is with difficulty that I shall be able to make the reader
understand how much more severe the impression of this last catastrophe
was made to me, by the place and time in which I received the
intelligence. We are creatures of sensation: our worst calamities
derive as much of their pungency from the accessories by which they
are accompanied, as they do from their intrinsic evil. If I had heard
this story at any other period, I am persuaded its effects would not
have been half so painful. The idea of my daughters was faded in my
sensorium, and whatever related to them, though really felt, and felt
like a father, would have been felt with a less overpowering interest.

But now I had journeyed from Valladolid to the Garonne to behold them;
I had surveyed the castle they inhabited; I had viewed the garden
which they arranged with their hands; I had entered the parlour which
they adorned with their presence. All this controlled the operation
of absence and of distance; I felt at this moment as if I had been
accustomed to see them every day, and to regard them as inseparable
from my existence. I experienced, as it were, the united effect of
familiarity and novelty; I felt the melancholy fate of Julia, with
all the keenness of an inmate, and all the surprise of a long absent
traveller. The very metamorphosis I had undergone gave new poignancy
to my distress. Madame Chabot tortured me deliberately and at leisure,
without the slightest consciousness of what she was doing; she believed
she was pouring a tale of persons unknown into the ears of a native of
the other hemisphere, at the moment that she was calling up in arms the
strongest and most excruciating feelings of a father for his child. I
on the other hand had the most violent struggle with myself, while I
endeavoured to suppress the appearances of an emotion, which to the
person who witnessed them must have been for ever unaccountable. As it
was, and in spite of all my efforts, madame Chabot betrayed no little
amazement at the agitation with which I listened to a story, in which,
as she apprehended, I could have no personal interest.

What I heard from madame Chabot suggested to me a conduct, which I
resolved to adopt under the present circumstances. In my next interview
I told Louisa that I would now account to her for emotions which, at
the time they occurred, must have appeared somewhat extraordinary. I
owned that I had been acquainted with her father; I said that I had
first met with him in a journey, in which I was then engaged through
the province of Mesopotamia; that I had received from him, though a
stranger, a singular obligation; that a sincere friendship between
us had been the result of this event; that he died about two years
since; that I had attended him in his last moments; that he had charged
me with his dying recommendations and requests; and that my present
journey into France had principally been instigated by a desire to
visit his children. I then delivered into her hands various letters
and papers, which I had counterfeited chiefly with the intention of
supplying my daughters with legal evidence of the decease of their
father.

Louisa listened to what I related with those marks of affection and
sorrow, which are inseparable from the habits of a well constituted
mind. The emotion she discovered led me farther than I first intended.
I was urged by an irresistible impulse to practise, beyond what the
occasion demanded, upon the feelings of her virtuous mind. I know not
whether this is to be considered as a vain refinement and a criminal
curiosity; but--I think--every generous spirit will excuse me, when
it is recollected that this covert and imperfect proceeding was all
that was left me to soothe the impatient cravings of a father’s heart.
From time to time I reminded her of particulars that it was scarcely
possible any one but her father should know; I conjured up past scenes;
I made all the revolutions of her youth pass successively in review
before her; I touched all the pulses of her soul. Sometimes she was
fixed in mute astonishment at the exactness of my information, and
was ready to do me homage as some aerial genius, who condescended to
clothe himself in this earthly figure; at other times astonishment was
swallowed up in feeling, her soul dissolved in tenderness, and she
appeared ready to faint into my arms. It is scarcely possible to depict
the pleasurable sensations I drew from these intercourses; I know not
whether they were entirely innocent; but this I know, that in me they
produced a sentiment of innocence, and a sentiment of paradise. I felt
sometimes as if I could have wasted ages in this sort of gratification.

As the executor of their father, my daughters received me with every
mark of respect; but, after having already protracted my visit to
them for the space of many days, I felt that I should be guilty of
something alike hostile to their decorum and reputation, if I did
not speedily bring it to a termination. I was a person unknown and
almost without a name; nor could it be proper for a young woman to
continue to receive the visits of a person of her own age and a
different sex, upon the intimate and confidential footing upon which
my visits were paid, except in the case of him whom she intends to
make her husband. To considerations of this sort I was obliged to
sacrifice the gratifications in which I had lately been indulging. My
principal concern at St. Leon, from the time in which madame Chabot
had communicated to me the real nature of my daughter’s situation,
was to remove those disadvantages in which my destiny and my errors
had involved them: it would therefore have been the extreme of
inconsistency in me, while I was healing one mischief, to prepare for
them another. It is not indeed probable that I should long have been
contented for myself with this anomalous and neutral situation, in
which I more resembled a piece of furniture endowed with the faculty of
noting the sensations of those around me, than the member of any human
society. It was high time, as I thought, even in this point of view,
that I should put an end to the inglorious scene, should appear in some
real character, and engage in some real undertaking.

Influenced by these considerations, I now quitted the residence of my
daughters. I had satisfied the longing curiosity of a father, had seen
their situation, had witnessed their beauty, their accomplishments, and
their virtues. If I had been afflicted at hearing of the premature fate
of my eldest daughter, if I had been agonised by the reflection that I
might justly regard myself as her murderer, who was so fitted to suffer
this anguish as myself? The outcast of my species, what right had I
to expect to be happy in my own person, or prosperous in any of my
relations? The guilty cause of all this mischief, it was but suitable
that it should be brought home to my own bosom, that it should tear
and distract my own brain! Add to this, I was not without a hope that
my journey would not be found useless to the survivors. By furnishing
to them the proper documents to certify the death of their father, I
flattered myself that I had cut them off more effectually than before
from all connection with my unpropitious destiny, and had placed them
nearly upon a footing with the other noble and unmarried heiresses of
their native country. I have nothing further to relate in regard to
these two amiable and excellent sisters. From the time that I quitted
St. Leon upon this occasion, to the time in which I am now writing,
the opportunity of making further enquiries respecting them has not
occurred to me. If ever it does occur, I have only this one wish to
entertain, which, if granted, will, I am sure, satisfy my fondest
hopes,--May I find they have been as happy, as they so well deserve to
be!

The parting between me and my daughters was not an unaffecting one.
On my part, whose bosom was fraught with a thousand tender feelings,
to which I could give no language, and of which those whom they
principally concerned had not the slightest suspicion, it could not
be unaffecting. Nor did Louisa and her younger sister look with an
indifferent eye upon the bearer of the last sentiments of their father,
the witness of his death, the executor of his will. There was something
in the features of my countenance, a peculiar sort of conformation, a
family resemblance to themselves, which it is probable they did not
advert to, but which I am persuaded wrought within them to the full
extent of the mysterious sympathies of our nature. I pretended to have
been the familiar confident of their father; I told them of things at
which they started and almost blushed to think that any one beyond
the circuit of their dearest relations should have been privy. In the
hour of our separation, they shed many tears, and embraced me with a
warmth that might have well become sisters to a brother. Yet, shall I
confess my weakness, a weakness in which I do not apprehend myself to
be singular? It happens to few men to witness the manner in which the
story of their own deaths is received. If it did, I believe we all of
us have enough of vanity and personal feeling, however sincere a grief
might show itself in the demeanour of survivors, to find it falling
short of our appetites and demand. This I know, I was myself a party
to this unreasonableness. My daughters received the intelligence of
my death with a decorum and sensibility, which in the eyes of every
impartial spectator would have reflected honour on their characters, a
sensibility beyond what could have been imagined in daughters who now
had not seen their father for twelve years. Yet it was an unpleasing
reflection to me, thus to have occasion to gauge their love, and to
say, This is the exact measure of their affection. I remained in this
part of the world long enough to see my children consoled, and myself
forgotten. Self-importance of man, upon how slight a basis do thy
gigantic erections repose!



CHAPTER XXXV.


From St. Leon I proceeded to the kingdom of Hungary. To complete this
journey I must pass through near twenty degrees of longitude. But that
was a trivial consideration: what I most desired was to gain a new
situation, and enter upon an untried scene. I had determined in my next
experiment upon the endowments of the stranger, to make no half-formed
efforts, and to suffer no mischiefs that drew their source from my own
irresolution. I determined, as I have said, to forestall all opposition
by my firmness, and to silence all objectors by the display of a more
than princely magnificence. I thought it therefore eligible to remove
to a scene, where no encounter with any one I had ever known might
abash me, and no relation of any adventure I had ever met should follow
me. The change of my figure, it is true, would render an encounter of
this sort of little moment to my liberty or my reputation; but I was a
new man, and I was desirous to engross and to feel the benefits that
attend upon novelty.

There was another motive however secretly working at my heart, of a
grander and more exalted cast, that made me prefer Hungary to all the
countries of the earth. Hungary had been now, for upwards of a century,
the great frontier of the Christian world,--the theatre upon which
the followers of Mahomet contended against the followers of Jesus for
destruction and for empire. My mind had from time to time brooded
over this picture in the solitude and forlornness of my dungeon. I
ruminated on all the calamities of Hungary, from the battle of Warna in
1444, to the battle of Mohacz in 1526; in both of which this generous
nation had unsuccessfully achieved prodigies of valour, and, even by
their defeats, had protracted the date of their own independence,
and co-operated for the defence of the population and arts of Europe
against a barbarous and blood-delighting foe. My thoughts dwelt with
rapturous admiration upon the exploits of the heroic Huniades and
his greater son. In the course of my many-coloured experience I had
seen something of war, and was not totally unacquainted with its
never-failing consequences. Meditating as I had done in the dungeons
of the inquisition, if ever I recovered my personal liberty and my
freedom of action, a journey into Hungary, my imagination had grown
familiar with captured towns and smoking villages; with the gallant
soldier stretched lifeless on the plain, and the defenceless mother and
her offspring brutally insulted and massacred; with fields laid waste,
and a people lifting up their hands for bread. Determined as I was to
open at once all the stores of my wealth, I thought I could not find
a nobler scene for its display. I resolved to pour the entire stream
of my riches, like a mighty river, to fertilise these wasted plains,
and revive their fainting inhabitants. Thus proceeding, should I not
have a right to expect to find myself guarded by the faithful love
of a people who would be indebted to my beneficence for every breath
they drew? This was the proper scene in which for the possessor of
the philosopher’s stone to take up his abode. He who could feel his
ambition satisfied in a more straitened field would, by so doing, prove
himself unworthy of the mighty blessing.

Nothing occurred to me in my journey of importance enough to obtain a
place in this history. When I arrived, I found the condition of the
inhabitants even more wretched than the lawlessness of my imagination
had represented it. In the battle of Mohacz the last of the line of
their native sovereigns, together with the flower of his nobility,
had fallen a victim to the merciless plague of war. What survived of
eminent persons in the state assembled soon after in national diet, and
elected, as they had been accustomed to do, one of the most illustrious
among themselves to preside over the councils and to conduct the
battles of their country. But the princes of the house of Austria,
ever on the watch for the aggrandisement of their family, seized the
opportunity of their disastrous situation to enslave the Hungarians
to their sceptre. Charles the Fifth caused his brother Ferdinand,
whose consort was only sister to the deceased monarch, to advance his
claim to the vacant throne, and to enter the country with an imperial
army. The native and elected sovereign found himself, in the weakened
condition of his realm, unable to resist the Austrian arms, and was
finally driven to the desperate expedient of calling in the Turk to
his assistance. From this time, for now upwards of thirty years, the
kingdom had been a prey to two foreign invaders, alternately taking
and retaking her most considerable towns, and distributing with the
strictest impartiality the miseries of war to her devoted inhabitants.
Solyman the Magnificent, the present Ottoman emperor, in no long time
threw off the mask; and, like his rival Ferdinand, professed to fight
only for the enlargement of his own dominions; while the claims, the
liberties, the constitution, and the prosperity of Hungary, were alike
trodden under foot in the protracted and sanguinary struggle.

At the period at which I entered this unfortunate realm, the Turk
was in possession of Buda, Gran, Temeswar, and many of the most
considerable cities; and Ferdinand, who had now succeeded Charles
in the imperial dignity, had been obliged to withdraw the seat of
the national government from the first of these towns, the ancient
metropolis, to the comparatively insignificant city of Presburg. The
war between the two parties had more than once been interrupted; not
indeed by the more stable accommodations of a treaty of peace, but by a
truce variously concluded for the terms of six or of eight years. Short
as was the period assigned to the suspension of arms, it was never
suffered to reach its natural termination; but, after the interval of
one or two summers, hostilities did not fail to break out again, with
aggravated symptoms of resentment and animosity. The warfare that was
now carried on had more in it of passion than vigour: it was of little
moment to the interest of either of the princes under whose banners
it was conducted; but it was not on that account the less, but rather
the more, vexatious and distressing to the Hungarian people. It obeyed
no rule; it operated in every direction; no place, no province, no
town,--neither the church nor the palace, neither the cottage nor the
castle,--could assure safety to those who sought its protection. A
flying party, which was to-day in the west, would almost the next day
make its appearance in the eastern extremity of the kingdom. Arts
were neglected; civilisation was destroyed; the stern and haughty
baron, free from restraint, would sally from his castle, sometimes in
pursuit of plunder, sometimes of private resentment and revenge; the
starving peasantry gladly enlisted in the band of a ferocious partisan
for bread; the gangs of robbers, which the vigilant policy of better
times had almost annihilated, rose again in importance, and swelled
into regiments; and, while they assumed at pleasure the denomination
of adherents to Ferdinand or to Solyman, perpetrated every species of
excess with impunity. When a reflecting spectator surveys a country in
a condition like this, he is tempted to wonder that the inhabitants
still retain the courage to bestow on their fields any sort of
cultivation, and that the licensed or the unlicensed robber still finds
something over which to extend the fangs of his rapacity.

I had not long passed the gates of Vienna, before I began to observe
the symptoms of that, which I had come from the Pyrenees and the
Garonne to visit. The farther I advanced, the more melancholy was the
scene I beheld. The country in some places entirely deserted; villages
laid in ashes; cities reduced to the dimensions and insignificance
of villages; fields fertilised or made rank with the manure of human
blood; the roads broken up; the erections of human ingenuity almost
obliterated; mills thrown down; rivers choked up and rendered stagnant;
a few solitary plots of cultivation scattered amidst the mighty waste.
The inhabitants I saw, appeared terrified, sickly, dejected, and
despairing; there was scarcely one who earlier or later had not lost a
father or a brother, whose wife had not been made the victim of brutal
lust, or who had not seen his children butchered before his face.
Persons of the more opulent classes could not travel the country in
safety, without being armed and associated in companies and caravans.
I was myself obliged to obtain the protection of parties of soldiers,
who from time to time happened to be marching in the route I pursued.
The savage neglect into which every thing was declining, produced in
repeated instances a contagious air and pestilential diseases; while
dearth and famine unrelentingly haunted the steps of those whom the
sword and the pestilence had spared. Such is war: such are the evils
nations willingly plunge into, or are compelled to endure, to pamper
the senseless luxury or pride of a Ferdinand and a Solyman!

I proceeded, as I had originally determined to do, to Buda, the
metropolis of the kingdom. It was in the hands of the Turk. It was
of little importance to me whether the monarch of the soil were a
Mahometan or a Christian; my mind was engrossed by considerations of a
very different magnitude. I came to relieve and assist, to the utmost
of my power, the inhabitants of the country in the extremity of their
distress.

I had not proceeded thus far, without bestowing a certain strictness
of reflection on the subject. I easily saw that, if I would confer a
substantial benefit on this unfortunate nation, I had scarcely any
other means for the purpose, than that of reviving among them a spirit
of industry. I was aware that, in the strictness of the term, money was
not wealth; that it could be neither eaten nor drunk; that it would not
of itself either clothe the naked or shelter the houseless; and that it
was unable, but by a circuitous operation, to increase the quantity of
provisions or commodities that the country afforded. It was my business
therefore not to proceed idly in the distribution of gold, but to
meditate seriously my plan of operations.

I fixed myself in a spacious and beautiful mansion in the capital. This
in the present distressed and depopulated condition of Hungary, it was
not difficult to procure. The house I selected had for centuries been
the principal residence of the illustrious family of Ragotski; but the
present representative of that family, after having seen his sons, one
after another, killed in the battles of his country, and his estates
ruined by military depredation, had found himself compelled to fly in
his old age, and had taken refuge with a distant branch of the same
house in the great duchy of Lithuania. It was not necessary for me to
proceed to any great extent in the first instance in the manufacture
of my wealth; I had every facility for adding to my store from time to
time as circumstances should demand.

I determined to open my operations with the article of building. There
was sufficient need of it. One half of the houses, through most of
the districts of Lower, or Western Hungary in particular, were ruined
and untenantable. I did not begin with erecting palaces; I felt that
the first claimants in the present emergency were the peasant and the
cultivator. I was more desirous that the rustic than the prince should
be well lodged and accommodated, provided with the means of rest after
fatigue, and secured against the invasion of ungenial seasons.

My reasons for beginning with building were these:--It was my purpose
to stimulate and revive the industry of the nation: I was desirous of
doing this with the least practicable violence upon the inclinations
and freedom of the inhabitants. Had I required of those to whom I
addressed myself, that they should fertilise the earth, the seeds with
which it should be impregnated might be wanting: I should have a nice
balance to adjust between what was necessary for immediate subsistence,
and what might be applied as the basis of future; a point better left
to its spontaneous level: I might be impeded and controlled by a
thousand circumstances and at every step. But the materials of building
are to be found in every country; no seasons can impair, no malignity
of man can annihilate them. Wherever there are quarries, there is
stone; wherever there is clay, there are the means of manufacturing
bricks. I was anxious to leave the rest of the great process of human
accommodation to its course. While I employed labourers, and paid
them their wages, there would be, in the mildest and most salutary
mode, a continual influx of money into the market. The increase of the
precious metals would give new alacrity to the operations of traffic;
the buyers would come forward with double confidence; the venders
would be eager to meet the activity and spirit of the demand. Ardour
and hope would revisit the human mind; and the industry I created,
and the accommodations of one kind at least to which I gave birth,
would inoculate the other departments of the community with a similar
industry. I came into Hungary in the spring of 1560; the season
was favourable to seeding and cultivation; I seemed to enter on my
undertaking with the happiest auspices.

Some time however must necessarily elapse between the period of
impregnating the soil, and that of the future harvest. Though I laid
it down therefore as a law to myself, to commit the least practicable
violence upon the genuine action of human society in pursuit of
the means of subsistence, I thought proper in a certain degree to
engage in the importation of corn from Poland, Silesia, and other
neighbouring countries. This seemed an eligible measure, if it were
only that I might show others the way, and excite them by my example.
I procured agents; I extended my concerns in various directions
over the navigable rivers; I formed magazines. It would have been
contrary to the genius of my undertaking, either to make a gratuitous
distribution of what I purchased, or to sell it at such low prices as
to drive other speculators, whose spirit of enterprise might happily
co-operate with mine, out of the market. However indifferent I might
feel to the receipt of pecuniary compensation, it was necessary that,
in the concerns of barter and trade, I should assume the exterior of a
merchant.

Nor did I wholly confine my exertions within the occupations of an
architect and a corn-dealer. These, or rather the former of the two,
I regarded as my true and genuine province; but I did not so far
enslave myself to my own maxims, as to negative in all instances the
direct demands of want. I was not anxious to convert a nation or an
army of men into my personal adherents and retainers: I was rather
desirous to avoid this as a dangerous source of obloquy. I did not
therefore always decline, by pretended loans to assist other men to
employ labourers as well as myself, to act upon their own designs, and
prosecute their own fortune. The cries of the poor man, the widow, and
the orphan, were sometimes too importunate, and too well justified by
their unquestionable necessities, to allow me to withhold from them my
alms. In a few instances I conveyed my supplies anonymously to persons,
whose dignity of birth or whose proud independence would have been too
grievously wounded if they had known their benefactor. I was cautious
and apprehensive as to the direct dispensing of money, but not entirely
bent against it; I regarded it as a precarious, but in some cases a
necessary interference.

The impulse which, by these various measures, I was fortunate enough
to generate, seemed to have the effect, so far at least as the
sphere of my activity extended, to revive the almost expiring life
of the country. Dejection and hopeless indolence, when I commenced
my operations, were written in every face; the miserable inhabitants
crawled along the roads or the street, their hands idly relaxed by
their side, and their slow and painful steps scarcely supporting their
lifeless trunk. When my plan became known, and I had already in a few
instances reduced my maxims into practice, it was as if the mellow
and spirit-stirring blast of a trumpet had wakened their sleeping
souls. Their eyes lightened with intelligence; the tear of anguish was
wiped from their faded cheeks; the smile of hope slowly expelled, and
faintly succeeded to, the bitter expression of despair. Busy and active
thoughts gave new motion to their limbs and quickness to their steps;
the labourer was seen hastening from place to place; the sound of the
hammer, the saw, and the various tools of the workman, was to be heard
from every side.

The conduct I pursued necessarily fixed upon me a considerable portion
of public attention. I was a foreigner, destitute of connections, and
having no previous acquaintance with any individual in the country. I
was in appearance a mere boy, a young man in all the flower and bloom
of adolescence, and who must be supposed to have just entered into
possession of his patrimony. These things tended to increase the public
wonder, and to render the mystery of my proceedings more perplexing
and obscure. In the age of genial warmth and melting softness, I did
not appear accessible to those passions which haunt the days, and
too often undermine the virtues, of youth. Youth is the season of
benevolence; but benevolence is rarely, as seemed to be my case, the
only fruit that youth is found to produce. There was a maturity and a
justness of adaptation in my plans, not less foreign from what those
who surrounded me would have expected me to display. The apparent
disinterestedness and modesty of my proceedings were not lost upon
the spectators. The consequence of all this was, that the sieur de
Chatillon, such was the name I at this time assumed, was regarded as a
phenomenon which could not be too much admired, or too loudly extolled.
Wherever I appeared, the people followed me with their gratitude and
blessings; ballads were written in my praise; the very children were
taught with their infant tongues to lisp the virtues of the saviour of
Hungary. My doors were besieged; my steps were watched; I could move
no where without public observation. I was importuned with petitions
without end; yet, if any petitioner showed himself presumptuous and
intrusive, the whole multitude of bystanders was ready to repress his
indiscretion, and teach him the respect that was due to their generous
benefactor, who never refused any thing, but what it would be improper
and injurious to grant.

Such was the treatment I experienced in Buda and the neighbouring
districts. Whether I looked within or without, I was equally
presented with incitements to self-approbation. I sent forth labour,
accompanied with her best and loveliest companions, plenty and health,
congratulation and contentment, to scatter blessings through the land.
I felt that I was prompted to this conduct by none of the motives of
vulgar ambition. I desired neither lordships nor estates, neither
elevation of rank, nor extension of prerogative. Sufficient to myself,
if I effected the happiness of the people, and they confessed me their
benefactor, my every passion would then be gratified. The utmost
boundary of my personal wishes proceeded no farther than this, that I
might be honoured and loved. What I desired, I obtained; the youth I
had procured to myself through the medium of the _opus magnum_, was
like what we are told of the youth of Job:--“When I went out through
the gate of the city, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the
aged arose and stood up; the nobles refrained from talking, and the
princes laid their hands upon their mouths. When the ear heard me, then
it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to my actions.”

Here it may be thought I had ascended to that sphere which it was fit
the possessor of the philosopher’s stone should fill, and reaped the
rewards to which a man thus endowed ought to be forward to entitle
himself. Nor will I affirm that I was insensible to the gratifications
of my present situation. Though I sought to escape from the applause
that pursued me, yet there is something in the nature of the human
mind, that makes it impossible for us to hear it without complacence.
It was not however a boisterous and obtrusive acclamation that
satisfied me. A certain inwrought modesty of nature made me listen to
noisy commendations with a sentiment of shame. They seemed to be more
than any thing I had done could deserve; or they seemed to be in a tone
from which the delicacy of a virtuous mind shrinks back displeased.
They were so obstreperous, as to take from me the power of hearing the
sweeter verdict of my own conscience. No; it was the unbidden tear that
glistened in the eye of my beneficiaries; the tongue that faltered
beneath the essays of gratitude; the overwhelmed heart that had no
power to express itself; the hand of the parent that was stretched out
to his children, and dumbly said, These, these shall thank you!--it
was these things, that I felt within as the balsam of my life, and the
ambrosia of heaven.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Yet, thus surrounded, and regaled with this animated praise, I was
not content; I wanted a friend. I was alone amidst the innumerable
multitudes of those I had blessed. I knew no cordiality; I could repose
no confidence; I could find no equal. I was like a God, who dispenses
his bounties profusely through twenty climates, but who at the same
time sits, separate, elevated, and alone, in the highest heaven. The
reader may, if he pleases, despise me for the confession; but I felt
that I was not formed for the happiness of a God.

I was not however long sufficiently at leisure, thus to refine upon
the deficiencies of my situation. I had engaged in a task of extreme
delicacy, in which the smallest failure would draw along with it the
most serious consequences. Mine was not an undertaking that had for
its object, to supply those around me with luxuries, or to augment the
stock of their cheerful relaxations and amusements; the very existence
of my beneficiaries depended on its success. I had put myself in a
considerable degree, with whatever diffidence and caution, in the room
of the course of nature, and had taken the administration of the common
benefits of human society into my hands. The populace are ever ready to
construe this delegation in the strictest sense: unqualified to trace
the wheels and combinations of the great machine, if prosperity is
their lot, they willingly ascribe it to their protectors and governors;
and if they are unfortunate, it is against them that the storm of their
resentment is directed. The moment they are thus irritated, their
impatience is too great to admit of correctives and remedies; in the
fury of their disappointment, they disturb every thing, and render that
irreparable and fatal, which was at first only doubtful and unpromising.

My proceedings, as I have already said, bore in the commencement the
most benignant face, and seemed a revival of this despairing and
unfortunate nation little less than miraculous. The regular labours
in which the inhabitants became engaged, restored a healthful tone
to their minds; the payments they duly received seemed to discharge
them from all anxious solicitude; and, as by my own efforts and the
enterprises of others, the market was supplied with provisions, they
had no difficulty in exchanging these payments for the necessaries
of life. The supply of the market at first was easy; the universal
dejection that preceded, though it had not prevented all exertions for
that purpose, had rendered those exertions too feeble for extensive
success. The strenuous efforts that were now made were productive of
a copious supply; but they rendered each importation more difficult
than the importation before. The demand continued the same; the relief
was every day more diminutive and precarious. The harvest was however
advancing with the happiest auspices: and, though some time must yet
be consumed in expectation, it was probable frugality and fortitude
might enable the inhabitants to hold out till the season of plenty
should arrive.

But fortitude is not the virtue of a populace. The higher had been
their hopes, and the more unexpected their deliverance, with so much
the more blank and melancholy a countenance they beheld this unexpected
delay and retrogression. Not understanding the powers by which I acted,
they blindly ascribed to me the faculty of doing whatever I pleased.
As long as every thing went on prosperously, they were grateful; the
moment a reverse occurred, they were inclined to murmur. They made no
allowance for the limited capacities of a human creature: they imputed
whatever was unpleasing to indifference or ill will. The price of
commodities, after having for a while become moderate, now rapidly
rose again: this was partly the consequence of the increased quantity
of the precious metals, by means of which any assignable sum bore
a less proportion to the provisions of the market than it had done
before. Bread was at a very high price; and it occasionally happened
to buyers who did not come early enough, that there was no bread to be
purchased. The doors of the houses where it was sold, were besieged;
the industrious poor appeared before them with the first faint dawn of
the morning’s light. Here they consumed hours of painful expectation,
in grievous addition to the hours of their customary fatigue. The
whole was a scene of anguish and calamity; the passions of those who
composed it, mingled with the distress, and rendered it too heavy to
be borne. Anticipating famine, they felt the mischiefs of it before it
arrived. Never was the demand so urgent; it seemed as if the capacity
of men’s appetites was enlarged, and the cravings of hunger became more
insatiable, in proportion to the smallness of the supply. To people
thus circumstanced, it would have been vain to recommend frugality and
moderation. They devoured the food with their eyes, while it was yet
beyond the reach of their hands; and the lesson you read them, would
have sounded in their ears as if you had bid them die to-day, to escape
the danger of dying to-morrow.

The crowds which the necessity of purchasing bread brought together at
certain hours, when assembled, naturally entered into the discussion
of their present discontents. They were not satisfied with the
discourse and jostling of the morning; the habits produced by these
noisy assemblies had a secret charm with them, and drew them together
at seasons of less urgent demand. They patroled the streets: they
were loud in the expressions of their dissatisfaction. With the
inconsequence incident to the lower orders of mankind, they threatened
to destroy the mills, the markets, the places of sale, the means and
materials by which their wants were to be supplied.

In the midst of these scenes of tumult and confusion, it is not to be
imagined that I escaped uncensured. Far otherwise: in proportion to the
gratitude and adoration with which they had lately regarded me, were
their detestation and abhorrence now. My interference was spoken of
with contempt and execration. For what purpose had I, a foreigner, come
into their country, and intruded myself into their affairs? Why had I
impiously taken them out of the hands of their heavenly Father, whose
care was so constant, and whose relief so certain? It was on my part
a despicable vanity and presumption, which the justice of Providence
could not fail to avenge; and they must now suffer the punishment
of my blasphemy. But they did not stop here. There was no horrible
calumny which they did not invent, or give credit to, against me. They
imputed to me the basest personal motives for what I had done. Under
the hypocritical pretence, they cried, of being their benefactor and
saviour, I was using them only for my private ends. I had become a
purchaser and vender of corn, for the single purpose of increasing my
fortune. The present scarcity, they were well assured, was artificial,
and of my own contriving. I had magazines in different stations on
the borders, which, when the price was risen to the standard of my
avarice, and when half the people had fallen victims to my inhumanity,
I purposed to dispose of to an immense profit.

Such were the aspersions to which my character became generally
exposed. By the populace, who now experienced the unsatisfied cravings
of hunger, and in whom my proceedings had excited hope, only to be
followed by a more cruel disappointment, they were greedily credited.
Many who knew their falsehood, were yet zealous to propagate them.
Short as had been my residence in Hungary, I had made many enemies. It
is to be feared that no man can be assiduous and indefatigable in the
service of others, without incurring that consequence. I employed a
great number of workmen; every one whom for whatever reason I refused
to employ, every one who, being unqualified for the service I required,
looked with an envious eye on the better fortune of his neighbour,
was well disposed to be my enemy. Persons of no contemptible account
in the community had been excited by expectations of profit to engage
in the importation of corn: these persons viewed my efforts in the
same department with a suspicious eye, and regarded a man who, however
cautious in his proceedings, was not regulated by the same motive, as
a most pernicious rival. My sudden elevation and importance in the
country were viewed with not more astonishment than aversion by those
whose importance I obscured. They could not hear with patience of an
upstart, a boy, a stranger, one universally unknown, elbowing out
the influence of all that was most illustrious and venerable in the
community, and robbing them daily of their adherents and retainers. All
these persons left no effort untried to defame my character.

The impulse once given, the turbulent disposition of the populace
became every day more formidable. It is much easier to disseminate
a temper of this sort than to quell it: my opulent foes might take
alarm at its excesses, and desire to undo what they had done; but it
was beyond their power. Every day I feared lest, from threats and
invectives, the populace should proceed to violence: every night I
thought I had reason to congratulate myself, that the day had passed
without waste and spoil committed by them on the means of their
subsistence, or was not marked with the destruction of their champion
and benefactor. In some places a sort of petty sedition broke out
among the labourers I employed: in the morning they refused to work:
why should a man work, they muttered, when after all he may starve
with the wages of his labour in his possession? At night they became
impatient and furious, and demanded from my superintendents and
storehouse-men the food, which in the morning they had refused to earn,
and were therefore now unable to purchase. I had already had some
experience in the nature of popular tumults; I had now no marchese
Filosanto at hand to persuade me of their inefficacy; and, if I had,
I should no longer have lent an ear to his serene and unsuspicious
generosity. I felt the reality of the danger; I saw the storm as it
blackened in my horizon, and was deeply convinced what it would be if
it burst upon my head.

It may be imagined with what feelings I viewed my whole design on the
point to be subverted, by the unruliness of those for whose benefit
it had been planned. It is true I had now no darling relations to be
involved in my fate, no incomparable wife, no daughters illustrious in
innocence and beauty; yet my feelings were scarcely less pungent than
they had been at the period of my catastrophe at Pisa. I had blamed
myself in review, that, in my experiments at Constance, at Dresden,
at Pisa, and at Madrid, I had not commenced upon a sufficiently ample
scale, but had suffered myself to be frustrated by the ingloriousness
of my precautions. That had not been my error in the present instance;
yet my success now promised to be scarcely more flattering than upon
former occasions. I had looked for happiness as the result of the
benevolence and philanthropy I was exerting; I found only anxiety and a
well grounded fear even for my personal safety. Let no man build on the
expected gratitude of those he spends his strength to serve! Let him be
beneficent if he will; but let him not depend for his happiness on the
conviction of his rectitude and virtue that is to be impressed on the
minds of others! There is a principle in the human breast, that easily
induces them to regard every thing that can be done for them, as no
more than their due, and speedily discharges them from the oppressive
consciousness of obligation. There is a levity in the generality of
men, that entails on them a continual oblivion of past benefits, and
makes one recent disappointment of more importance in their eyes than
an eternity of kindnesses and condescension. I shall have other
instances of ingratitude to display in what yet remains to be related
of my story.

My nights were restless; my thoughts were in arms. What was it that it
became me to do in the present emergency? Sometimes, in the bitterness
of my heart, hating myself, hating the endowments of the stranger,
hating a race of beings who denied all credit to the most unheard-of
exertions for their advantage, I determined to withdraw unobserved
from my attendants and clients, and bid adieu to Hungary for ever. But
whither was I to fly? What was I to do next? What experiment could I
make of the purposes to which to apply the philosopher’s stone, that I
had not already made? These questions, to none of which I could give a
satisfactory answer, checked the career of my passion, and gave pause
to my thoughts.

Whatever I did, I was determined to do nothing rashly, nor to quit
a great experiment without its having been fully tried. It was no
light concern, no trivial child’s-play, in which I had embarked. I
had taken the welfare, perhaps the existence, of a great and heroic
nation under my protection. In this glorious vocation it did not
become me to be lightly discouraged. What if those I served and saved
did not show themselves sufficiently sensible to the exertions I made
for them? I ought to purify my bosom, on an occasion like this, from
base and ignoble motives, and to deem myself sufficiently recompensed
by my conscious virtue. What if the service in which I had engaged
now appeared to be a service of hazard and peril? Is there any great
undertaking that can be separated from this condition? If hastily,
from cowardice, from pique, or from any other motive, I deserted the
business on which I had entered, what was to become of my mistaken
indeed, but in that case most unfortunate clients? The greater was the
crisis to which they were exposed, the more were unremitted vigilance
and uncommon powers necessary to guide them amidst its rocks and its
quicksands. I saw thousands of men who for several weeks had fed, as it
were, from the stores of my bounty. By a propensity inseparable from
the human heart, I became attached to the work of my meditations, and
the labour of my thoughts. All their fickleness, their injustice, even
the atrocious calumnies they admitted and propagated against me, could
not wean my attachment from beings, a great portion of whom, but for my
interference, would, I believed, long ere this have expired of hunger.

In the peculiar and urgent circumstances in which I found myself, no
expedient was so obvious as that of calling in the interference of the
government under which I lived. It was necessary that the resources
of national subsistence should be defended from the wanton spoil of
those who, when they were annihilated, must inevitably perish. It was
necessary that the benefactor of Hungary, who, I flattered myself, was
still able to watch effectively for her advantage, should be protected
from her misguided resentment. The alternative was singularly painful
to my feelings. The pride with which my unparalleled endowments
inspired me, was deeply wounded, when I was compelled to confess that
I was not alone equal to the task I had undertaken, and that I must
submit to call in a foreign auxiliary. I augured little favourable from
the interference of government, which, if I implored, I could scarcely
expect to guide, which was not likely to submit to my principle of
rendering its interference the mildest and smallest that the nature of
the case would admit; but, puffed up with presumption, and intoxicated
with authority, would probably leave no concern of the public welfare
uninvaded. Least of all, could I anticipate much of good from a Turkish
government. But what could I do? I could discover no other expedient.
Influenced by the views I have recited, I had hitherto kept myself as
far from the observation of the political directors of the state as
I could. But my cautiousness and reserve were now at an end. With my
eyes open I exposed myself to all the evils that might attend on my
proceeding.

I determined to apply to the bashaw of the province. Previously to my
taking this step, I had the precaution to enquire his character. He
was the genuine offspring of the Turkish system of government. His
name was Muzaffer Bey. He was originally a Circassian slave; then a
Janissary; and, rising by insensible gradation, had at length been
appointed bashaw of Buda, which, as being the immediate frontier
between Austria and the Porte, was at this time the most arduous
situation in the gift of the sultan. He was esteemed a good soldier; he
had been early distinguished by his dexterity in military exercises;
he had since seen much service; and, in every situation in which he
was placed, had earned commendation and honour. He was abstemious and
hardy; for himself, he neither pampered his appetites nor shrunk from
severity; and he had as little indulgence for those under his command
as for his own person. Yet he was indebted for his present eminence
more to the arts of the courtier, than to his merits in the field.
His chief care had ever been to recommend himself to those above him,
and to obtain the good will of his equals; for the opinion of his
inferiors he gave himself little concern. With considerable ability, he
laboured under no check from either principle or ingenuous pride; and
therefore was extremely successful in his attacks on the inclination
of those he sought. The habits of his mind had modified the lines of
his countenance and the tones of his voice. Except to his dependants
and the poor he almost always spoke with a smile upon his face, and
his enunciation was silver-tongued, oily, copious, and insinuating.
If he ever adopted a different manner, the variation was only in the
means not the end; and, when he seemed to travel by an opposite road,
the goal at which he aimed was the same. He never consulted any oracle
but that of his apparent interest; if he had any insolence in his
nature, he regarded his slaves and those under his military command as
affording a sufficient sphere for its exercise; he had no affections to
disturb him from his bent; he had no passions but the self-complacency
of superior cunning, and the sordid love of pelf.

This account of the man with whom I had to deal was far from
encouraging; but I had no alternative. I sent to signify my desire to
confer with him; or, to speak more accurately, to ask, in the Eastern
manner when it would be agreeable to him to receive a present of which
I requested his acceptance. He appointed the morning of the following
day. I prepared a gift, such as might tend to conciliate his favour,
without marking in the donor the possession of immoderate wealth.
It consisted of silks and muslins, with a small piece of plate of
exquisite workmanship. My present was borne by two of my servants.
We were ushered to the bashaw in his private apartment; there were
two or three persons in attendance upon him. They examined my present
together; and, without condescending to express much approbation, I
could nevertheless discern that the bashaw was pleased with it. This
ceremony concluded; Muzaffer ordered what I had brought to be taken
into a different apartment; and, every other person withdrawing, we
were left alone.

While the bashaw was examining my gift, I took the opportunity of
considering his person. He appeared to be about sixty years of age;
his complexion dark and muddy; his features coarse and distorted; his
mustachoes remarkably large; his person, though bony and muscular,
considerably below the middle size; and his figure ungainly and
ungraceful. I felt surprised that such a man should ever have been an
excellent soldier, or have risen from a low rank to one of the first
situations of the empire. To look at him, he seemed better formed for
the vice of a comedy, than the ruler of a nation. He raised his eyes
towards me askance, as he sat leaning on his elbow, and said,

“You call yourself--?”

“The sieur de Chatillon.”

“And your age--?”

“Is two and twenty.”

“I am glad you are come to me. I intended to have sent for you, and you
have saved me the trouble.”

I made many apologies for my intrusion, but added that I had a petition
to prefer, and I hoped he would favour me with a hearing.

“Not at all, not at all; do not call it an intrusion: it is necessary I
should be acquainted with you.” He proceeded:--

“You have undertaken to confer great benefits on the subjects of
the grand signior, my master; to rescue them from famine. Young,
rich, a stranger, unknown to my master, unknown to his subjects, I
understand that you have spared no labour or expense to bring about
their welfare. This is really a very extraordinary case; your merit is
unprecedented; I do not feel myself competent to reward it.”

I answered that I laid no claim to uncommon merit; that every temper
had its particular gratifications; and that I found as real a luxury in
the proceedings he had remarked, as other men did in the excesses of
the table, or the promiscuous enjoyments of the harem.

“It is out of my power,” continued he, “to remunerate you as you
deserve; I must send you to Constantinople.”

I perceived that this was the first essay of his artifice. I informed
him which I have no doubt he knew well enough before, that I had no
desire to go to Constantinople. I wished to remain where I was, and to
finish what I had begun.

“What, you have not done then?” suddenly and with an abrupt voice
exclaimed the bashaw. “By Mahomet, a man of a reasonable appetite in
your place might be satisfied. Have not you filled the streets with
riots, and the country with rebellion? Do not the populace assemble in
crowds, insulting every one they meet, and talking of nothing but fire
and devastation, the bowstring and the cimeter? Be so good, my dear
sir; as to inform me what further you may have in view?”

“Reverend bashaw,” cried I with submission, yet with firmness, “I have
none of these things in view. But a moment ago you did justice to my
intentions. They are those of beneficence, and beneficence only.”

“I know nothing about that. I have nothing to do with honest men’s
blunders; I look to the effects they produce.”

“These effects, most mighty sir, are temporary; they are the clouds
that will often obscure for an instant the brightest sunshine.
Condescend to lend me your generous assistance, and all will be well.”

“Do not tell me of clouds and sunshine. This is, to my thinking, not an
April shower, but an earthquake and a hurricane. If we are all to be
swallowed up or whirled into the air, it is no consolation to me, that
the day after we are gone, every thing shall be as fair and serene as
paradise itself.”

“Remember, sir, that when I came into Hungary, I found its inhabitants
in the most desperate condition, miserable, wasted and starving. Have I
not already suspended this evil for months?”

“Yes, I do remember. You are one of those busy-bodies, who never see an
evil without imagining they are the persons to correct it, intruding
into every thing, and subverting every thing. The superintendence
of the public welfare is a mystery to which none are competent, but
those whom Mahomet has raised to the situation of statesmen. Your
interference is blasphemy against the spirit of our religion, and
deserves to be encountered with the most exemplary punishment.”

“Good God! then, is it in this country a crime to feed the hungry, to
clothe the naked, and shelter the houseless?”

“Sieur de Chatillon,” retorted the bashaw, “you appear to be
unacquainted with the maxims of Turkish policy, the wisest and most
beneficent in the world. If none of the disturbances had happened at
which I have so much reason to be alarmed, still, in relieving the
people in the manner you have done, you have incurred the guilt of
high treason against the sultan. Know, sir, that, through the whole
extent of his dominions, there is but one proprietor, and that is our
illustrious monarch. You say, that you wish to be the benefactor of
his subjects, and the judge of your own proceedings: such sentiments
are direct rebellion against the glorious constitution of Ottoman. The
sovereign of Constantinople will have no benefactor in the countries he
presides over, but himself. Like the invisible ruler of the universe,
he acts by second causes; he allows his ministers to be the instruments
of his beneficence; but all must be ascribed to him, must flow from
his will, and be placed under his control. You, who have formed a
plan of public benefit without consulting him, and have presumed,
like a luminary of the world, to move in an orbit of your own, have
in strictness of construction forfeited your life to his justice; and
I consult rather the clemency of his nature than the maxims of his
policy, if I suffer you to go from this palace with your head upon your
shoulders.”

Without permitting myself to be too much moved by the imperious
language addressed to me, I complained to the bashaw of the rigorous
and arbitrary character of what he stated to be the maxims of the
Turkish government. I solemnly protested that I had no private or
personal object in view. The effect of my operations would be to
give new strength and energy to his master’s dominions. By diffusing
happiness among his subjects, by reviving industry, and scattering
plenty, prosperity, and ease, all disaffection would be rooted out;
and the people, who are never minute in scanning the cause of their
enjoyments, would bless the sceptre under which they were made to
participate such manifold benefits. If the policy of the divan led them
in any degree to interfere, they ought rather to crown my measures with
their applause, than wantonly to throw obstacles in the way of what I
purposed. I asked however no reward, I demanded no favour for myself;
all I desired was that the sultan would assist me in securing to his
people those benefits, the dissemination of which I had so auspiciously
begun.

The bashaw, without taking any direct notice of this expostulation,
answered, that I was not aware of the maxims of his government, to
which, in consideration of my seeming generosity and rectitude, he
was willing to give the mildest interpretation. “It is however,”
continued he, “to the last degree idle in you to imagine, that you
can be permitted to go on unobserved, and that the sultan and his
representatives are to take no account of your proceeding. The great
instrument for ruling mankind is by their passions and their opinions.
The man from whom they believe they have the most to fear and the most
to hope, will always be their master. Whatever be your secret or your
professed designs, you go on from day to day making yourself partisans,
and enlisting the subjects of the sultan among your personal retainers.
What security has he for your submission and loyalty? How shall he know
that, when you have acquired the advantages of a powerful leader, you
will not go over to the enemy, or, in the present distracted condition
of the province, even have the audacity to set up for yourself? If
therefore, by an unexampled clemency of construction, I decline to
reduce you into the passive machine of my master’s will, it is at least
incumbent on me, that I should take account of your powers, and possess
myself of the schedule of your property. By this means only can I
watch your progress, and take care that you do not suddenly become too
powerful for a subject. Are you prepared to satisfy me on this head?”

On this question I hesitated for a moment; I had not exactly
anticipated the enquiry; at length I requested the delay of a few days,
and then I promised that all his demands should be satisfied. The
bashaw resumed:--

“Sieur de Chatillon, I remark your hesitation, and I draw from it
no favourable augury. These indirect and involuntary indications
are more worthy of my attention than all the studied and elaborate
information you shall think proper to give me. Sir, you are a man of
darkness, and every thing that relates to you is enveloped in mystery.
You come hither with no apparent motive; you have no connections of
blood in Hungary; you have no acquaintance with any eminent person
of the Hungarian nation. I have had my spies on you, though I have
not hitherto thought proper to summon you to my presence. You have
purchased no property in the province; I cannot learn that you have
any correspondences or resources from abroad. I have been at the pains
to procure an account of your expenditure during the three months you
have resided among us; much of that expenditure has been obscure,
clandestine, and indirect; but I believe you will find my estimate,
which you are at liberty to inspect and remark upon, tolerably correct.
Your disbursements for three months, exceed the amount of two years’
income of the richest subject that even the credulous monarchs of
Christendom suffer within their dominions. What am I to think of this?
How can I be sufficiently vigilant respecting a man, whose expenditure
is immense, and whose wealth can neither be traced to its source, nor
ascertained in its amount?”

I was not slow in conjecturing the result which the bashaw proposed to
himself from our present conference. I was confirmed in my conjecture
by the circumstance of his choosing that the discussion between us
should be apart from all witnesses. He regarded me as a boy, and had
therefore practised upon me all those arts which might most effectually
excite in me fear and alarm. He found however that, under the external
indications of youth and inexperience, I possessed the wariness that
added years most powerfully inculcate, and the self-possession of a
mind thoroughly awake to its situation and its resources. This must
have been to the minister before whom I stood a memorable phenomenon.
But curiosity is not a Turkish passion; and the single object of the
bashaw in the present instance, was to make the mysteriousness of
my circumstances a pretext for extorting money. I submitted with as
little seeming reluctance as possible to the necessity of the case;
I requested the good offices of Muzaffer to protect my benefactions;
and begged permission to make him the compliment of a handsome sum of
money, by way of convincing him that I was worthy of his friendship.

This business was easily adjusted between us. I found him perfectly
skilled in the duties of a public office, and by no means under the
dominion of visionary scruples. He told me he was now convinced that I
was a well meaning man, and a good subject; he said, that nothing could
tend more effectually to demonstrate my innocence, than my showing
that I understood the duties and concerns of a minister of state; and
that for his own part he was never so happy, as when he was thus able
to reconcile his private interests with the good and faithful service
of his master. There was nothing that demanded a more unremitted
vigilance, or a more skilful management, than such a situation as
his; and it would be most unreasonable, either in the sovereign that
appointed him, or the subjects over whom he was placed, to expect him
to be indifferent to the emoluments and perquisites of his function.
He complimented me warmly upon the disinterestedness and liberality of
my exertions. He thought himself particularly fortunate in having so
public-spirited an individual within the circuit of his jurisdiction.
In fine, he hoped he should be honoured with my personal acquaintance,
and assured me that nothing could make him more happy than the
frequent repetition of my visits.

We now perfectly understood one another; and it was apparent that I had
to do with a man, who, for what he deemed an adequate consideration,
would willingly lend me the authority and countenance of his office,
and suffer me to guide him in any of the functions I might conceive
necessary for the execution of my projects. Guards were agreed to be
placed upon the magazines where corn was still contained, and from
place to place on the banks of the rivers, where the depredations
of a misguided populace were most to be apprehended. Finding the
bashaw so perfectly willing to comply with my requisitions, I further
obtained from him the direction of several squadrons of cavalry
for the protection of the crops, which from the consequences of my
interference now began on all sides to variegate the scene. This was
a most important service. When the corn was first committed to the
earth, it was out of the reach of military devastation. But, as time
glided silently on, the case became materially altered; the enemy might
from forecast desire to reap the harvest of what he had not sown, or
from malice to destroy that without which the Turk would perhaps be
unable to retain his newly acquired territory. This had in reality
been the principal cause, before my arrival in Hungary, of the very
general neglect into which agriculture had fallen. Muzaffer, than whom
no person could now be more polite and condescending, allowed me to
determine the number and nature of the troops I required; and added
that, though he could not openly put them under my direction, the
slightest intimation I might think proper to convey to him, should at
any time decide their march, and regulate their quarters.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


In my conference with the bashaw I may seem to have secured more than
one point of material importance; yet it was difficult for any man to
be in a state less consolatory or more full of danger and menace, than
I was at this moment. By my vigilance and the power which thus I had
acquired, I prevented indeed the inhabitants from wantonly destroying
the means of their own subsistence; but, the more I was their
benefactor, the more I appeared to become odious to their thoughts.
My negotiation with the bashaw, whatever other benefit might accrue
from it, did not tend to increase the resources of the country; I was
obliged to witness many scenes of wretchedness. He that would assist
mankind in their adversity, must harden his heart to be the spectator
of the distress that he can, and that he cannot, relieve. But whatever
I beheld of this sort, the majority of the bystanders obstinately
persisted to ascribe to my deliberate malignity. The military aid I
found myself necessitated to introduce by no means tended to disarm
the prejudices of my clients. In one or two instances, but no more,
slight tumults arose, and a few of the rioters fell a prey to their own
wickedness and folly. These misfortunes were cast as reproach upon me;
and I was pursued with clamours and curses. I found it requisite to
obtain a guard for my person. I was abhorred by those for whom all my
vigilance was exerted, and insulted by the mouths that I supplied with
the necessaries of existence.

Nor was this my only source of alarm and uneasiness in my present
situation. I was by no means a dupe to the ostentatious civility of
the bashaw. I perfectly understood his insinuation when he invited
the frequent repetition of my visits. I knew that, however dearly I
purchased his friendship and patronage, I should still have to purchase
them again and again. His extortions upon me admitted of no limits,
except from his own modesty, or the estimate he might form of my
invisible resources. Bribery itself afforded me no complete security;
and, now that I had become an object of curiosity and remark, he had
sufficiently shown me I was at the mercy of his caprice, or that of his
master, for my liberty, and even for my life.

Yet, could I have resolved to quit Hungary, and seek the protection
of some more regular government, what benefit should I derive from a
removal? Mystery was the great and unconquerable bane of my situation,
and from the poisonous influence of mystery, the most regular system of
government was not competent to protect me. It would be idle to imagine
that, in any country on earth, a stranger would be permitted to launch
into such expenses as those in which I was engaged, without becoming an
object of suspicion, and being made liable to continual interruption
in his measures. Yet, unless allowed to use the resources I possessed,
of what advantage was it to be the depository of wealth without a
bound? Was it to be wished for a man under my circumstances, to have a
family, or to be without a family? When I had one, I found the legacy
of the stranger robbing me of every comfort of that sort, with the most
calamitous aggravations. When I was stripped of wife and children,
though no man could prize those benefits more dearly than I prized
them, I took to myself the consolation, that at least now I should
risk no one’s happiness but my own; and that, for a person exercising
my endowments, it was perhaps requisite to be free from every shackle
and incumbrance. I found however the topic from which I had consoled
myself, in reality the source of a new misfortune. I had the wealth of
a nobleman; but I was deprived of his adventitious attributes. I had
no illustrious ancestry to boast; I had neither lineage nor parent;
I had neither wife nor children, in whom mutually to reflect and see
reflected the elevatedness and generosity of my station. I had not even
the ordinary advantage, which is within the reach of almost every man,
of connections and acquaintance, friends handed down to me as a branch
of my patrimonial inheritance, friends whose value experience enabled
me to ascertain, and friends with whom long habits of familiarity had
given birth to reciprocal endearment. The bashaw had imputed to me the
design of forming a party. Alas! these, which are the great materials
for cementing party attachments, were totally denied me. I had no bonds
of alliance but those which money afforded, the coarsest, the meanest,
the least flattering, and the most brittle of those ligatures, that
afford the semblance of uniting man with man.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Aware of the difficulties which unavoidably sprung out of the nature of
my situation, I resolved immediately to endeavour to supply them to the
best of my power. I conceived that there was no consideration so urgent
upon me at the present moment, as that I should without loss of time
create to myself connections that might balance and keep at bay the
sallies of arbitrary rule, and that I should weave with my own hand the
cords of friendship.

I had no sooner formed this project, than an individual suggested
himself to my reflections, whom I judged to be, by a singular
concurrence of circumstances, happily fitted to be the subject of my
experiment, and admirably qualified to afford me protection in the
most unfavourable events. The name of this man was Bethlem Gabor. He
had been some time before brought to me by one of his friends, and he
was a man whom for a thousand reasons it was impossible to see and
converse with, without receiving the most indelible impression. He
was the lineal representative of one of the most illustrious houses
in Hungary. His vocation, like that of the majority of the Hungarian
nobility, had been arms; but, in the midst of a fraternity all of whom
were warlike, he stood conspicuous and alone. His courage, though cool
and deliberate, almost mounted to a degree of desperate rashness; and
the fertility of his invention, and the variety of his stratagems
did not fall short of his courage. The celerity of his measures was
equally distinguished; distance was no bar to him; and he had no
sooner conceived a project, however arduous, than it was executed. He
had formed under his own eye a band of men like himself, impetuous
yet deliberate, swift in execution, silent in march, invincible to
hardship, contemners of fatigue, of difficulties, of hunger, and of
thirst. When introduced to me, he was upwards of fifty years of age. He
was more than six feet in stature; and yet he was built as if it had
been a colossus, destined to sustain the weight of the starry heavens.
His voice was like thunder; and he never uttered a word, but it seemed
to shake his manly chest. His head and chin were clothed with a thick
and shaggy hair, in colour a dead black. He had suffered considerable
mutilation in the services through which he had passed; of one of
his hands three fingers were gone; the sight of his right eye was
extinguished, and the cheek half shot away, while the same explosion
had burned his complexion into a colour that was universally dun or
black. His nose was scarred, and his lips were thick and large. Bethlem
Gabor, though universally respected for the honour and magnanimity of a
soldier, was not less remarkable for habits of reserve and taciturnity.
But these habits misfortune had caused to become more deeply ingrafted
in his nature. During one of his military excursions, a party of
marauders had in his absence surprised his castle, burned it to the
ground, and savagely murdered his wife and children, and every living
creature within the walls. The same stroke that rendered him childless
made him also a beggar. He had been regarded for his proceedings as
an adherent to the Turkish standard, but he had always tenaciously
maintained the most complete independence. The adversity that had now
fallen upon him was too great. He would not become a pensioner of the
sultan; despair had taken fast possession of his heart. He disbanded
the body of men he had formed, and wandered a solitary outcast upon
the face of his country. For some time he seemed to have a savage
complacence in conceiving that the evil he had suffered was past all
remedy, and in spurning at those palliations and disguises with which
vulgar souls are accustomed to assuage their woe. Yet the energy of his
nature would not suffer him to rest: he wandered an outcast; but every
day engendered some new thought or passion: and it appeared probable
that he would not yet quit the stage of existence till he had left
behind him the remembrances of a terrible and desolating revenge.

It may seem strange that such a man as I have described should be the
individual I selected out of the whole Hungarian nation to make my
friend. It may seem that his qualities were better adapted to repel
than attract. My choice would not appear strange, if the reader could
have conversed with him, as I did. He was hideous to the sight; and
he never addressed himself to speak, that I did not feel my very heart
shudder within me. Seldom did he allow himself to open his thoughts;
but, when he did, great God! what supernatural eloquence seemed to
inspire and enshroud him! Not that upon such occasions he was copious
and Ciceronian, but that every muscle and every limb seemed to live,
and to quiver with the thoughts he expressed. The hearer could not
refuse to venerate, as well as fear him. I never pitied him; Bethlem
Gabor’s was a soul that soared to a sightless distance above the
sphere of pity; I can scarcely say I sympathised with him; but, when
I listened to his complaints, rather let me say his invectives, I was
astonished, overwhelmed, and motionless. The secret of the effects
he thus produced, lay in his own way of feeling the incidents he
described. Look at him, when he sat alone, wrapped in meditation, you
would say, “That is a man of iron; though adversity pour her fiercest
darts upon him, he is invulnerable; he is of too colossal a structure
to be accessible to human feelings and human affections.” Listen to
his narrative, or rather to the bursts of passion, which with him
supplied the place and performed the functions of narrative, you would
soon confess your mistake. While he spoke, he ceased to be a man, and
became something more amazing. When he alluded to what he had endured,
you did not compassionate him, for you felt that he was a creature
of another nature; but you confessed, that never man seemed to have
suffered so much, or to savour with such bitterness the cup of woe.
He did not love his wife or his children as any other man would do;
he probably never dandled or fondled them; his love was speechless;
and disdaining the common modes of exhibition, it might sometimes be
mistaken for indifference. But it brooded over and clung round his
heart; and, when it was disturbed, when the strong ties of domestic
charity were by the merciless hand of war snapped asunder, you then
saw its voluminous folds spread and convulsed before you, gigantic and
immeasurable. He cursed their murderers; he cursed mankind; he rose up
in fierce defiance of eternal providence; and your blood curdled within
you as he spoke. Such was Bethlem Gabor: I could not help admiring
him: his greatness excited my wonder and my reverence; and, while his
manners awed and overwhelmed me, I felt an inexplicable attachment to
his person still increasing in my bosom.

On his part, my kindness and partiality appeared scarcely less pleasing
to Bethlem Gabor, than his character and discourse were fascinating to
me. He had found himself without a confidant or a friend. His wife and
his children in a certain degree understood him; and, though he had an
atmosphere of repulsion beyond which no mortal ever penetrated, they
came to the edge of that, and rested there; they trembled involuntarily
at his aspect, but at the same time they adored and they loved him. The
rest of the world viewed him from a more fearful distance; respected
him, but dared not even in fancy be familiar with him. When therefore
he lost his family, he lost his all. He roamed the earth in solitude,
and all men made room for him as he passed. I was the first who, since
the fatal event that had made him childless and a beggar, had courted
his society, and invited his communications. I had dared to take the
lion by the paw, and seat myself next him in his den. There was a
similarity in our fortunes that secretly endeared him to me. We had
each by the malice of a hostile destiny, though in a very different
manner, been deprived of our families; we were each of us alone.
Fated each to be hereafter for ever alone; we blended ourselves the
one with the other as perfectly as we could. Often over our gloomy
bowl we mingled groans, and sweetened our draught as we drank it with
maledictions. In the school of Bethlem Gabor I became acquainted with
the delights of melancholy--- of a melancholy, not that contracted, but
that swelled the soul--of a melancholy that looked down upon the world
with indignation, and that relieved its secret load with curses and
execrations. We frequently continued whole nights in the participation
of these bitter joys; and were surprised, still at our serious board,
by the light of the morrow’s sun.

I have now, I believe, fully accounted for our intimacy, and displayed
the ligatures that secretly bound us to each other. It is scarcely
necessary to add, that my understanding confirmed what my heart
impelled. Bethlem Gabor appeared to me the fittest man in the world
upon whom to fix for my friend. We were qualified mutually to benefit
each other. My kindness, my unremitted attentions, the earnestness with
which I listened to and soothed his griefs, mitigated their agony. I
proposed, when I could once more reconcile and incite him to activity,
to repair his castle, and restore his fortune. On the other hand,
he was, of all the persons I could have pitched upon, the ablest to
protect me. By his birth he ranked among the first men of his country;
by his ability, at least as a partisan soldier, a character at that
time highly esteemed, he rose above them all.

For some time I regarded Bethlem Gabor as entirely my friend, and I
consulted him in every thing, in which, compatibly with the legacy of
the stranger of the summer-house, I could consult him. I told him of
the suspicions of the bashaw, and the precariousness of my safety. I
demanded his advice as to the best method of securing it. Ought I to
regard it as a more effectual or as a cheaper expedient, to attempt
to purchase the countenance of the sultan, instead of condescending
to bribe his minister? Ought I to set up for myself, and by rendering
myself the independent prince of one of the Hungarian provinces, defy
the Turk, or at least endeavour to negotiate with him from a more
respectable and commanding situation? I said more than enough under
these heads, as it afterwards appeared, to awaken strange imaginations
in a mind of so much penetration as that of Bethlem Gabor. In fine,
I demanded of him whether, in case of any great and formidable
danger falling on me, he would to the utmost of his power afford me
protection? When the question was first started, he swore to me with
his customary impressiveness and energy that he would.

While I was thus employed in consulting him, and opening to him as
far as was practicable my prospects and fears, I did not less succeed
in dissipating or suspending the despair of his melancholy. It was of
benefit to him in this respect, that, by opening to him my affairs,
I from time to time called off his attention from his personal
misfortunes. I proposed to him the rebuilding his castle, and I at
length obtained his permission to send off a corps of workmen for
that purpose. Beside the castle in which his wife and children had
been murdered, and which the marauders had nearly destroyed, he had
one considerably stronger, though void of all recommendation from
cheerfulness or beauty, in the more northerly part of the kingdom.
This we visited together. I restored the condition of his fields; with
considerable difficulty I replaced the cattle he had lost, by purchases
in Poland; and I revived his dilapidated revenues. At first he felt an
invincible repugnance to the receiving any advantage from the bounty
of another; but by continual remonstrances I was able to persuade him,
that he owed me nothing, and that what I did was no more than was
required from me by a regard for my own safety.

If ever on the face of the earth there lived a misanthrope, Bethlem
Gabor was the man. Never for a moment did he forget or forgive the
sanguinary catastrophe of his family; and for his own misfortunes he
seemed to have vowed vengeance against the whole human race. He almost
hated the very face of man; and, when expressions of cheerfulness,
peace, and contentment discovered themselves in his presence, I
could see, by the hideous working of his features, that his spirit
experienced intolerable agonies. To him such expressions were tones
horribly discordant; all was uproar and havoc within his own bosom,
and the gaiety of other men inspired him with sentiments of invincible
antipathy. He never saw a festive board without an inclination to
overturn it; or a father encircled with a smiling family, without
feeling his soul thrill with suggestions of murder. Something, I
know not what, withheld his hand: it might be some remaining atom of
humanity: it might be--for his whole character was contemplative and
close--it might be that he regarded that as a pitiful and impotent
revenge, which should cause him the next hour to be locked up as a
madman, or put to death as criminal. Horrible as was his personal
aspect, and wild and savage as was his mind, yet, as I have already
said, I felt myself attached to him. I knew that all the unsocial
propensities that animated him, were the offspring of love, were
the sentiments of a lioness bereaved of her young; and I found an
undescribable and exhaustless pleasure in examining the sublime
desolation of a mighty soul.

Bethlem Gabor had at first regarded me with some degree of partiality.
Kindness in almost all cases begets kindness; he could not see how
much I interested myself about and how much I courted him, without
feeling for me a sentiment different from that he confessed for other
men. I saw however after some time, with inexpressible grief, that his
regard for me, instead of increasing, suffered perceptible diminution.
Our propensities were opposed to each other. He rejoiced in disorder
and desolation as in his congenial element; my present pursuit
was the restoration of public order and prosperity. He repeatedly
expostulated with me on this. I had sometimes in our conversations, in
the bitterness of my recollections, exclaimed on myself as the most
unfortunate and most persecuted of men, though without entering into an
explanation of my sufferings. He reminded me of these exclamations. He
reproached me as a contemptible and pusillanimous wretch, that I did
not, like him, resolve amply and memorably to revenge my own sufferings
upon my species at large. In his estimate, the poorest and most servile
of all maxims was, that of the author of the christian religion, to
repay injury with favour, and curses with benediction.

I perceived with grief that the kindness towards me that had been
excited in Bethlem Gabor’s mind, rather declined than augmented;
but I was very far from being aware of the degree in which, as I
afterwards found, this sentiment had relapsed into its opposite. It
seems, I inflicted on him a daily torture by my daily efforts for
the dissemination of happiness. Of these he had not been at first
completely aware. His mind had been too much absorbed in its own
feelings to attend very distinctly to any thing I did, unless it were
done in his presence. But, in proportion as I soothed his sorrows, and
made him my confidant, the film was removed; and all that he saw had
the peculiar misfortune to excite at once his contempt and his rage.
The finishing stroke that I gave to the animosity which, unknown
to me, was now brooding and engendering in his breast, consisted
in my bestowing an important benefit upon one, against whom he had
entertained a long and eternal feud.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


While Bethlem Gabor became every day more confirmed in his antipathy
against me, I reposed in him an unsuspecting confidence--a confidence
more extensive than I had, since the singular and fatal acquisition I
had made, reposed in any other man. Frequently for a considerable time
together he resided under my roof; frequently we went forth together
in those excursions which either my projects or his views rendered
it necessary for us to make. In his character of a nobleman of great
consideration in his native country, he was now rising like a phœnix
from its ashes. His castles were repairing; his property was restored;
the list of his retainers daily became more numerous; he revived and
carefully recruited the martial band, which, in the first exacerbations
of his despair, he had dismissed from his service. My purse and all
that I had were his; he never made a demand upon me that I did not
instantly supply; I reaped a particular pleasure from the largeness and
frequency of his requisitions; there was nothing for which I was more
anxious, than to bind him to me in indissoluble ties of gratitude and
affection.

Little, alas! did I understand the compound of tenderness and ferocity,
of decisiveness and inscrutability, with which I was now concerned.
My friend, such I esteemed him, had been absent some time; I expected
his return to my residence at Buda; and anxious to pay him every mark
of attention and respect, I set out to meet him. It was scarcely safe,
during the existing hostilities between the Austrians and the Turks, to
travel any where without a guard; I had the precaution in the present
instance to take with me an attendance of twenty men.

It was after having partaken of a slight and early dinner that I set
out on my excursion. The season was remarkably fine, and the air genial
and balsamic. I scarcely ever commenced any tour with more agreeable
sensations. The harvest was already ripe; and, as I passed along, I
saw reapers from time to time entering upon the first essay of their
interesting occupation. I felt that I had at length surmounted one of
those difficulties, with which I had been so strongly assailed, and to
which I had refused to yield. If I were not free from apprehensions
from the arbitrary nature of the government under which I lived,
I believed however that I had nothing further to dread from the
misconstruction and animosity of the nation I preserved. My anxiety as
to whether I should be able to substantiate the benefit I had sought to
confer, was at an end; and I had little doubt that, with the plenteous
crops which were on the point of being gathered, my popularity would
return, and the gratitude of my clients become more ardent than ever.
It was a delicious enjoyment that I now experienced; the pleasures that
the eye unavoidably takes in from the spectacle of a luxuriant autumn,
became blended in my mind with the ideas of famine put to flight, my
own rectitude vindicated, and the benevolent purposes realised, the
prosecution of which had cost me so profound a heartache.

We at length passed the lines of the soldiers planted for the defence
of the soil against the depredations of the enemy. I had calculated
that I should meet my guest a few leagues from Buda; I was deceived
in my estimate. The day however of his arrival was fixed; I could not
be mistaken in his route; I resolved not to turn back without meeting
him. The road I took led upon the borders of that part of Hungary which
owned the Austrian yoke; the shades of night were fast gathering round
us, and we heard at a distance the alarm-guns and the drums of the
enemy. I was not however a novice in the appearances of a country, the
seat of military excursions and war; and, if my mind were not wholly
free from perturbation and uncertainty, I at least resolved not to be
turned aside from my purpose. We travelled two hours longer; still
no notice of the approach of Bethlem Gabor. At length a question was
started whether we were still in the right road, and I thought it
advisable to hold a sort of council of war to deliberate respecting our
further proceedings. Having assembled my attendants for that purpose,
I was now first struck with the apprehensions and timidity which they
unanimously betrayed. They had been drawn out rather for show, and to
keep accidental stragglers in awe, than with the expectation of actual
service. I became sensible that nothing was to be hoped from their
resistance in the event of an action; and the utmost I could aim at was
in the mean time to hold them together by the sentiment of a common
danger.

It was resolved to return; I began to be apprehensive that Bethlem
Gabor had been prevented by some unexpected occurrence from observing
his appointment. Scarcely had we faced about, before we heard a body of
cavalry approaching us. I called to my party to halt. I soon discerned,
from symptoms not difficult to be remarked by a careful observer, that
the party at hand was composed of Austro-Hungarians. We had every thing
to fear from them. I held myself bound under these circumstances first
to make experiment of the fleetness of our horses. I however charged my
people to keep together, and not to suffer the enemy, by means of our
inadvertence and folly, to make an easy prize of us one after another.
In a short time I found that our pursuers sensibly gained ground upon
us. I was mounted upon an excellent beast, and could easily have rode
away from my troop, while they would have been placed as a sort of
intercepting object between me and the enemy. But I had too much of a
military spirit not instantly to reject so inglorious an expedient. I
called a second time to my attendants to halt. I judged that the party
of our antagonists was less numerous than ours. I was convinced that
our common safety depended upon our concerted resistance. Filled with
the gallantry that my situation inspired, I did not perceive, till it
was too late, that my present call to halt was attended to by few; even
those few rather hung back, divided between apprehension and shame. I
was the foremost, and, before I was aware, I found myself, through
the means of the darkness, enveloped by the enemy. From my appearance
they judged that I was the master, and the rest my attendants; they
contented themselves therefore with the prize they had made, and did
not give themselves the trouble to pursue the fugitives. They eagerly
enquired of me who I was; and, comparing my answers with various
circumstances which rumour had brought to their ear, they easily
concluded that I was the rich stranger of Buda. The character they had
heard of me did not produce in these freebooters any sentiments of
forbearance, or demonstrations of respect; the only point about which
persons of their habits were concerned, was how they should make the
greatest advantage of what the fortune of war had thrown in their way.

While they were consulting, and various expedients were started by
one and another for this purpose, a second alarm was given, and one
of the party being despatched to reconnoitre, presently returned with
intelligence, that the persons approaching were horsemen of the enemy,
and that they amounted, as he guessed, to forty in number. Upon this
information the party whose prisoner I was, agreed to return with
all expedition by the way they had come, and commanded me upon pain
of death to proceed in their company. This menace had not the effect
to deprive me of courage or presence of mind; and I easily conceived
that the readiest way to deliver myself from my embarrassment would be
to join at the first opportunity the band of Turco-Hungarians, whose
approach had occasioned our sudden retreat. The darkness of the night
was favourable to my purpose; and, taking advantage of a sudden winding
in the road, I slackened all at once the pace of my horse without being
observed by my companions, who, as the enemy approached, had now their
thoughts almost wholly intent upon the safety of their retreat. They
passed me; and I no sooner perceived that to be the case, than, covered
from their observation by the intervening inclosure, I turned my horse,
and gradually, as my distance from my keepers increased, urged him to a
fuller speed. It was not long before I came up with the band which had
produced our alarm; and hailing them with the acclamation, “Long live
the mighty sultan!” was without difficulty admitted into their troop. I
instantly understood to my great joy that this was the party of Bethlem
Gabor that I had come out to meet.

He received me with much cordiality, and seemed greatly rejoiced that
fortune had made him the instrument of my rescue. He proposed however
that, having met on the road, I should now, instead of proceeding to
Buda, return with him to his northern castle, from which our distance
was scarcely greater than from the metropolis. The proposal was such
as I had not expected, nor could I well comprehend the purpose with
which it was made. But the habitual demeanour of Bethlem Gabor neither
accorded with his minutely assigning a reason for what he did, nor
was calculated to encourage enquiry in another. I saw no material
objection, and therefore felt little scruple in yielding to his
desires. Our brief consultation on this point passed at some little
distance from the rest of the troop.

When the morning broke, the first thing that excited my attention was
the appearance of his followers. They were full forty in number, well
mounted, of a large and athletic figure, with sun-burnt faces, immense
whiskers and a ferocious countenance. I thought I had never seen so
tremendous a band. To me they were every one of them strangers; of
all the persons that surrounded me, the only one of whom I had the
slightest knowledge was Bethlem Gabor himself. I know not why it was,
but I no sooner beheld my situation than I was struck with alarm. I
saw myself completely in the power of a man who three months before
was ignorant even of my existence. I had not a single attendant of
my own, not an individual with me over whom I had personal authority
or command. I had no reason to distrust my host; towards me his
demeanour had ever been frank, confidential, and manly; I had every
imaginable claim upon his generosity and his gratitude. But our senses
are often the masters of our mind, and reason vainly opposes itself
to the liveliness of their impressions. Every time that I lifted my
eyes, and saw myself hemmed in by these barbarians, my heart seemed
involuntarily to fail me. Bethlem Gabor too appeared to neglect me;
he had never shown himself so little obliging and attentive as at this
moment; and, aided by the rest of the scene, I thought I had never
beheld him so deformed or so tremendous. I was more than half inclined
to wish myself again a prisoner with the Austrians.

When we arrived at the castle, we were all of us fatigued and hungry;
we had roamed during the whole night. A repast was prepared; we sat
down to partake of it. “Excuse me,” said Bethlem Gabor, in a low voice
as he passed me, “that I this night offer you the fare of a soldier;
to-morrow you shall be accommodated in a different manner.” The words
were innocent; the proceeding natural; but there was a mysterious
gloom, at least as I thought, in the tone in which he spoke, that
electrified me. The hall in which we supped was spacious and lofty; the
naked walls and rafters were imbrowned with age. Though it was daybreak
as we entered, the windows were still darkened, and the apartment was
illuminated only by the partial glare of lamps depending from the roof.
As I sat at table with the troop of my host, I appeared to myself as if
inclosed in a cavern of banditti. Though excellent partisans, skilful
in execution, and perfect in their discipline, they were unpolished
in their manners and brutal in their conversation. I had been inured
from infancy to all the refinement that the age in which I lived had
any where to boast; and, amidst the various evils I had suffered, that
of being associated with the vulgar and the base had never presented
itself. While they uttered, now a loathsome jest, and now a sanguinary
ejaculation, I became ashamed of my species, and the pride of manhood
perished within me. They however paid little attention either to my
feelings or my person; and, accustomed as I had been, whether with
friends or enemies, to be regarded as of some importance, I found
myself unaccountably and suddenly dwindled into a cipher. I felt it
like a release from the state of a galley-slave, when Bethlem Gabor
proposed that we should break up our meeting and retire to rest.



CHAPTER XL.


A succession of gloomy thoughts revolved in my mind for some time after
I was left to myself. I was however overcome with fatigue, and, after
an interval of harassing meditations, insensibly fell asleep. I was
awakened after some hours’ repose, by the presence of Bethlem Gabor
standing by the side of my couch. He invited me to rise, and, when
I had attired myself, started the plan of our visiting together the
various apartments of the castle, a small part of which only had been
seen by me when I was last at this place. Among other things, he told
me, there was a subterranean of most wonderful extent, interspersed
with a variety of cells and lurking places, of which no man had to his
knowledge ever ascertained the number.

The same dreary complexion of thought followed me to-day, which had
been first produced in me upon my reception into the troop of Bethlem
Gabor the preceding night. My sensations were of the most depressing
and discomfiting nature; I felt as if I were the slave of some dark,
mysterious tyrant, and dragged along supinely wherever he motioned me
to go. I tasked myself seriously; I reasoned with myself. I felt that
it was no idle and every-day part that I was called to sustain; and I
resolved that I would not be ruined by my own inactivity and cowardice.
Yet, when I examined the question dispassionately, I could not find
that I had any occasion for courage, and I confessed that it was not
less censurable, to discover a useless spirit of mistrust and defiance,
than to desert one’s preservation where resistance was demanded.
What reason had I to suspect a man between whom and myself there had
prevailed so much mutual confidence? None, none, I replied, but the
causeless and superstitious misgivings of my own mind! Even if I had
ground to distrust him, what remedy had I against his ill faith, placed
as I was in the midst of his own domains, and surrounded by men devoted
to his service? To discover apprehension under such circumstances, was
to excite animosity.--These reasonings particularly occurred to my
mind, as I stood waiting for the torch, which he had himself gone to
procure that he might attend me to the subterranean caverns.--I had
as yet seen no one, since we broke up from our nightly repast, but my
host. “We will breakfast,” said he, “when we return from viewing these
curiosities.”

We crept along a succession of dark and gloomy vaults, almost in
silence. Bethlem Gabor, though he led me on, and discharged the
office of a guide, seemed to have small inclination to assume that
of an interpreter. This was sufficiently in unison with his ordinary
character, to have little claim to excite surprise. Yet the reader
will not on reflection greatly wonder that my present situation was
far from agreeable. I was alone in passages which, to judge from any
discoverable token, you would scarcely imagine had for ages been trod
by a human creature. The voice was lost amidst the damps of these
immense caverns; nor was it possible by any exertion to call the hand
of man to your aid. My guide was an individual whom calamity had
prompted to quarrel with the world; of strong feelings indeed, of
capacious thought; but rugged, ferocious, brutal, and inaccessible
to prayer. I had chosen him for my protector and ally; I had never
intended to put myself in his power. There was a mystery in his
carriage, a something not to be explained, a shell that no human forces
could penetrate, that was mortal to confidence, and might quail the
stoutest.

I thought there would be no end to our pilgrimage. At length we came to
a strong door, cross-barred and secured with a frame of iron. Bethlem
Gabor unlocked it. We had no sooner entered, that it impetuously
closed behind us. “What is that?” said I, startled at the loudness of
the report. “Come on,” cried my host; “it is only the wind whistling
through the caverns: the spring-bolt is shot, but I have the key in my
hand!” At the opposite end of the apartment was another door with an
ascent of five steps leading to it. Bethlem Gabor unlocked that also,
and then faced about with the torch in his hand: I was close behind
him. “Stay where you are!” said he with a furious accent, and thrust me
violently from him. The violence was unexpected: I staggered from the
top of the steps to the bottom. This door closed with as loud a report
as the other; Bethlem Gabor disappeared; I was left in darkness.

For an instant I doubted whether the situation in which I thus found
myself were the result of design or of accident. The shutting of the
door might be ascribed to the latter: the action however, and the words
of my host did not admit of that interpretation. I stood motionless,
astonished, and almost incapable of reflection. What an incredible
reverse was thus the creature of a moment! Yesterday I possessed
unbounded treasures, and the hearts of the whole Turco-Hungarian
nation. Yesterday, as I rode forth on this fatal excursion, I beheld
the food of a mighty people, mature for consumption, the growth of my
exertions; and it will not be thought surprising that my heart leaped
within me at the sight. Who would not have envied the unparalleled
eminence at which I had arrived? My triumphs were attended with no
melancholy exceptions to damp their joy. They were the children of no
intrigue; they were manly, frank, ingenuous, and honourable. My laurels
were stained with no drop of blood, were tarnished with no tears of the
widow and the orphan. How much more noble to rescue mankind from famine
and death, than to violate the honest pride of their nature with the
exhibition of victories and trophies!

Yet, truly considered, there was nothing abrupt in the reverse under
which I was now suffering. The whole was a chain, every link of which
was indissolubly connected from one end to the other. My attempt to
rescue a people from the horrors of famine necessarily exposed me
to unfavourable accidents and misconstruction. It inevitably led to
my application to the government for its aid. It could not fail to
excite the alarms and jealousies of government as to the tendency of
my proceedings. By exhibiting me as the possessor of immense wealth,
with very limited means for the protection of that wealth, it marked
me a prey to a rapacious viceroy or his more despotic master. When I
became sensible of the precarious situation in which I stood towards
the powers of the state, could I have fallen upon a more natural
expedient, than the endeavour to cover myself with the shield of
friendship and gratitude in the person of one of its nobles? But this
expedient would almost infallibly lead to the placing myself sooner or
later in the power of the man whose friendship I sought. I had done so,
and this was the termination of my views and my projects!

I now well understood the purpose of that inattention and neglect
with which Bethlem Gabor had treated me the preceding evening, the
uneasiness resulting from which I had blamed in myself at the time,
as the dictate of weakness and unworthy suspicion. Yesterday I had
been placed under the safeguard of a nation; every man in Buda and
its environs was familiar with my person; every man would have been
ready almost to sacrifice his life to procure my safety. Now I was far
from the scene of my philanthropical exertions; no one in the troop of
Bethlem Gabor knew who I was; he had appeared to treat me the preceding
evening with indifference and contempt; if they saw me no more, no
curiosity would by that circumstance be excited in their minds. My
clients on the other hand in the vicinity of the metropolis, however
great an interest they might take in my fortune, had no clue that could
lead them to the knowledge of it. They must suppose me a prisoner with
the Austrians, or that I had been killed, in resisting to become their
prisoner. I was cut off from all assistance and discovery, and left as
much in the power of my treacherous ally, as if I had been alone with
him, oppressed with the utmost disparity of personal force, in the
remotest island of the Pacific Ocean.

Such were the reflections that early suggested themselves to my mind in
the solitude and darkness in which I was thus unexpectedly involved.
Meanwhile one tedious hour succeeded to another, and I remained
unintruded on and unnoticed. I could form no conjecture as to the
object of Bethlem Gabor in the atrocious perfidy he had committed.
Could he have any resentment against me, and did he meditate revenge?
He had received from me nothing but benefits. Did he employ restraint
on my person as the means of extortion? I could not conceive that he
could have any clue leading him to the discovery of my grand secret;
and, short of this, my bounties had been so exuberant, as, I imagined,
left him nothing to wish. In this wilderness of conjecture I however
fixed upon extortion as a motive less incredible than revenge. I
impatiently waited, till the appearance of my tyrant should free me
from some part of my present uncertainty.

He did not appear. In the mean time I was in a condition feeble and
exhausted. The exercise of yesterday, the hourly-baffled expectation
of meeting him whom I had called my friend, the alternation of being
first taken prisoner and afterwards rescued, had extremely fatigued
me. We had travelled during the whole night. Yet the unaccountable
dejection of mind under which I laboured on our arrival at Bethlem
Gabor’s castle had prevented me from taking almost any share in the
coarse repast that had then been set before us. The entrance of my host
in the morning had rendered my slumbers short. As I followed him to my
dungeon, unconscious whither I went, my limbs ached, and my heart ached
still more. I was ill prepared for a fast of thirty-six hours which the
brutality of my jailor inflicted upon me. After having long expected
him in vain, I gave myself up to despair. What a termination of life
for him who possessed the philosopher’s stone!

I cannot do justice to the sensations that now took possession of my
mind. It was not the deadly calm of despair, for I still expected every
moment when Bethlem Gabor would appear. I believed than he would, and I
believed that he would not, leave me to perish. I listened with eager
attention to every sound, and my soul floated on the howling winds.
In vain! nothing came of it; there was no alteration in the sound, or
only those vicissitudes to which the howling of the wind is unavoidably
subject. I then turned away in anguish; I cursed; I stamped with my
feet; I smote my forehead with my closed hand; I tore my hair. Anon
another sound arrested my attention; it was a different howling; it
seemed to be like a human voice; my fancy created to me the tread of a
human foot. I listened with more intentness of soul than ever. It was
again in vain!

No, no; he will not come! he will never come. Why should I agitate
myself to no purpose? Let me lie down and die!--I reasoned with myself.
Why should I wish to live? I am nothing to any human being: I am alone
in the boundless universe; I have no tie to existence. St. Leon has no
wife; St. Leon has no child; he has neither connection nor friend in
the world. Even in this wretched vision of the philosopher’s stone,
have I not tried it enough? have I any hopes from it? is it not time
that I should throw away that and existence together?--My meditations
were ineffectual. I suppose it is the case with all men thus violently
thrust out of life in the full possession of their faculties--I know it
was the case with me,--the more peremptory was my summoner, the more
obstinately I clung to the worthless toy.

At length I laid myself down on the floor; and, if I occasionally
listened, I no longer ran to the walls and the doors to catch the
uncertain sounds. The gnawings I now felt within were intolerable.
They were at one period so severe, that I can compare them to nothing,
but the sensation of having swallowed a glowing ember. Afterwards, the
weakness of nature would no longer feed this excruciating pain, and it
subsided into a starting and convulsive throb; the pain was diversified
with intervals of a death-like and insupportable sickness.--But, no;
I will not attempt to describe the horrors of hunger sublimed by
despair, where the torture of the mind gives new pungency and uproar
to the corporeal anguish. The image, as it now presents itself to my
recollection, is too dreadful.

At last I sunk into a state of insensibility; and the agony I had
suffered seemed drawn to its final close. The busy turmoil, the
feverish dream of human existence was at an end. I shut my eyes, and I
believed I should open them no more.



CHAPTER XLI.


How long I endured this suspension of the vital faculties I cannot
tell. The next impression on my sensorium, subsequent to those I have
described, was a sort of external twitching and violence that seemed
to persecute me. It was an importunity from which I felt desirous to
escape; I longed to be undisturbed and at rest. The intruder on my
quiet would not leave me; and I at length roused myself, as if to put
away my cause of molestation. My thoughts were all confounded and
obscure; I knew not where, I could scarcely be said to know who, I was.
A little more effort brought with it a further capacity of perception;
I saw before me, what was now the chief object of my mortal aversion,
the figure of Bethlem Gabor. It was some time longer, before I became
aware that he had been employed in taking up my apparently lifeless
corpse, placing it on a stone-bench in the side of the cave, and
chaining it to the wall. He observed the motions that indicated in me
returning life: he remarked the stare of my glassy and rayless eyes; he
now spoke with a stern and unpitying voice--“There is food; there is a
light; eat!” Having thus said, he left me.

What a cruel and remorseless treatment! He cared not for my life; he
disdained to make the slightest exertion to restore me; he left it to
chance whether I should revive or perish. The figure of a dying man
that I presented, did not make one fibre of his bosom bend or quiver.

I revived; I ate. By degrees I recovered from the deadly languor which
had invaded my senses. In about twelve hours longer Bethlem Gabor
returned with a new supply of sustenance. I was now strong enough to
be able to converse with him. I heard the heavy sound of opening locks
and removing bolts before he entered, and I summoned my faculties to
expostulate with him.

“Why am I here? What is the meaning of the unworthy way in which you
treat me?”

“It is,”--he regarded me with a truculent aspect, as if he would pierce
through my heart,--“because I hate you!”

“You hate me? Good God! is it possible? What evil have I done to you?
What good have I not done you? What supplies have I refused you? What
occasions have I neglected of studying your advantage, your interest,
and your honour? If thus your hatred is purchased, how shall that man
demean himself who is to purchase your love?”

“Oh, think not my hatred idle or capricious! Heaven knows, I would have
refrained from hating you if I had been able; I struggled against it
with all the energies of my soul. But you have committed towards me
the most mortal offences that man ever endured. There is an antipathy
between your nature and mine, that all the menstruums in the world
could never bring to coalesce.”

“Eternal Providence! and what is the source of this antipathy?”

“And do you profess ignorance? Have you not gone on day after day with
the full consciousness and will to torment me? Have I not warned you,
and expostulated with you times without number?”

“Of what have you warned me?”

“I hate mankind. I was not born to hate them. I have no native
obliquity of character. I have no diabolical maliciousness of
constitution. But they have forced me to hate them, and the debt of
abhorrence shall be amply paid.

“I loved as never mortal loved. No human heart was ever so devoted, and
centred, and enveloped in the kindly affections of family and parentage
as mine has been. Was not my wife, were not my children, murdered?
When I came home to feast my eyes and tranquillise my soul with the
sight of them, did I not find all waste and desolation? Did I not find
their bodies naked, pale, disfigured with wounds, plunged in blood, and
already putrid? This was the welcome I looked for! This was the object
I so speeded to see! No, never was a moment like that! My whole nature
was changed in an instant. My eyes were blasted and dried to horn. My
blood froze in my well stored veins. I have no longer delight but in
human misery.

“My revenge is not causeless; this was not the act of individuals. All
men, in the place of these murderers, would have done as they did.
They are in a league together. Human pity and forbearance never had a
harbour but in my breast; and I have now abjured them. With something
more of inwrought vigour and energy, I will become like to my brethren.
All men are excited by the same motives, urged by the same temptations,
influenced by the same inducements. Why should I attempt a futile
distinction, when nature had made none? All men bear the same figure; I
cannot view the human figure without a torture the most dreadful.”

“I always knew,” answered I, “your general hatred of mankind; but your
manners and your behaviour persuaded me that you exempted me from the
general censure.”

“I wished to do so; you made the attempt impossible. You told me, that
you had suffered the same misfortunes which I had; that you, by the
injustice and persecutions of men, had also lost your wife and your
children. I hailed you as a brother; in my heart I swore to you eternal
friendship; I said, we will carry on this holy warfare together. We
communicated to each other our mutual sorrows; with you, and you only,
I found moments of consolation.

“Soon I discovered my mistake. Instead of, like me, seeking occasions
of glorious mischief and vengeance, you took upon yourself to be the
benefactor and parent of mankind. What vocation had you to the task?
With the spirit of a slave who, the more he is beaten, becomes the
more servile and submissive, you remunerated injuries with benefits.
I found that there was not within you one atom of generous sentiment,
one honest glow of fervent indignation. Chicken-hearted wretch! poor,
soulless poltroon! to say the best of you, to your insensate heart it
was the same whether you were treated with reverence or scorn. I saw
you hunted, hooted at, and pursued by the people you fed; you held on
your course, and fed them still. I was compelled to witness or to hear
of your senseless liberalities every day I lived. Could I submit to
this torment, and not endeavour to remove it? I hate the man in whom
kindness produces no responsive affection, and injustice no swell, no
glow of resentment. I hated you the more, because, having suffered what
I had suffered, your feelings and conduct on the occasion have been the
reverse of mine. Your character, I thank God! is of all beings the most
opposite to that of Bethlem Gabor.

“At length you filled up the measure of the various thwartings with
which you daily insulted me. There was one native of Hungary between
whom and me there subsisted an open and eternal war. I relate in no
human ear the cause of my animosity to that man. Suffice it, that it
was deep, immeasurable, inexpiable. With a refinement of cruelty and
insult difficult to conceive, you chose that man for one of the objects
of your beneficence. Would I consent to see my name joined in pension
list with my mortal enemy? The injury you inflicted on me would have
been less if you had stabbed me to the heart. Less? That would have
been a blessing. I impose on myself the task of living for my revenge:
but never shall I deem that man my foe, who should rid me of all this
tumult of passions, and this insupportable load of existence together.

“You have heard my motives. You may wonder at, you may censure them:
but they are human. I have nothing further to say to you now: you have
no need to recur to expostulation; expostulation never moved the heart
of Bethlem Gabor. Hereafter you shall hear more!”

Thus speaking, he left me; and I must confess, with whatever disgrace
to my sagacity, he opened upon me a new world. I conceived not, till
now, the faintest suspicion of what had been labouring in his bosom.
Amidst all my experience of the varieties of human character, this was
a species that had never fallen under my observation before. What a
painful and mortifying occurrence is it in human life, when we have
lived with a man from day to day, when we have conversed with him
familiarly, and seen him in all the changes of circumstance, and when
we flatter ourselves we have penetrated all the recesses of his heart,
suddenly to start upon something portentous that brooded there, of
which to that moment we had not the lightest suspicion! I am not the
only individual to whom this event has occurred.

In a subsequent visit of Bethlem Gabor to my cell (for he only attended
me with provisions, he would intrust the secret of my confinement to
no other mortal), I intreated him to inform me with what intention
he retained me a prisoner, and to fix a price on my ransom. To this
overture he appeared to yield some degree of attention. He made no
explicit answer, but asked with an inquisitive and severe tone, in
what manner I imagined I could procure money in my dungeon?

“Let us agree upon the terms, and set me at large. You have never found
me deceitful, and you shall not find me deceitful now.”

“Do not hope I will consent to that. I ask you again, in what manner do
you imagine you can procure money in your dungeon?”

I reflected for a moment. Liberty is ineffably sweet; and whatever
followed, upon the present overture, I was determined not to neglect
the faintest prospect that led to a termination of my confinement.

“There is,” answered I, “in my mansion at Buda, a chest which, if it
can be brought to me hither, will enable me to supply your demands.
I have the key in my custody, and no key but my own will unlock the
treasure.”

“Give me the key!” replied Bethlem Gabor.

“No,” rejoined I, “it is in my custody; it is not upon my person: I
have taken care of that. No human hand shall touch it but my own.”

“And how can I cause this chest to be brought to you without risking
a discovery of your situation, or that I had a concern in your
disappearance?”

“Of that,” said I, “judge for yourself. I have made a proposition to
you, and I have done enough. I will have no share in the detail of its
execution.”

“Well,” said Bethlem Gabor, after having ruminated a moment, “the chest
you shall have; I undertake that. Describe it.”

I described the chest, and its situation in my house, with a minuteness
that made mistake impossible.

After a considerable time it was brought to me. It was too bulky and
ponderous to be introduced into my cell by a single arm. But Bethlem
Gabor, having first caused me unconsciously to swallow a powerful
opiate, found no difficulty, either to conceal my person in the dark
shadows of this ragged subterranean, or to cause some of his followers
to place the chest within my reach, believing that they placed it in
a vacant apartment. I awoke, and found it at hand. I was secure that
the lock was such a one as could not be forced; but I examined the
different surfaces, to see whether violence of any other sort had been
exercised on it. There were marks of damage, but not sufficiently
unequivocal to enable me to form a certain judgment on this point.
The chest contained, not gold, but the implements for making and
fashioning gold. Allowing for the distance from which it was brought,
they appeared to be pretty exactly in the state in which I left them.
I had never placed much confidence in this expedient for softening the
heart of Bethlem Gabor; but I perceived that it would serve at worst to
divert my thoughts, and, by exciting in me some share of expectation,
might call off my attention from the miseries of my present condition.
Embracing the occasions when I was most secure against the intrusion
of my jailor, I provided myself with the sum that had been previously
agreed on between us. My task being finished, I carefully displayed
the produce of my labour, against the next time Bethlem Gabor should
visit my cell. He viewed it with an air of sullen and gloomy triumph;
he removed it from the cave which was my habitation, to an apartment
of this subterraneous abode, little distant from my own. When he had
concluded this employment, it seemed to be a just inference, that he
was to give me my liberty. He did no such thing. Without uttering a
word, he closed the door of my cavern, locked it, and departed.

When Bethlem Gabor next entered my cell, I reproached him with this,
as with the breach of a solemn engagement. His first answer was an
infernal laugh, expressive of derision, hard-heartedness, and contempt.
By and by, however, he condescended to explain himself more fully.

“I made no engagement,” cried he. “You talked of a ransom, and
I suffered you to talk. I made you no answer; I gave you no
encouragement. Boy, I deceived you not! No; though my heart pants for
vengeance and for misery, I will never be guilty of treachery; I will
break no engagements; I am a knight and a soldier. You have given me
ten thousand ducats; what are ten thousand ducats to me? Do you think
I am uninformed of your secret? I opened your chest; I found no gold;
its contents were crucibles, minerals, chemical preparations, and
the tools of an artist. You are possessed of the grand arcanum, the
philosophers stone. If I had a doubt of it before, the transaction of
yesterday converted conjecture into certainty. And did you suppose,
idiot, driveller that you are, that I would take ten thousand ducats in
commutation for wealth inexhaustible? No; you are my prisoner, and may
choose, in this infallible dilemma, whether you will remain my slave,
to supply me daily resources as I shall daily think proper to demand,
or at once make over to me your whole mystery, and place me in this
respect on a level with yourself.”

It was now my part to be peremptory and firm.

“I refuse,” said I, “every part of your dilemma, and all that you can
propose to me. Do you talk of my remaining your slave, to supply you
with daily resources? Do you imagine that, shut up in this dungeon, I
will nevertheless labour for your gratification? Do you believe that
that gift, which I received as the instrument of my own happiness
and the benefit of mankind, shall be made the pledge of my perpetual
imprisonment?

“With regard to imparting to you the secret you suppose me to possess,
I answer without hesitation, that, dearly as I prize liberty, and
numerous as are the motives you may think I have to prize it, I will
not purchase my liberty at that rate. I would rather spend the days of
eternity in this cavern, than comply with your proposal. The gift of
the philosopher’s stone, the moment a man possesses it, purifies his
mind from sordid and ignoble inducements. The endowment which raises
him so much above his species, makes him glory in his superiority,
and cherish his innocence. He cannot, if he would, mingle in the low
passions and pursuits of the generality of mankind. For myself, I
value too much the verdict of my own heart, ever to allow myself to
be influenced in the main concerns of my existence by menaces and
compulsion. Beside, this gift I received for holy and beneficent
purposes; to such it is consecrated; and if I ever impart it, I must
select its depository with all the assiduity and penetration it is
practicable for me to exert. You I will henceforth benefit no more. You
hate me; my disapprobation of you is fixed and irrevocable. I weep
to think how much I have been deceived in you; I weep to think how
many high and heroic qualities in your breast are now converted into
malignity and venom.--You the possessor of the philosopher’s stone!
You tell me, the sole pursuit of the rest of your life is revenge
and human misery. What an image do you raise in my mind, if, with
such dispositions, you possessed the means which the acquisition of
riches inexhaustible would confer on you? And do you believe that any
consideration on earth could induce me to realise such an image?”

“As you please,” replied Bethlem Gabor indignantly. “I have nothing to
propose to you. Think you that, either as my enemy or my slave, and I
hold you for both, I would descend to negotiate with you? I simply told
you your situation. Yours be the consequences of your wilfulness and
folly!

“One mistake however that I see you make respecting my purposes, I will
remove. You seem to suppose that, if you were to communicate to me your
secret, I would then set you at liberty. No, by heavens! This cavern is
your abode for ever. You shall never go forth from it alive; and, when
you are dead, here your flesh shall moulder, and your skeleton shall
rest, as long as the world remains. Look round your walls! Enter fully
into possession of your final home! I know that to keep you here and
alive my prisoner, I must in a certain sense imprison myself. But at
that I do not murmur. I shall have the gratification of beholding my
foe, and seeing him daily wither in disappointment. You wish to be a
father to the human race; and I shall deem the scope of my misanthropy
almost satisfied, while, in your restraint, I image myself as making
the human race an orphan. Never shall Bethlem Gabor set at large a man
of your unnatural and gall-less disposition, and your powers for the
indulgence of that disposition.

“Sieur de Chatillon, I do not want your secret: it suffices that I know
you possess it. Have I not yourself in my keeping? It will be more joy
to me rudely to issue my commands, and to see you complying with them
in spite of the most heartfelt reluctance, than to possess the richest
gift on earth in the fullest independence. Think you Bethlem Gabor
incompetent to tame the tenant of this wretched cavern? Boy, you _are_
my prisoner; you _shall be_ my creature. I will humble you at my feet,
and teach you to implore my bounty for the most miserable pittance.
Look to it! You know your destiny! Do not provoke my fury, without a
foresight of the consequences!”

I will enter into little further detail of this my wretched
imprisonment in the wilds of Hungary. It was not destitute of its
varieties; and I could, if I pleased, fill a volume with the artifices
and the violence of my gloomy superintendent. I could fill volumes
with the detail of the multiplied expedients, the furious menaces, the
gigantic starts and rhapsodies of passion, by which he alternately
urged me to compliance and concession. But I will not. I will bring
to an end the history of Bethlem Gabor; and then, having detailed the
surprising events that immediately followed it, will close the page
of St. Leon’s history for ever. I stood like a rock. Shut out from
all other gratifications, I at least resolved to accumulate in my own
person all the energies of resistance. If I were to unfold the story, I
could command the reader’s astonishment, his admiration; but the object
of these papers is to record, not my merits, but my fate.

How different was my imprisonment in the cavern of the man-abhorring
palatine, from that which I had experienced in the dungeons of the
inquisition! There an inexorable apathy prevailed: my tyrants were
indifferent whether I died or lived; filled with the sense of their
religious elevation, they held on the even gravity of their course,
and counted my groans and my tears neither for remorse nor pleasure.
The variety I experienced in their dungeons was the growth of my own
thoughts: from without I encountered no interruption; it was not to
be ascribed to those who held me in durance, if my faculties were
not lethargied into death. Bethlem Gabor possessed no share of their
apathy; his malice was ever alive, his hatred ever ingenious and new
in its devices. He had a purpose to answer,--to extort from me the
supply of his necessities and projects. It was not so much perhaps that
he stood in need of this, as that he placed a pride in it, and had
fiercely resolved to show me that I was unreservedly his slave. His
animosity against me was so fixed and insatiable, that nothing that was
pain to me was indifferent to him. If at any time he saw me subsiding
into insensibility, he failed not to exert himself to sting me into
life again.

The consequence of this was somewhat different from what Bethlem Gabor
expected. Desponding as I was, weary of life, and almost finally
alienated from the all-coveted gift of the philosopher’s stone, if
he had left me to myself, I should very probably have sought in
insensibility relief from the torment of my own thoughts. But he
taught me a better lesson. Refusing me the indulgence of torpor, he
obliged me to string myself to resistance. He gave me a passion; he
gave me an object; he gave me comparative happiness. I was roused
to opposition; I was resolved that, placed, as I seemed to be, at
his mercy, I would yield him no atom of his desires. Thus employed,
I found in my employment pride. Perpetual occasion presented itself
for fortitude; and I gradually ascended to the sweets of consistency,
perseverance, and self-gratulation. I had for years been inured to
satisfy myself with a sparing stock of pleasures; and I was less at
a loss to expand and ramify those which I now possessed, than almost
any other man would have been in my situation. If my attendant train
of sensations was scanty, Bethlem Gabor took care to afford them a
perpetual supply of food and employment, and I was comparatively little
exposed to the pain of vacuity. When he saw that I was inflexible, and
that he could no longer gain from me the smallest compliance with his
will, he raged against me with terrifying fury. Was it a crime in me,
that this fury in my tyrant produced the operation of a sedative and
a cordial? There was no malignity in the joy it gave me. I had much
aversion for Bethlem Gabor, but no hatred. I took no pleasure in his
agonies, because they were agonies. My sympathies towards him now, I
confess, were small; but the joy I felt was because his fury told me,
was the unwilling evidence of my own value. I left him to assail the
mound I opposed to his desires as he pleased; it remained strong and
unaffected as the sea-beaten promontory.--From the inefficacy of his
efforts, I sometimes took occasion to remonstrate with my jailor, and
demand the restoration of my liberty; but Bethlem Gabor was not a man
whom arguments and expostulations like these could move. In spite of
himself however I commanded his wonder, if not his esteem. He regarded
the contrast as almost incredible, between the boy-aspect under which
he saw me, and the inflexibility and resources of my time-instructed
mind.

The contentment that I have here described in myself, was however a
creature of the imagination, the forced progeny of uncommon effort.
It was no natural state of the soul. My mind would sometimes wander
beyond the limits of my cavern, and remember that there were other
persons beside Bethlem Gabor and myself in the world. I recollected the
situation in which I had left my great project for the reviviscence
of Hungary, and rejoiced to remember that it was already in such
forwardness, as, I hoped, no longer to stand in absolute need of my
assistance. Yet what I had done was but a small portion, a dismembered
branch, of what I had meditated to do, and what every person of a
generous and enterprising mind, who had been in possession of the
philosopher’s stone, would have designed. Why was I thus stopped in the
commencement of a career so auspiciously begun, and to which an ardent
fancy, would prescribe no limits? Why was every power of the social
constitution, every caprice of the multitude, every insidious project
of the noble, thus instantly in arms against so liberal and grand an
undertaking? Nor could I help repining at the perverseness of my fate,
which had decreed that I should savour all the bitterness incidentally
resulting from my plan, and not be permitted so much as to taste the
applause and reward that ought to grow out of its completion. Thousands
of men were at this instant indebted to my generosity and exertions for
every blessing they enjoyed; and I was cast forth as the refuse of the
earth, pining under the alternate succession of solitude, negligence,
and malice, my very existence and the manner of it unknown, except
to one individual, who had, from the strangest and most unexpected
motives, sworn eternal hostility to me.

Bethlem Gabor had resolved that, so long as he lived, I should remain
a prisoner: when he died, if he continued my only jailor, the single
individual acquainted with the place of my confinement, the probable
issue was that I should perish with hunger. Twelve years before, I
should have contemplated this attitude and condition of existence with
indescribable horror. But within that time I had been better taught.
I had received an education, I thank them, in the dungeons of the
Spanish inquisition; and, if that be properly considered, it will not
be wondered at that I was superior to ordinary terrors. Early in my
present situation the presentiment had suggested itself to me that, by
some striking event, I should be rescued from my present confinement;
and, improbable as the suggestion was, it made an indelible impression
on my mind. I had originated in, or it had produced, a dream, the
scenes of which had appeared particularly luminous and vivid. I
imagined I saw a knight, cased complete in proof, enter my prison. A
smile of angelic kindness beamed on his countenance. He embraced me
with ardour; he made a sign to me to follow him. I felt that I had seen
him somewhere, that he had been my intimate friend. Yet all the efforts
I made in sleep, or afterwards when I was awake, were unavailing to
remove the mystery that hung upon his features. I rose to obey him;
the ground trembled under my feet like an earthquake. Presently, with
the incoherency usually attendant on a dream, the figure changed to
that of a female of unblemished grace and beauty; it unfolded a pair of
radiant wings; we ascended together in the air; I looked down, and saw
the castle of Bethlem Gabor a prey to devouring flames.--Here ended my
dream. I soon felt that I could reason myself out of all confidence in
the presages of this wild and incongruous vision. But I refused to do
it; my consolations were not so plenteous in this frightful solitude
as that I should willingly part with one so delicious. Reason, thus
applied, I contemplated as an abhorred intruder. It was, for a long
time, part of my occupation in every day to ruminate on this vision,
not with the sternness of a syllogist, but with the colouring of a
painter, and the rapture of a bard. From thus obstinately dwelling on
it in the day, it happened that it became again and again and again
my vision of the night. Slumbers like these were truly refreshing,
and armed and nerved me for the contentions of my tyrant. Sacred and
adorable power of fancy, that can thus purify and irradiate the damps
of a dungeon, and extract from midnight glooms and impervious darkness
perceptions more lovely and inspiriting than noontide splendour!



CHAPTER XLII.


I had now continued here for several months, and in all that time
had received no external impressions but such as related to the cell
I inhabited, and the misanthropical savage by whom it was visited.
One evening that Bethlem Gabor entered my dungeon, I observed in him
an air of unusual disturbance. Where apathy reigns, the intercourse
between those over whom it presides will be marked with a death-like
uniformity; but wherever the furious passions take their turn,
they will occasionally subside into a semblance of familiarity and
benevolence. There was something in the countenance of my tyrant that
made me for a moment forget the complicated injuries I had received
from him. “What is it that has disturbed you?” cried I. There was
no answer. There was a knitting in his brow, and a contraction in
his features, that showed me his silence was an effort. He departed
however, and had already passed the threshold of my dungeon. The door
was in his hand. He returned. “Chatillon,” said he, “perhaps you will
never see me more!”

“My castle is besieged. I have passed through dangers of a thousand
names, and I ought not to be made serious by that which now assails me.
But a gloomy presentiment hangs upon my mind. The busy phantom of life
has lasted too long, and I am sick at heart. In the worst event I will
not be made a prisoner; I will die fighting.

“I feel as if this were the last day of my existence; and, upon the
brink of the grave, animosity and ferociousness die away in my soul.
In this solemn moment, my original character returns here (striking his
heart) to take possession of its native home; a character, stern and
serious, if you will; but not sanguinary, not cruel, not treacherous or
unjust. Between you and me there is a deadly antipathy; but you did not
make yourself; you intended me friendship and advantage; the sufferings
you have experienced from me in return have been sufficiently severe.
If I die defending my walls, and you remain thus, you will perish with
hunger. I had intended it should be so; but I am now willing to remit
this part of your fate. I will enter into a compromise with you; I will
trust to your fidelity, and your honour. I will take off your chains; I
will bring you a timepiece and torches; I will leave with you the key
of the spring lock of your cavern,--provided you will engage your word
to me that you will not attempt to make use of your advantages till the
expiration of twenty-four hours.”

To these terms I assented without hesitation. The chains fell from my
wrists and my ancles; I stood up once more unshackled, and in respect
of my limbs a free man. When Bethlem Gabor was on the point to depart,
my soul melted within me. I took hold of his hand; my fingers trembled;
I grasped and pressed the fingers of my tyrant. I cannot describe what
then passed in my bosom. No man can understand my sensations, who had
not been in my situation, who had not passed through a treatment,
arbitrary, ferocious, and inhuman, and had not then seen the being
who had wounded him so unpardonably, suddenly changing his character,
commiserating his fate, and rescuing him from destruction.

From this time I saw Bethlem Gabor no more; he died, as he had sworn to
do, in the last dike of his fortress. His self-balanced and mighty soul
could not submit to the condition of a prisoner; he was nothing, if he
were not free as the air, and wild as the winds. I may be mistaken;
but this appears to me to have been a great and admirable man. He had
within him all the ingredients of sublimity; and surely the ingredients
of sublimity are the materials of heroic virtue. I have much cause of
complaint against him; he conceived towards me an animosity the most
barbarous and unprovoked; but, in writing this narrative, I have placed
my pride in controlling the suggestions of resentment, and I have
endeavoured to do him justice.

I had engaged to wait twenty-four hours; I waited only six. I know not
how the reader will decide upon the morality of my conduct; but I own I
had not the force, I believe I may call it the insensibility, to remain
in my dungeon any longer. There was no doubt that, if Bethlem Gabor
returned a conqueror, the term of my imprisonment would be renewed,
and all his former menaces continued in force. What should I deserve
to have thought of me, if I could sit down idly, and tamely wait the
return of my jailor? No! liberty is one of the rights that I put on
when I put on the form of a man, and no event is of power to dissolve
or abdicate that right. Of what validity was the promise that Bethlem
Gabor extorted from me by compulsion, and as the condition of that
which he had no title to withhold? What gratitude did I owe to this
man, who treated me with every contumely, and shrunk from nothing but
the thought of causing me to perish with hunger? Whatever became of
my attempt to escape, I could at least in this vast subterranean hide
myself from the face of him who had injured me. I had a provision of
phosphorus in my chest; and could therefore extinguish my torch upon
the slightest alarm, and relume it at pleasure. What was the value
of life, situated as I was situated? It was better to perish in the
attempt to escape, than linger on for ever in perpetual imprisonment.
As a further resource I left a billet in my dungeon (for for this
also I had implements) intreating Bethlem Gabor by every motive of
compassion and humanity to provide for me the means of sustenance as
usual. Having taken these precautions, I lighted a fresh torch; and,
unlocking the door, and thrusting the key into my girdle, set out upon
my expedition. Though Bethlem Gabor had stipulated for twenty-four
hours, the siege might even now be over, and I trembled every instant
lest my jailor should return.

I wandered for a considerable time among the alleys and windings of
this immeasurable cavern. I had the precaution to mark the sides of
the vault with characters and tokens as I passed, that, if necessary,
I might be able to find the way back to my dungeon: this might prove
an indispensable resource, to prevent me from perishing with hunger.
Once or twice I changed my route, inferring from a comparison of
circumstances, the best I could make, that I was not in the direction
of the castle from which Bethlem Gabor had led me to my imprisonment.
In all this wandering I had seen nothing, I had heard nothing, which
could demonstrate to me that I was approaching the habitation of man. I
had groped my way for near two hours, when on a sudden I heard a loud
and tremendous shout that almost stunned me, and that from its uncommon
shock could be at no great distance from the place where I stood.
This was succeeded by a terrifying glare of light. I extinguished my
torch, both that I might be better qualified to observe, and that I
might be less in danger of discovery by any one who should approach me
unawares. The shouts were several times repeated. The light I found to
proceed from that end of the vault towards which I had been advancing,
and, by the best conjectures I could form, I concluded the outlet
into the castle to be at no great distance. I heard the crackling of
the flames, and the fall of rafters and beams. Presently I discerned
a volume of smoke approaching me, and found that, if I remained long
in my present station, I should incur the risk of being suffocated.
I formed my resolution. I concluded that Bethlem Gabor’s castle was
taken, and set on fire by the Austrians. I believed that my persecutor
was already no more: to this faith I was undoubtedly prompted by the
presentiment which he had communicated to me. I saw that it would be
impossible for me to emerge into light, till the flames should abate. I
once more therefore lighted my torch, and returned by the straightest
road I could find to my dungeon. Arrived there, I proposed to pass the
interval quietly, in the cavern where I had so long felt the weight of
the Hungarian’s chains. Suddenly however the suggestion occurred to
me, may not my conjectures be false? may not Bethlem Gabor yet repel
the enemy, and return to me from amidst the ruins of his falling
castle? The thought was sickness and extinction to my heart. Hope!
beautiful as are thy visions, in how much anguish and agony do they
clothe the terrors of disappointment! Never had Bethlem Gabor been half
so dreadful to me as now. I shrunk away; I took with me the fragments
of provision that yet remained; I hid myself; I deemed no cell remote
enough to conceal me from the inhuman persecution of my tyrant.

I continued in the subterranean all that day and all the succeeding
night. Once in this period I attempted to reconnoitre the avenue of my
escape, but I found the situation still so heated and suffocating that
I did not venture to proceed. At length I came forth from this den of
horrors, and again beheld the light of the sun. The path had already
been sufficiently explored by me, and I no longer found any material
obstacles. I now saw that my conjectures were true: the castle of my
ferocious adversary was a pile of ruins. The walls indeed for the
most part remained, but choked with fragments of the falling edifice,
blackened with the flames, and penetrated in every direction by the
light of day. With difficulty I climbed over the ruins, which opposed
my egress from the subterranean, and rendered my passage to the outside
of the castle an affair of peril and caution. Here the first object
that struck me was some tents, probably of the soldiers who had been
employed in this work of destruction. I was hailed by a sentinel, and
I demanded that he would conduct me to his commander. He led me to
the centre of the little encampment, and I stood in the presence of
his chief. I lifted my eye to behold him, and was petrified with such
astonishment as till that hour I had never felt. It was Charles, my
son, my only son, the darling of his mother, the idol of my soul!



CHAPTER XLIII.


It may seem extraordinary that I should instantly have known him. He
was sitting at a table, covered with papers, and with one or two
aides-de-camp waiting to receive his orders. He was clothed in complete
armour, and his casque was resting on the ground by his side. When
I entered, his eye was fixed on a despatch that day received from
the great palatine of Hungary; but, in little more than a minute, he
raised his head, and his countenance was completely presented to my
view. It was fifteen years since I had beheld it; he was then scarcely
above half his present age, a mere stripling, in whom the first blush
of manhood had awakened the sentiment of independence and an honour
impatient of a shade; he was now a leader of warlike bands, his
complexion olived over with service, and his eye rendered steady with
observation and thought. But I knew him; I knew him in a moment. My
soul, with the rapidity of lightning, told me who he was. Not all the
arts in the world could have hid him from me; not all the tales that
delusion ever framed could have baffled me; I could have challenged him
against the earth!

I have already had occasion to explain the complexity of my feelings,
when, after a long absence, I visited the heiresses of the house of St.
Leon. The sweets of recognition, that transporting effervescence of the
mind, where the heart bounds to meet a kindred heart, where emotions
and tears mingle in speechless encounter, where all is gazing love and
strict embrace,--these pleasures were denied me. I stood stiff and
motionless in the presence of my child. My heart might burst; but it
must not, and it could not communicate its feelings.

After an instant’s pause of overwhelming sensation, I sunk back on
myself, and considered my own figure. It happened that, exactly
opposite to me, in the tent of my son, hung his armour, and over
the rest his polished shield, in which I saw my own person clearly
reflected. The youth of my figure indeed was still visible; but the
hardships of my dungeon had imprinted themselves in glaring characters
on my face. My beard was neglected, my hair was matted and shaggy,
my complexion was of a strong and deadly yellow. My appearance to a
considerable degree told my story without the need of words. Charles
enquired of those who brought me, where they had found this wretched
and unhappy figure; and was told that I had been seen a few minutes
before coming out from the ruins of Bethlem Gabor’s castle. He humanely
and naturally concluded, that I was a victim on whom the tyrant had
exercised his ferocity, and that I had been shut up in some dungeon of
the fortress: it was impossible that any person above ground in the
castle should have come out alive from the operation of the flames. He
commanded that I should be led to a neighbouring tent and taken care
of. After having been refreshed with food and rest, and attired with
other apparel, he directed that I should be brought to him again, that
he might hear my story.

Under these circumstances there was nothing for which I was more
anxious, than that I might recruit myself, and shake off as quickly as
possible the effects of my confinement. Cordials were brought me, and
I tasted of them: I bathed in a neighbouring stream: one of my son’s
attendants removed my beard, and arranged my hair. I now desired to be
left alone, that I might take some needful repose. I could not sleep;
but I reclined my limbs upon a couch, and began to collect my thoughts.

I saw myself in one hour the sport of the most complete reverse of
fortune that could happen to a mortal. I had been the prisoner of a
cavern so wild and pathless, as almost to defy the utmost extent of
human sagacity to explore its recesses. From this cavern, but for the
sudden and extraordinary event which had just occurred, I could never
have come forth alive. All sober calculation would have taught me to
expect that I should have remained there, chained up like a savage
tiger in his cage, as long as Bethlem Gabor existed; and that, when
he died, I should perish, unheard, unknown; no creature that lived
suspecting my situation, no lapse of ages ever bringing to light my
dismal catastrophe. The remorse and relenting of Bethlem Gabor towards
me seemed so little to accord with any thing that I had personally
witnessed of his habits and his mind, that even now I feel myself
totally unable to account for it. As it was however, I was once again
free. From the state of an outlaw imprisoned for life, I suddenly saw
myself at large, inspirited by the light of the sun, and refreshed
by his genial rays, in the full possession of youth and all its
faculties, enabled to return amidst my clients of Buda, or to seek
some new adventure, in any corner of the earth to which my inclination
led me. There is no man, however overwhelmed with calamities, however
persecuted with endless disappointment, however disgusted with life and
all its specious allurements, to whom so sudden and admirable a change
would not convey some portion of elasticity and joy.

But there was one thought that entirely occupied me. I cannot describe
how my soul yearned towards this my only son: the sentiment, even now
as I write, is an oppression I am scarcely able to sustain. Willingly,
most willingly, would I have traversed every region of the globe, if
so I might have discovered his unknown retreat: and now suddenly,
without the smallest effort on my part, he was placed before me. His
last solemn parting, his abjuration of my society and intercourse for
ever, rose to my memory, and gave a zest inexpressible to our present
encounter. At the thought that my son was in the neighbouring tent, all
earthly objects beside faded from my mind, and appeared uninteresting
and contemptible. I instantly resolved to devote myself to his service,
and to place all my enjoyment in the contemplation of his happiness,
and the secret consciousness of promoting it. He had, if I may so
express myself, in my own person forbidden me his presence: in my
now altered figure I might disobey his injunction without fearing
his rebuke. Let not the reader condemn me, that, endowed as I was
with unlimited powers of action, I preferred a single individual, my
own son, to all the world beside. Philanthropy is a godlike virtue,
and can never be too loudly commended, or too ardently enjoined; but
natural affection winds itself in so many folds about the heart, and
is the parent of so complicated, so various and exquisite emotions,
that he who should attempt to divest himself of it, will find that he
is divesting himself of all that is most to be coveted in existence.
It is not a selfish propensity; on the contrary, I will venture to
affirm that the generosity it breathes is its greatest charm. Beside,
in my case I considered my own existence as blasted; and I could
therefore find nothing better than to forget myself in my son. I had
made a sufficient experiment of the philosopher’s stone, and all my
experiments had miscarried. My latest trials in attempting to be
the benefactor of nations and mankind, not only had been themselves
abortive, but contained in them shrewd indications that no similar plan
could ever succeed. I therefore discarded, for the present at least,
all ambitious and comprehensive views, and believed that I ought to be
well content, if I could prove the unknown benefactor of the son of
Marguerite de Damville. I entered into a solemn engagement with myself
that I would forget and trample upon every personal concern, and be
the victim and the sacrifice, if need were, of the happiness of my
child. Dismissing my project of becoming a factor for the Hungarian
people, I determined to lay aside the name of Chatillon, and cut off
every indication that might connect my present existence with that of
the rich stranger of Buda. One of the advantages I possessed for that
purpose was, that no creature in Hungary had the slightest suspicion
that the sieur de Chatillon had ever been the prisoner of Bethlem Gabor.

Having thus arranged my thoughts, I now called for the garments that
had been assigned me. They were supplied me from the stock of my son;
and, when I had put them on, I overheard the attendants whispering to
each other their astonishment, at the striking resemblance between
their master and myself. When I came once more into the tent of their
captain, and stood as in the former instance before his shield, I did
not wonder at their remark. The coincidence of our features was so
great, that, had we passed through a strange place in each other’s
company, I should infallibly have been regarded as his younger brother.
Yet there was something of Marguerite in the countenance of Charles
that I wanted. When I recovered, as in a short time afterwards I did,
my vigour and health, I was more blooming than he; but there was
something graceful, ingenuous and prepossessing in his aspect, which
I could by no means boast in an equal degree, and which might have
carried him unhurt and honoured through the world. We shall see some
of the effects of this in what I shall presently have occasion to
relate.

When my son required of me to declare who I was, I told him, as I had
already determined to do, that I was a cadet of the house of Aubigny
in France; that, after having passed through several other countries,
I had come into Poland with the floating and half formed purpose of
entering as a volunteer against the Turk; but that, before my plan
was completely arranged, having been led, by my juvenile ardour in
a hunting party, far within the frontier of Hungary, I had been so
unfortunate as to become a prisoner to the troopers of Bethlem Gabor.
I added that, when introduced to their chief, I had given him so much
offence, by the firmness of my manner, and my refusing to comply with
certain propositions he made me, that he had thrust me into a dungeon,
from which, but for the gallant exertions of the present detachment, I
should never have come out alive.

Charles heard my story with attention and interest. He called on me to
resume my courage and my hopes, and to be confident that my sufferings
were now at an end. He told me, that he was a Frenchman as well as
myself, and like myself, had been a soldier of fortune. He felt,
he said, a powerful sympathy in my tale; there was something in my
countenance that irresistibly won his kindness; and, if I would put
myself under his protection, he did not doubt to be the means of my
future success. He spoke with great asperity of Bethlem Gabor, who,
as an intrepid, indefatigable and sanguinary partisan, had been the
author of greater mischiefs to the Christian cause, than any of the
immediate servants of the sultan of Constantinople. He congratulated
himself that the same action that had delivered the world from so
murderous a renegado, had rendered him the preserver of a youth of so
much enterprise and worth, as he doubted not I should prove. He said,
there was but one other man in Hungary, who had been so effectual an
enemy to the cause of truth and Christianity as Bethlem Gabor. The name
of this man he understood was Chatillon, and he grieved to say that
he bore the appellation of a Frenchman. To the eternal disgrace of the
nation that gave him birth, he had joined the Turkish standard, and, by
exertions difficult to be comprehended, had rescued the infidels from
famine at a time when, but for his inauspicious interference, Buda,
and perhaps every strong town in Hungary, were on the point of falling
into the hands of the Christians. It was this same man who had revived
the resources of Bethlem Gabor, after they had once before, by his
own fortunate exertions, been routed out; and whom I might therefore
in some sense consider as the author of my calamities, as well as the
inveterate foe of Christendom. Such a wretch as this was scarcely
entitled to the common benefit of the laws of war: and he would not
answer for himself if Chatillon had fallen into his power, to what
extremity his holy resentment against this degenerate fellow-countryman
might have hurried him. Providence however had overtaken him in his
impious career; and he had fallen obscurely, as he had lived basely, in
a night skirmish with a party of marauders from the Austrian camp.--The
reader may believe that I did not a little rejoice that, in announcing
myself a few moments before, I had taken the name, not of Chatillon,
but D’Aubigny. What I heard however occasioned in me a profound
reflection on the capriciousness of honour and fame, and the strange
contrarieties with which opposite prejudices cause the same action to
be viewed. I could not repress the vehemence of my emotions, while
I was thus calumniated and vilified for actions, which I had firmly
believed no malice could misrepresent, and fondly supposed that all
sects and ages, as far as their record extended, would agree to admire.

In another point of view, the invective which my son thus unconsciously
poured in my ears, had the effect of making me regard with a more
complacent satisfaction the plan I had formed of devoting myself to
his service. Here I pursued no delusive meteor of fame; the very
essence of my project lay in its obscurity. Kings and prelates,
armies and churches, would no longer find an interest in disputing
about my measures; I should indulge the secret promptings of my soul,
undisturbed alike by the censure of the world, and its applause. It
was thus that, under every change of fortune, I continued to soothe my
soul with delusive dreams.

Meanwhile my project went on with the happiest auspices. The friendship
between me and Charles continued hourly to increase. As a Frenchman,
whom chance had introduced to his acquaintance in a distant country,
it was natural that he should feel a strong bias of affection towards
me. But that sort of fraternal resemblance which the most inattentive
spectator remarked in us, operated forcibly to the increase of
Charles’s attachment. He would often, in the ingenuous opening of his
soul towards me, call me his brother, and swear that I should for
ever experience from him a brother’s love. Charles had by this time
completed the thirty-second year of his age; I was, in appearance, at
least ten years younger than he. There is something in this degree of
disparity, that greatly contributes to the cultivation of kindness,
and is adapted to the engendering a thousand interesting sentiments.
Frequently would he exclaim, “Our fortunes, my dear Henry,” that was
the name I assumed, “have been in a considerable degree similar: we
were both of us early cast on the world; I indeed at the immature age
of seventeen. I entered the world without an adviser or a friend;
but my destiny was favourable, and I escaped its quicksands and its
rocks. I have now by a concurrence of happy circumstances obtained a
place among honourable men and soldiers, and for what is to come may
reasonably regard myself with some degree of confidence. You are yet
in one of the most dangerous periods of human life; your work is all
to do; your battles are yet to fight. Suffer me, my dear friend, to
represent your better genius, and act an elder brother’s part. You
shall find me no ignorant Mentor, and no ungentle one.”

Nothing could be more gratifying to me than to see the shoots of
affection thus springing up spontaneously in Charles’s bosom. I
willingly humoured the generous deception that he was putting on
himself, and heard with transports inconceivable his assurances of
kindness and protection. We rode, and we walked together; we were in
a manner inseparable. When he went out to reconnoitre, I was his
chosen companion; when he inspected the discipline and condition of his
soldiers, he applied that opportunity to initiate me in the science of
war; when he expected to encounter the enemy, he placed me immediately
by his side.

Sometimes he would open his heart to me, and dwell with a melancholy
delight upon his secret sorrows. “It is no wonder, my Henry,” he would
say, “that I feel this uncommon attachment to you. I am alone in the
world. I have no father, no mother, and no brethren. I am an exile
from my country, and cut off for ever from those of my own lineage and
blood. It is with inexpressible delight that I thus cheat the malice
of my fate, and hold you to my bosom as if you were indeed my brother.
I would not part with the fiction for the mines of Peru; and I know
not whether I do not cultivate it more assiduously, and regard it
with a sentiment of more anxiety and zeal, because it is a fiction,
than I should do if it were a reality. I had indeed,” added Charles,
“a mother!”--And, when he had started this theme, he would dwell for
ever on her praises. I easily saw that never son loved a mother more
cordially, than Charles loved the all-accomplished Marguerite. With
what sentiments did I hear her eulogium? I could not join in her
praises; I could not be supposed to know her. I stood there, as the
statue of Prometheus might have done, if, after being informed with a
living soul, the Gods had seen fit to chain its limbs in everlasting
marble. The passion within me panted and laboured for a vent; but I
was invincibly silent. With what sentiments did I hear her eulogium?
Every word of it was a dagger to my heart; every word said, “And thou,
villain, wert not thou her murderer?” more painfully, than the fiercest
reproaches could have done.

When Charles had celebrated with an eloquence truly divine this
incomparable mother, a sudden pang of memory would make him start into
rage.----“And this mother I left! Of this mother I cannot tell whether
she is alive or dead! What shall I say? the crime, or the not less
fatal error of my father, separated me from this mother! I loved my
father: I loved him because he was my father; I had great obligations
to him; he once had virtues. But my mother,--if I could have found her
in the wildest desert of Africa, and have known her virtues, a stranger
to my blood, descended from the remotest tribe of the human race, I
should have chosen her for my friend, my preceptress and my guide,
beyond all that youth and beauty, with their most radiant charms, could
tender to my acceptance!”

Thus unconsciously, yet ingeniously, did my dear son from time to
time torture his father’s heart. I could not even deliver him from
the gloomy and wretched uncertainty, whether this mother were alive
or dead. With one word I could have composed his soul into a sober
grief; I could have said, Your adorable mother at length rests from her
sorrows; she is no longer the victim of a misguided and a cruel father;
you have no longer occasion to brood over that most disconsolate of
reflections, “I know not what anguish may be at this moment suffered by
her who is entitled to all my duty and all my affection.” With one word
I might have told this; and that word I dared not utter.



CHAPTER XLIV.


My son related to me his history, and made me the depository of his
feelings and reflections. The name of St. Leon indeed never passed
his lips; I felt that he had consigned that to inviolable oblivion.
The appellation he bore in the army was the chevalier de Damville.
Soon after he abandoned me at Dresden, he had entered as a volunteer
in the imperial army. Charles the Fifth was at that time assembling
forces to encounter the confederates of the league of Smalcalde. In
this situation my son was eminently fortunate. He was distinguished for
uncommon enterprise and courage in some of the first actions of the
war, and early attracted the notice of Gian-Battista Castaldo, count
of Piadena, who held an eminent command under the emperor. In this
army my son was a party to the decisive battle of Muhlberg, in April,
1547. Four years afterwards, Castaldo was appointed commander in chief
against the Turks in Hungary, and the French chevalier accompanied
his patron to this new scene of military enterprise. Charles had felt
dissatisfied with the grounds and motives of war between the Catholics
and Protestants of Germany, men worshipping the same Saviour, and
appealing to the same authorities, but many of them at least, from the
most upright and ingenuous scruples, differing in their interpretation
of those authorities. But, in their contentions between the crescent
and the cross, he entered with unbounded enthusiasm into all the
feelings that constitute a champion or a martyr. He conceived that
whatever was dear to the human race in this world or the next hung
on the issue; he regarded the grandeur of the cause as purifying his
efforts and consecrating his name; and, when he lifted his sword in
vindication of an expiring God, he felt himself steeled with more than
mortal energy.

My son dwelt on the merits of his patron with a degree of veneration
and love that knew no bounds. Castaldo was ranked by the consenting
voice of mankind with the most accomplished generals of the age in
which he lived. “I knew him,” said Charles, “in his most private
hours, and stood next to and observed him in the greatest and most
critical occasions of his life. It was the least of his merits that
he distinguished me, that he took me up friendless and an orphan,
that under every circumstance he was more than a father to me; that
he corrected my faults, that he guided me with his advice, that he
instructed me with his wisdom, and supported me by his countenance.
Castaldo was the most persevering and indefatigable of mankind; no
difficulties could undermine his apparent serenity; no accumulation
of dangers could appal or perplex him. Victory never robbed him of
his caution; misfortune and defeat never destroyed the grandeur and
elasticity of his soul. I firmly believe that no general had ever a
more discouraging variety of counteractions to struggle with. The
enemy was barbarous and sanguinary, yet firm and undismayed, in the
full vigour of their political health, under the rule of the ablest of
their sovereigns. The nobles of the country Castaldo had to defend had
almost all of them been alienated, one after another, by the tricking
and ill-judged politics of the house of Austria. The nation was ruined,
houseless and starving. Many of the officers who served under my
general were the basest of poltroons; but they were imposed upon him
by his court; he was compelled to place them in important trusts; and,
even when in the most dastardly way they betrayed those trusts, they
were by some pitiful intrigue sheltered from his discipline and his
justice. The forces of Castaldo were mutinous and ungovernable; and he
was almost constantly denied the funds requisite for their pay.

“For two years the count of Piadena struggled with these complicated
difficulties. When he had obtained a hard-earned advantage at
one extremity of the kingdom, he found it rendered useless by
some treachery or incapacity in the other extremity, which it was
instantly necessary he should hasten to repair. He quelled four
alarming mutinies by his firmness, his resources, and the prudent
combination of his calmness and severity. In the midst of one of his
most arduous situations he suddenly received intelligence that the
states of Hungary, which were at that time assembled, were debating
whether they should enter into a treaty with Solyman for the purpose
of placing their country under the Turkish sceptre. He immediately
flew to the place of council; the decision in favour of Solyman was
drawn up and ready to be adopted; but Castaldo, by his presence, his
authority, and his eloquence, recalled the states to their duty, and
prevented them from eternally staining the Christian name. Surrounded
with these difficulties, opposed to an enemy many times more numerous
than the forces he could bring against them, and whose wants were all
plentifully supplied, Castaldo by his single abilities kept the balance
even, or rather caused it to incline in favour of the Christian scale.
But what,” added Charles, “avails the most consummate merit! How may
the most incessant and undaunted exertions be shadowed by the veil of
obscurity! The world judges by events; success is necessary to procure
the palm of fame. After two years of such labours as I witnessed and
glory to describe, a mutiny broke out among the mercenary troops,
more formidable than any that preceded; it was no longer even in the
abilities of Castaldo to quell. ‘We honour and respect you,’ said the
mutineers, ‘but we will no more serve without pay: we have been baffled
two years; we will march to the gates of Vienna, and demand from
Ferdinand, our sovereign, why we are thus denied the arrears that are
due to us.’ They chose leaders for this expedition among themselves.
The great Castaldo, whose peculiar talent it is to accommodate himself
to events, and never by any misfortune to be deprived of his invention
and resources, saw what it was that became him. Having in vain tried
every method for retaining his troops in Hungary, he offered himself to
lead them to Vienna. Then was seen the true ascendancy of a noble mind.
Goaded with want and distress, they had been deaf to the remonstrances
of their general when he sought to direct them against the enemy. But,
when they saw him submitting himself to their rage and impatience, and
fearlessly intrusting his safety to those who had before refused even
to listen to him, and who had reason to fear his retribution as their
accuser and judge, they were awed and speechless. They almost repented
of their frenzy, and were half determined to return to their duty.
Their remorse indeed was imperfect and ineffectual; but Castaldo led
this band of mutineers through the heart of the kingdom, with as many
symptoms of regularity, modesty, and order, as if they had been the
best paid, the promptest and most loyal army in the world.”

My son spoke in terms of the warmest enthusiasm of the defence of
Erlau, in the period of Castaldo’s last and most arduous campaign
against the Turks. In respect of fortifications the town was scarcely
competent to resist the feeblest enemy; but its deficiency in this
point was supplied by the constancy and valour of its garrison and
inhabitants. The very women displayed an enterprise, that the more
vigorous sex have seldom exhibited. In one instance, a heroine of this
sort was seen fighting in the presence of her mother and her husband.
Her husband fell dead by her side. “Let us, my daughter,” said the
mother, “remove the body, and devote the rest of our care to its
honourable funeral.”--“May God,” returned the impassioned widow, “never
suffer the earth to cover my husband’s corse, till his death has been
amply revenged; this is the hour of battle, not a time for funeral
and for tears!” So speaking, and seizing the sword and shield of the
breathless champion, she rushed upon the enemy; nor did she quit the
breach till, by the slaughter of three Turks who were ascending the
scaling ladders, she had appeased the fury in her breast, and the ghost
of her departed husband. Then raising the corpse, and pressing it to
her bosom, she drew it to the great church of the city, and paid to it
the last honours with all possible magnificence.[9] Many other examples
of a heroism not inferior to this were displayed on the same occasion.
“And shall I,” added Charles, in a sally of glorious enthusiasm, “ever
desert a cause which has been thus honoured? Shall I betray a soil
which has been immortalised by such illustrious actions? Shall I join
myself to the renegado Bethlem Gabor, and the execrable Chatillon? No:
such virtue as I have described never could have been conceived, but in
the bosom of truth! Great as is the pious devotion I feel for that God
who died on the cross for the salvation of mankind, I own my weakness,
if it be a weakness, his cause is scarcely less endeared to me by the
sublime exertions of his heroic followers, than by his own adorable
condescension and mercy.

“When the glorious Castaldo departed with his rebellious army for the
metropolis of Germany, there was nothing I more earnestly desired than
to accompany his march. For seven years he had conferred on me the
benefits, and shown towards me the affection, of a father; and I could
not think of being separated from him without the extremest anguish.
Beside, I regarded it as little less than sacrilege, to quit his side
at a time that he was exposed to the furious suggestions of a host of
robbers and banditti. But he would not allow me to abandon my post.
‘Some time,’ said he, ‘we must separate, and you must stand alone.
I have been long enough your instructor; and, if my lessons or my
example can produce improvement in you, they must have performed that
office already.’ He treated with disdain the thought of the danger to
which he might be exposed, and his need of a faithful guard; a thought
which he had detected in the midst of my anxieties, but which I had
not the courage to mention. ‘This,’ said he, ‘is your genuine sphere.
You are a young man, burning with the zeal of truth and religion. You
are inspired with the enthusiasm of a champion and a martyr. Heaven
knows how willingly I would have spent my blood for the overthrow of
Mahomet and his blasphemous impieties. To me this is not permitted; to
you it is. I shall be engaged in the painful scenes of civil contention
between Christian and Christian, misguided and inflamed by the human
inventions of Luther and of Calvin. You have before you a clearer and a
brighter field; and, I confidently persuade myself, you will be found
worthy of your happier destiny.’--The count of Piadena bestowed me, so
he was pleased to express himself, upon Nadasti, the great palatine of
the realm, as the most precious pledge of his friendship that it was in
his power to confer.

“Since the retreat of Castaldo, the Christian standard has obtained
little more either of attention or aid from our lawful sovereign, now
the possessor of the imperial throne. Ferdinand for a great part of
this time has had his negotiators at Constantinople, whom the insulting
Turk has condescended neither sincerely to treat with, nor to dismiss.
The Christian army in Hungary has been left to its own resources; but
zeal has supplied the place of magazines, and religious ardour has
taught us to omit no occasion of annoying and distressing the enemy.
The most considerable occurrence of this period, has been the siege
of Ziget about four years ago. Solyman, taking advantage of certain
factious broils among our hereditary nobility, appointed at that time
one of his eunuchs bashaw of Buda; and, having placed a numerous army
under his command, dismissed him from the foot of his throne with
this arrogant injunction, not to enter the capital of his province,
till he had first sent the keys of Ziget as an offering to his royal
master. Horvati, the Christian governor of this fortification, is one
of the most accomplished and the bravest of our native commanders;
and, Nadasti having sent him a reinforcement the better to enable him
to support the threatened siege, I was in the number of the soldiers
appointed on this service. The trenches were opened early in June,
and the siege continued for the space of seven weeks. The bashaw,
though an eunuch, in person stunted, and of monstrous deformity, was
distinguished for an uncommon degree of audacity and perseverance.
Four times he filled the dikes of the fortification with wood and
earth; and as often, by means of a furious sally of the besieged, the
materials, which had thus with vast expense of industry and labour
been accumulated, were set fire to and consumed. On the twelfth day
of the siege he gained possession of the town, and drove us back into
the citadel; but on the day following we recovered the ground we had
lost, and from that time the town was his no more. The actions of these
days were the severest of the whole siege; we fought the enemy street
by street, and inch by inch; the great fountain in the market-place
ran with blood; we ascended hills of the dead, which the infidels
opposed as a barrier to our further progress; I seized two Turkish
standards; and, though wounded, pursued the enemy through the eastern
gate, and returned in triumph. Nadasti in the sixth week of the siege
marched to our relief; but he was met and worsted by the bashaw, who
returned victorious to the foot of the walls. During the whole of the
siege mutual animosity was cherished by every species of contrivance,
and the heads of the distinguished dead were exhibited on both sides
as spectacles of abhorrence and terror. The inflamed passions of the
combatants several times found a vent in listed duels: Horvati, the
governor, killed in one of these encounters a gigantic Turk, who had
sent a proud defiance to our host. I procured myself honour upon a
similar occasion; and the scarf which I now wear, composed the turban
of the infidel I slew. At length the disappointed bashaw was obliged
to raise the siege; and he soon after died of grief and mortification
in his palace at Buda. I confess I recollect the Christian exploits
in the defence of Ziget, in which I also had a share, with rapture and
delight; they will serve to awaken in me new animation, when hereafter
the coldness of ordinary life might strike palsy to my soul. I shall
never think I have lived in vain, after having contributed, in however
humble a place, to arrest the career of insolence and impiety which,
under the standard of the crescent, threatened to over-run the whole
Christian world.”

Such were the adventures and such the sentiments of the gallant
chevalier de Damville. I had been a warrior in my youth, and
the discourse he held was sufficiently congenial to my earliest
propensities. I saw indeed that he had gained, in the zeal of a soldier
of the cross, a source of martial heroism, to which my military history
had been a stranger. But, though I could not entirely enter into
this sentiment of his, and indeed regarded it as an infatuation and
delusion, I did not the less admire the grandeur of soul with which
this heroic fable inspired him. There was no present propensity in my
heart that led me to delight in deeds of blood and war; I saw them
in their genuine colours without varnish or disguise; I hated and
loathed them from my very inmost soul; but, notwithstanding this, I was
sensible to the lustre which military zeal cast round the character of
my son. Nor is this incredible or absurd; the qualities of a generous
and enterprising champion are truly admirable, though the direction
they have received should be worthy of eternal regret.

Charles de Damville was my friend; and, when I say this, I cannot help
stopping a moment for the indulgence of reflecting on the contrast
between my present intercourse with my son, and my late connection
with Bethlem Gabor. I had sought the friendship of the Hungarian
partisan, partly because I wanted a protector and an ally, but partly
also because in my soul I looked up to and admired the man. I called
Bethlem Gabor my friend; I persuaded myself that I had cogent reasons
for calling him so. But there was little sympathy between us; he was
wrapped up in his own contemplations; he was withered by his own
calamities; our souls scarcely touched in a single point. No, no; this
is not friendship.

Friendship is a necessity of our nature, the stimulating and restless
want of every susceptible heart. How wretched an imposture in this
point of view does human life for the most part appear! With boyish
eyes, full of sanguine spirits and hope, we look round us for a friend;
we sink into the grave, broken down with years and infirmities, and
still have not found the object of our search. We talk to one man, and
he does not understand us; we address ourselves to another, and we find
him the unreal similitude only of what we believed him to be. We ally
ourselves to a man of intellect and of worth; upon further experience
we cannot deny him either of these qualities; but the more we know
each other, the less we find of resemblance; he is cold, where we are
warm; he is harsh, where we are melted into the tenderest sympathy;
what fills us with rapture, is regarded by him with indifference; we
finish with a distant respect, where we looked for a commingling soul:
this is not friendship. We know of other men, we have viewed their
countenances, we have occasionally sat in their society: we believe
it is impossible we should not find in them the object we sought.
But disparity of situation and dissimilitude of connections prove as
effectual a barrier to intimacy, as if we were inhabitants of different
planets.

It is one of the most striking characteristics of the nature of man,
that we are eternally apt to grow dead and insensible to the thing
we have not. Half our faculties become palsied, before we are in the
slightest degree aware that we are not what we were, and what we might
be. There are philosophers who regard this as the peculiar privilege
of man, a wise provision of Providence to render us contented and easy
with our lot in existence. For my part, I do not envy, and I have never
aspired to, the happiness of ignorance and stupidity. But, be it a
blessing or a curse, the phenomenon is undoubted. Present me with some
inestimable benefit, that my nature fitted me to enjoy, but that my
fortune has long denied me to partake, and I instantly rise as from an
oppressive lethargy. Before, it may be, I felt myself uneasy; but I
knew of no remedy, I dreamed it was my nature, I did not put forth a
finger for relief. But now, that I have drawn the unexpected prize, I
grow astonished at my former blindness; I become suddenly sensible of
my powers and my worth; the blood that slept in my heart, circulates,
and distends every vein; I tread on air; I feel a calm, yet ravishing
delight; I know what kind of an endowment life is, to a being in whom
sentiment and affection are awakened to their genuine action.

This was the effect of the mutual attachment produced between me and
Charles. I looked into him, and saw a man; I saw expansive powers of
intellect and true sensibility of heart. To be esteemed and loved
and protected by such a man; to have him to take one by the hand, to
enquire into one’s sorrows, to interest himself in one’s anxieties, to
exult in one’s good fortune and one’s joys; this and this only deserves
the name of existence.

I had however a painful drawback upon my satisfaction. It was my fate
since the visit of the stranger of the lake of Constance, to rejoice
for moments and to lament for years. I could not at first ascend to
that purity and eminence of friendship to forget myself; I could not
but painfully feel the contrast between me and my son. How happy
was Charles, how respectable, how self-approving, how cheerful of
heart: I shall presently have occasion to speak of a still further
addition to his happiness! I looked indeed young, fair, blooming, a
stranger to care: but I had a secret worm gnawing at my vitals. This
very deceitfulness of my countenance was a bitter aggravation to my
remorse. I never saw my features reflected in the polished shield
without feeling myself struck to the core. Charles had walked right
onward in the paths of honour; he feared no detection; he had no secret
consciousness that gave the lie to the voice of applause, partiality,
and friendship. But I was all a lie; I was no youth; I was no man; I
was no member of the great community of my species. The past and the
future were equally a burthen to my thoughts. To the eye that saw me I
was a youth flushed with hope, and panting for existence. In my soul
I knew, and I only knew, that I was a worn out veteran, battered with
the storms of life, having tried every thing and rejected every thing,
and discarded for ever by hope and joy. When I walked forth leaning on
the arm of him who delighted to call me his younger brother, this was
the consciousness that hunted my steps and blasted me with its aspect
whichever way we turned.



CHAPTER XLV.


Among the various confidences reposed in me by my son, one was his
love. The object of his attachment was a young lady of quality, named
Pandora, niece to Nadasti, great palatine of Hungary. In consequence of
the earnest recommendation of Castaldo in 1553, Nadasti had taken my
son under his particular protection, and Charles’s principal home at
the periods when the army was dispersed in winter-quarters was at the
palatine’s house in the city of Presburg. Here his manners had become
more polished, and his taste more refined. Till then, bred in tents,
and living amidst the clangour of arms, he had been a mere soldier,
rough, generous, manly, and brave. But Nadasti was an elegant scholar,
smitten with that ardent love of classical and ancient lore which
has so eminently distinguished the sixteenth century. He assembled
round him men of letters from various parts of Europe; and, under
his auspices, the days of Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, seemed
to be revived, whose love of literature was such, that he kept three
hundred transcribers in his house, constantly employed in multiplying
copies of the precious relics of Roman and Athenian learning. The
consort of Nadasti was one of the most accomplished matrons of the age
in which she lived, and her three daughters were patterns of every
polite and amiable accomplishment. Such was the school into which the
chevalier de Damville entered at the age of twenty-five, immediately
after the retreat of Castaldo. This may seem an age somewhat late
for new-modelling the character, but Charles had an enterprising and
aspiring temper; and he soon became a distinguished ornament of courts
and the society of ladies. Castaldo had taught him all he knew, the
temper, the manners, and the science of a military chieftain: the
palace of Nadasti finished and completed the education of my son.

Pandora was only fourteen years of age when Charles de Damville first
became a sort of inmate of the house of her uncle. She at that time
lived with her father; but he being afterwards killed in the battle
which Nadasti fought for the relief of Ziget, Pandora occupied an
apartment in the palatine palace. From the first hour he saw her, a
mere child as it were, accompanied by her governess, Charles confessed
to me that he had beheld her with eyes of distinction. He had said
to himself, This little girl will hereafter be a jewel worthy of the
crown of an emperor. He had found something inexpressibly attractive
in the starry brightness of her complexion; her air he regarded as
both lighter and more graceful than any thing he had ever before
seen; and her speaking and humid eye seemed to him the very emblem of
sensibility and sweetness. If, at the girlish and immature season of
fourteen, he had ascribed to her all these perfections, it will easily
be supposed that, as she increased in stature as the beauties of form
unfolded themselves in her, and she advanced in sentiment and a lovely
consciousness of her worth, the partiality of Charles became more deep
and unalterable. But the orphan niece of Nadasti was altogether without
a portion; and the great palatine would have seen with more complacency
the chevalier de Damville addressing his pretensions to one of his
daughters.

Charles confessed to me that the passion he nourished had been fruitful
of pleasures and griefs, of hope and perplexity. It was now almost a
year since Pandora and himself had confessed a mutual affection. The
confession had not been the result of design on either side: both had
wished to suppress it; Pandora from virgin dignity and reserve; and
Charles, because he saw not how their affection could be crowned with
success, and he dreaded, more than any misery to himself, to be the
author of degradation and misery to her he loved. But what is ever
uppermost in the heart will at some time or other betray itself. Their
sympathetic and accordant feelings upon a point so deeply interesting
to both, rendered them eagle-eyed to discern the smallest indications.
They had had a thousand opportunities, and a thousand opportunities
had been resisted. They became more than usually silent and reserved
towards each other; they shunned to meet, and, when they met, avoided
each other’s eyes. One day a casual encounter in a solitary retreat,
which each had sought principally with intention to escape the presence
of the other, had taken them off their guard. They were mutually
hesitating and perplexed; each discerned more unequivocal indications
than had ever occurred before of the state of the other’s sentiments;
the entire accord snapped as it were at once the chains of reserve; and
each, after a short interval of hesitation, spoke with an eloquence,
hitherto untried, the language of love. The difference of years between
them gave a zest to the communication. Pandora seemed to be throwing
herself upon the protection of an elder brother, of a guardian, one
in whose prudence she confided as the antidote of her inexperience;
Charles felt his maturer years as imposing on him more severely that
sacred integrity, the obligation of which, at least as society is at
present constituted, seems in the majority of cases to grow out of the
relative situation of the sexes, of the protectorship of the one, and
the dependence of the other.

“And now,” exclaimed Charles, “what am I to do? what am I to desire?
It would be affectation in me to conceal from myself on an occasion
like this, that the reputation I have acquired both in the arts of
peace and war is such, as to have caused Nadasti to set his heart
upon my becoming his son-in-law. The great palatine, though in many
respects generous and liberal, has that inflexibleness of opinion,
which is perhaps more apt to grow up in the hearts of scholars, than
in other departments of society. He is grave and solemn; all his
habits are of a majestic and lordly nature; and I have small reason
to hope that I shall find him accessible to my representations. He is
little subject to sallies of passion; his own propensities are wholly
under the control of his judgment; and it is not likely that he will
make allowance for the ardent affections of other minds. Pandora is
entirely dependent on him; in any case the portion she would receive
from him would be very inadequate to her worth; but, discarded and
discountenanced by him who has the absolute rule of Christian Hungary,
what can she expect? I am myself destitute of fortune; my provision
as a soldier will be very inadequate to the wants of the first and
softest of her sex. But even of that provision Nadasti will deprive
me, if I marry in opposition to his pleasure. Shall I make Pandora
the inhabitant of tents and encampments; shall I expose her to all
the changes and hazards of a military life; shall I drag her as the
attendant of a soldier of fortune through every climate of Europe? No,
by heavens! I should regard myself as the most selfish and the basest
of mankind, if I could deliberate on such a question. Never shall the
charmer of my soul owe a single privation to her Charles. I love her
with so pure and entire a passion, that I prefer her prosperity to
every earthly good. Nor is it merely necessary to my attachment that
she should live in plenty and ease; I require that my Pandora should
be seen in her native lustre, that she should be surrounded with every
appendage due to her merit, that she should command applause from the
mercenary, and homage from the superficial. Her praise is the only
music I enjoy. I could not bear to hear her name coupled with levity
and scorn. I could not bear that, where she appeared, every eye should
not be turned to her with reverence and honour. My passion, I confess
it, is that of a disciple of liberal arts and a nobleman, not that of
an Arcadian.”

The period of the campaign now drew to an end, and Charles, having
requested me to accompany him, set out for his usual winter retreat in
the city of Presburg. I saw Pandora. Never in my life had I beheld any
thing so sweetly simple. I had always been an admirer of the sex; but
the perfections of Pandora were of a nature that I had not observed in
any other woman. Her symmetry was so perfect, the pearly lustre of her
skin so admirable, and her form and carriage so light and ethereal,
that at first view it was difficult to persuade one’s self that she
was framed of the same gross materials as the rest of the species.
She seemed not constructed to endure the shocks of the world, and the
rude assaults of ill humour or neglect, of censure or adversity. Her
voice was of the sweetest, the clearest and softest tone I ever heard.
There was a peculiar _naïveté_ in her accents, that riveted your soul
in irresistible fetters. Her conversation, for in the sequel I enjoyed
much of her conversation, had a very uncommon zest. She seemed to
have no art, and what she uttered appeared as if wholly unchecked by
consideration or reserve. You were persuaded that she always delivered
without restraint the first thing that occurred to her mind; yet in
what she said there was so much good sense, so much true feeling, and,
as the occasion allowed, so much whim and imagination, that you could
not discover how any of her words could be changed but for a worse.
This circumstance strikingly contrasted with the childish simplicity,
or rather the feminine softness and sylph-like delicacy, of her manner
and her tone. The opposition of appearance between her and my son
made a strong impression upon me. He was a perfect soldier, with an
ample chest, broad shoulders, and a figure, though graceful and well
proportioned, yet so strong, that it seemed framed to contend with and
to conquer the wrestlers in the Grecian games. His complexion, shaded
with luxuriant curls of manly hair, was itself made brown with the
rigours of climate. Pandora was so heavenly fair, so sweetly delicate
and slender, that you would have thought she would be withered and
destroyed in his embrace, like the frailest ornament of the garden
before the northern breeze. But courage to choose what is rugged and
manlike is often characteristic of the softest of her sex.

I speedily contracted an intimate commerce with the beautiful Pandora.
I was naturally desirous to be as consummate a judge as possible of
those perfections, which I believed fated to determine the future
happiness of my son. When sufficiently satisfied in that respect,
I still continued the indulgence, and found a pure and exquisite
pleasure in the daily contemplation of accomplishments that were
to prove the materials of his gratification and delight, whose
gratification I preferred to my own. I had a still further view in this
commerce. I was anxious to be perfectly informed of the connections
and family of Pandora, that upon them I might build a project I had
deeply at heart, of bestowing on her, in the least questionable and
exceptionable manner, a dowry, that should place her upon an equality
with her cousins, the daughters of Nadasti, and deliver my son from
all apprehension of the unpleasing consequences to result from the
resentment of the great palatine. Nadasti was opulent, and the portions
of his daughters very considerable; and, however inclined, I could
not exceed this limit without risking the entire miscarriage of my
project. Charles thought nothing too rich either in situation or income
to do honour to the mistress of his soul; but, separately from this
enthusiastic sentiment, both he and Pandora had too just a taste, not
to prefer the simple majesty of ancient nobility, to the expensive
ostentations of modern refinement.

Having digested my plan I was obliged to travel as far as Venice for
the execution of it. The mother of Pandora had been a Venetian, and
the uncle of her mother was one of the adventurers who had sailed with
Pizarro for the conquest of Peru. He had died before the completion
of that business, and had left behind him no relative so near to him
in blood as the lovely Pandora. By a singular piece of good fortune,
I encountered at Venice an individual who had sailed in the same ship
with the young lady’s uncle. The uncle having died prematurely, the
share he might otherwise have obtained of the spoils of Peru was sunk
in the shares of the rest, and nothing was allowed to remain that
might have descended to his heirs. His friend and countryman I found,
though once rich with the booty he made, had by a series of calamities,
before he reached his native home, been reduced to a state of poverty.
The vicissitudes he experienced, had produced in him the effect of
a very uncommon eagerness for acquisition. This man I fixed on for
my instrument; I opened to him my plan, and offered him a very ample
gratification, provided he acted successfully the part I assigned him.
In concert with each other we digested and forged the various documents
that were best calculated to give credibility to the tale. Having
completed our arrangement, I set out for Presburg without a moment’s
delay, and directed my Venetian not to follow till after a stipulated
interval. He was not to enter into full possession of his reward till
he had completed the task he had undertaken. It was fixed that no
person in Hungary should be acquainted with my visit to Venice, but
only be allowed to understand generally, that I had been engaged for a
certain time in an excursion of amusement. So hard is the fate of the
possessor of the philosopher’s stone, and so limited his power, as to
have rendered all these precautions on my part indispensably necessary.
Had not the various circumstances concurred, the detail of which is
here stated, the birth of Pandora’s mother in a maritime state, the
expedition of Pizarro to Peru, her uncle’s engaging in this expedition
and dying before it was completed, and my own casual rencounter with
his _compagnon du voyage_, my project would too probably have been
baffled. A direct gift of the fortune I designed would never have been
admitted of; and, had not the coincidence been eminently favourable,
even though I should have succeeded in misleading every other party, I
could not hope to have eluded the perspicacity and jealous honour of my
son.

When I returned to Presburg, I again renewed my intercourse with
Pandora. The passion entertained by Damville for the beautiful orphan
was a secret to every person at court; they had managed so discreetly
as to have avoided every hint of suspicion; and, as it was universally
known that the great palatine had an eye on this gallant soldier for
one of his daughters, few persons entertained a doubt that my son would
speedily declare his election among the co-heiresses of Nadasti. On
the other hand, in the friendly intercourse between me and Pandora,
neither she nor myself felt that there was any thing to conceal, and
it was therefore a matter of complete notoriety. My blooming youth of
appearance was remarked; by the majority of bystanders we were judged
formed for each other; and, before I was aware, the beautiful Hungarian
was awarded to me by the general voice as my destined bride. When
however I became acquainted with the rumour, I was contented to smile
at it; the consciousness in my own breast how far the public sagacity
had wandered in its guess, gave to that guess, in my apprehension, a
certain air of whimsical and amusing.



CHAPTER XLVI.


Such was the situation of the affair of Pandora, and I daily looked
for the arrival of my Venetian confederate, when suddenly I remarked
an alteration in the carriage of my beautiful ally. She had hitherto,
on all occasions, sought my conversation; she now appeared sedulously
to avoid me. Her manner had been characterised by the gaiety, the
sprightliness and general good humour, incident to her age, and
congenial to her disposition. She was now melancholy. Her melancholy
assumed a tone correspondent to the habits of her mind, and was
peculiar and individual. It had an ingenuous and defenceless air,
inexpressibly calculated to excite interest. It seemed to ask, what
have I done to deserve to be melancholy? You felt for her, as for a
spotless lily depressed by the unpitying storm. You saw, that those
enchanting features were never made for a face of sorrow, and that that
bewitching voice ought never to have been modulated into an expression
of heaviness.

I was in the highest degree anxious to learn the cause of this
revolution, and was the farthest in the world from suspecting its real
foundation. I pursued Pandora with so much importunity, and demanded
an interview with such irresistible earnestness, that she at length
consented to grant it. We met in a remote part of the garden. “Why,
Henry,” said she, “do you thus persecute me? You are my evil genius,
the cause of the greatest calamity that could ever have overtaken me.”

I started. “For heaven’s sake, beautiful Pandora, what do you mean?”

“I love the chevalier de Damville. I have loved him long; he is dearer
to me than life; and he has cast me off for ever!”

“And am I the cause?”

“Yes, you, and you alone. I had for some time observed a change in
his behaviour, that he was uncommonly grave, serious, and reserved. I
endeavoured to soothe him; I redoubled my blandishments in our next
season of unreserved discourse; I tenderly enquired into the source of
his grief.

“For a long time he resisted my importunity. At length, ‘Faithless
girl,’ said he, ‘have you the cruelty to ask the meaning of my
depression? This is the extremity of insult. Is it not enough that
I know your inconstancy? Is it not enough that I have found you,
like the rest of your frivolous sex, the mere slave of your sense of
sight, regardless of vows, regardless of an affection which despised
all interests but that of tenderness and love, caught by the first
appearance of something younger, softer, and more courtly, than I
pretend or desire to be? Will nothing satisfy you but the confession
of my unhappiness from my own mouth? Do you require expostulation,
intreaty, and despair, from your discarded lover, to fill up the
measure of your triumph?’

“For a long time I was totally at a loss to apprehend my dear
chevalier’s meaning.

“‘No,’ continued he, ‘I am not jealous. There is no temper I hold in
such sovereign contempt as jealousy. I am not of a disposition easily
to conceive umbrage, or lightly to doubt the protestations of the woman
I adore. I have been blind too long. But I see that you are eternally
together. I see that you take advantage of the distance at which the
despotic temper of Nadasti keeps us from each other, to give all your
time to my favoured rival. You seem never to be happy out of his
society. I was first led to throw off the dulness of my unsuspecting
security, by the general voice of the public. The whole court gives you
to each other. Not a creature it holds, but has discerned that passion,
which you have the insolence to expect to conceal from me. Since I have
been awakened from my security, I have seen it a thousand times. I have
seen your eyes seek and encounter each other. I have seen them suddenly
lighted up by your interchanging glances. I have seen the signs of your
mutual intelligence. I have seen with what impatience, the moment you
could escape from the crowded circle, you have joined each other, and
retired together. Ungenerous Pandora!

“‘But do not imagine I will enter the lists with the gaudy butterfly
who has now attracted your favour. I have told you already that I am
not formed for jealousy. I am not the sort of man you have supposed
me to be. I have loved you much; I have loved you long. But I would
tear out my heart from my manly breast, if I believed it yet retained
an atom of passion for you. I know what it was I loved; I loved a
character of frankness, of ingenuousness, of simplicity, which I fondly
imagined was yours, but which I now find was the creature of my own
fancy. The Pandora that stands before me; the child of art; the base
wretch that could take advantage of my forbearance in regard to her
uncle, which was adopted purely out of love to her; the unfeeling
coquette that would wish to retain me in her chains when she had
discarded me from her affections; this creature I never did love, and
I never will. I know how deeply rooted the habit has been in my bosom
of regarding you as the thing you are not; I know how bitter it is to
a temper like mine to detect so unlooked-for a delusion; I know what
it will cost me to cast you off for ever. But I never yet proposed to
myself a conquest over my own weakness that I did not gain, nor will I
now. If you were to discard this wretched D’Aubigny to-morrow, if you
were convinced of and contrite for your error, I must ingenuously tell
you, no time, no penitence could restore you to my admiration. I had
set up an imaginary idol in my bosom; but you have convinced me of its
brittleness, and dashed it to pieces.’

“I endeavoured,” continued Pandora, “by every imaginable protestation
to convince my late faithful lover of his mistake. But it was to no
purpose; all I could say only tended to swell the tide of his fearful
resentment.”

“‘Be silent,’ cried he: ‘add no further to the catalogue of your wanton
and causeless delusions. Do not make me hate too much what I once so
blindly and ardently adored. I feel that I have an enemy within me,
that would fain co-operate with your deceptions and hypocrisy. I find
that man, treacherous to himself, is formed by nature to be the fool
of your artful sex. But I will subdue this propensity in me, though
I die for it. I may be wretched; but I will not despise myself. Have
I not seen your falsehood? Have not all my senses been witnesses of
your guilt? The miracle is that I could have been duped so long. I have
heard this stripling lover of yours inexhaustible in your praises, and
dwelling upon them with an ardour that nothing but passion could have
inspired. I have seen, as I have already told you, the intelligence
of your eyes. I have seen those melting glances, I have heard those
tender and familiar tones between you, that bespoke the most perfect
confidence and the most entire mingling of heart. If I did not believe
this, I should believe worse of you. I should think your heart not
merely capricious, but an absolute prostitute; prepared to bestow
upon hundreds those sweet, those nameless tendernesses of accent and
countenance, which I fondly imagined were reserved for me alone. I
should regard you as the worst and most pernicious acquisition that
could fall to the lot of a man. ‘Go, Pandora,’ added he: ‘my heart is
chaste; my soul is firm. I can no longer be deceived by you; I will not
dispute your charms with the idle boy you have now thought proper to
favour.’ And, saying thus, he burst from me in an agony of impatience.

“Alas!” continued the sweet and ingenuous Pandora, “my dear Henry,
what shall I do? How shall I remove the unreasonable imaginations
of this noble mind? Bear me witness, Heaven! nothing could be more
innocent than the correspondence I allowed myself to hold with you. My
adorable Charles was continually calling you brother; I scarcely ever
heard him speak of you by any other appellation. I regarded Charles
as my husband; I already viewed you in anticipation as the brother of
my lord. Excluded as I was from frequent conversation with him whom I
most loved, I endeavoured to supply the deficiency by an unreserved
communication with you. The extreme resemblance of your persons
increased my gratification. You were his picture, his speaking image.
While I looked at you, I said, ‘Such once was my Charles, before he
was the great man, the gallant soldier, the accomplished cavalier,
the adored object, that now engrosses my affections.’ Beside, I knew
that Charles loved you as much as he did any man on earth, and that
knowledge made you dear to me. You were constantly eager to dwell
upon and describe his excellences; could I fail to be pleased with
your conversation? I own that the pleasure I took in it was unbounded,
and the emotions it awakened in my affectionate heart delicious. But
all this, candidly explained, was only an additional proof of the
tenderness and constancy of my earliest attachment.

“And now, ever since the fatal day in which this conversation passed
with my Charles, he is absent from court, and I know not whither he is
gone. He has disdained to seek any further explanation, nor do I know
how to appeal to his calmer feelings and more deliberate mind. One
thing however I had determined on, and that was, Henry, strictly to
avoid your society.

“I trust, wherever my Charles is, he will hear of this. I owe this
expiation to his agonised feelings, and to the appearances that in
some degree justify his misconstruction. I will wait patiently, till
the simplicity and singleness of my conduct have cleared my faith. If
I should otherwise have found pleasure and relief in your society, I
will make a merit with myself of sacrificing this to the apprehensive
delicacy of my Charles’s mind. In this single instance your importunity
has prevailed with me to dispense with my rule: you were not to
blame, and I thought upon more mature reflection that I owed you an
explanation. But henceforth, if you have any kindness for me, or
value for him who has acted and felt towards you like a brother, I
must entreat you to co-operate with me in this, and that, whether in
public or private, we may bestow no notice on each other, and avoid all
opportunities of communication. To persuade you to this, was indeed a
principal inducement with me so far to deviate from the rule I had laid
down to myself, as to admit this conversation.”

I was extremely affected with the unhappiness of Pandora. I exerted
myself to console her. I promised that nothing on my part should be
wanting to remove every shadow of doubt that hung upon her fidelity,
and I exhorted her to believe that every thing would infallibly
terminate in the way most honourable and gratifying to herself. Pandora
listened to me, and dried her tears. The conversation was interesting
and soothing to us both; we regarded it as the last unreserved and
sympathetic communication we should ever have with each other; it
insensibly grew longer and longer, and we knew not how to put an end
to it. We were still in this state of irresolution when, looking up, I
perceived Charles de Damville approaching from the further end of the
walk that led to the alcove.

I would have withdrawn. I was anxious to remove the unjust suspicion
that hung upon his mind; but the instant that presented to him so
strong an apparent confirmation of them, the instant that by so doing
must have worked up his soul into tumult, did not appear a favourable
one for explanation. To withdraw was impossible. Pandora had discerned
her lover at the same moment with myself. She was seized with a
faintness. She would have sunk to the ground; but I caught her in my
arms. I rested with one knee on the earth; her head was reclined on my
bosom. Charles approached with a quicker pace.

“Rise,” said he. “This is beyond my hopes. I left Presburg with the
purpose of not revisiting it for years; but, as I proceeded further and
further from a place which had lately been the centre of my affections,
I began to doubt whether I had not acted with precipitation, and to
believe that there was yet some uncertainty hanging on my fate. The
seemingly earnest protestations of this delusive syren rung in my ears;
mechanically, without any formed resolution, I changed my course, and
returned on my steps. My doubts are now at an end. I find you taking
instant advantage of my absence to throw yourselves into each other’s
arms. The feelings I so lately uttered in your presence, Pandora, would
have kept you apart, if my feelings had been in the least sacred in
your eyes, if all my surmises had not been too true.”--He took by the
hand the weeping Pandora, and led her to the seat which a little before
she had quitted.

“Why all this artifice? Why all this deceit? It is said that we are
not masters of our own hearts, and that no human passion is formed to
endure for ever. Influenced by these maxims, I could have pardoned your
inconstancy, too fair, too fickle Pandora! but why strain every nerve,
to make me believe you still retained a passion you had discarded, to
subject me to the lingering torture of deceit, instead of communicating
to me a truth, agonising indeed to human frailty, but calculated to
inspire fortitude and decision? This I cannot excuse: this racks me
with the bitterest of disappointments, disappointment in the virtues I
had ascribed to you; and convinces me, that you are neither worthy of
me, nor worthy of happiness.

“And you too, D’Aubigny, you have acted a part in this unworthy plot,
I rescued you from prison, from a dungeon from which, a few hours
before, you had no hope of coming forth alive. I took you under my
protection, when you had no friend; I placed you next myself; I
conceived for you the affection of a brother; I loved you, next in
degree to the mistress of my soul. In return for all that I have done,
and all that I felt for you, you have with insidious heart and every
base disguise, seduced from me the woman of my choice. Why not frankly
and ingenuously have demanded her at my hands? The heart is free; your
reciprocal passion, though I might have regretted it, I should have
been unable to blame; it is the cloak that you have drawn over it, that
proves the baseness of its origin. Do you think I had not the courage
cheerfully and without a murmur to resign to you this illustrious fair
one? I feel that I was worthy to be openly treated. Had I seen in you
a mutual and ingenuous passion, I would not have been the bar to its
just consummation. I would not have sought the person of a woman,
whose heart, in spite perhaps of her better resolutions, was given to
another. I should loathe myself for ever, were I capable of such a
part. It was the sympathetic sentiment towards me, beating in accord
to the sentiment of my own bosom, that I once saw in Pandora, and not
either her peerle