As Kosciusko finished speaking, an aid-de-camp came forward to lead the party into the room of audience. Prince Poniatowski welcomed the palatine and his suite with the most lively expressions of pleasure. He gave Thaddeus, whose figure and manner instantly charmed him, many flattering assurances of friendship, and promised that he would appoint him to the first post of honor which should offer. After detaining the palatine and his grandson half an hour, his highness withdrew, and they rejoined Kosciusko, who conducted them to the quarter where the Masovian soldiers had already pitched their tents.
The officers who supped with Sobieski left him at an early hour, that he might retire to rest; but Thaddeus was neither able nor inclined to benefit by their consideration. He lay down on his mattress, shut his eyes, and tried to sleep; but the attempt was without success. In vain he turned from side to side; in vain he attempted to restrict his thoughts to one thing at once; his imagination was so roused by anticipating the scenes in which he was to become an actor, that he found it impossible even to lie still. His spirits being quite awake, he determined to rise, and to walk himself drowsy.
Seeing his grandfather sound asleep, he got up and dressed himself quietly; then stealing gently from the marque, he gave the word in a low whisper to the guard at the door, and proceeded down the lines. The pitying moon seemed to stand in the heavens, watching the awaking of those heroes who the next day might sleep to rise no more. At another time, and in another mood, such might have been his reflections; but now he pursued his walk with different thoughts: no meditations but those of pleasure possessed his breast. He looked on the moon with transport; he beheld the light of that beautiful planet, trailing its long stream of glory across the intrenchments. He perceived a solitary candle here and there glimmering through the curtained entrance of the tents, and thought that their inmates were probably longing with the same anxiety as himself for the morning's dawn.
Thaddeus walked slowly on, sometimes pausing at the lonely footfall of the sentinel, or answering with a start to the sudden challenge for the parole; then lingering at the door of some of these canvas dwellings, he offered up a prayer for the brave inhabitant who, like himself, had quitted the endearments of home to expose his life on this spot, a bulwark of liberty. Thaddeus knew not what it was to be a soldier by profession; he had no idea of making war a trade, by which a man may acquire subsistence, and perhaps wealth; he had but one motive for appearing in the field, and one for leaving it,—to repel invasion and to establish peace. The first energy of his mind was a desire to maintain the rights of his country; it had been inculcated into him when an infant; it had been the subject of his morning thoughts and nightly dreams; it was now the passion which beat in every artery of his heart. Yet he knew no honor in slaughter; his glory lay in defence; and when that was accomplished, his sword would return to its scabbard, unstained by the blood of a vanquished or invaded people. On these principles, he was at this hour full of enthusiasm; a glow of triumph flitted over his cheek, for he had felt the indulgences of his mother's palace, had left her maternal arms, to take upon him the toils of war, and risk an existence just blown into enjoyment. A noble satisfaction rose in his mind; and with all the animation which an inexperienced and raised fancy imparts to that age when boyhood breaks into man, his soul grasped at every show of creation with the confidence of belief. Pressing the sabre which he held in his hand to his lips, he half uttered, "Never shall this sword leave my arm but at the command of mercy, or when death deprives my nerves of their strength."
Morning was tinging the hills which bound the eastern horizon of Winnica before Thaddeus found that his pelisse was wet with dew, and that he ought to return to his tent. Hardly had he laid his head upon the pillow, and "lulled his senses in forgetfulness," when he was disturbed by the drum beating to arms. He opened his eyes, and seeing the palatine out of bed, he sprung from his own, and eagerly inquired the cause of his alarm.
"Only follow me directly," answered his grandfather, and quitted the tent.
Whilst Thaddeus was putting on his clothes, and buckling on his arms with a trembling eagerness which almost defeated his haste, an aid- de-camp of the prince entered. He brought information that an advanced guard of the Russians had attacked a Polish outpost, under the command of Colonel Lonza, and that his highness had ordered a detachment from the palatine's brigade to march to its relief. Before Thaddeus could reply, Sobieski sent to apprise his grandson that the prince had appointed him to accompany the troops which were turning out to resist the enemy.
Thaddeus heard this message with delight; yet fearful in what manner the event might answer the expectations which this wished distinction declared, he issued from his tent like a youthful Mars,—or rather like the Spartan Isadas,—trembling at the dazzling effects of his temerity, and hiding his valor and his blushes beneath the waving plumes of his helmet. Kosciusko, who was to head the party, observed this modesty with pleasure, and shaking him warmly by the hand, said, "Go, Thaddeus; take your station on the left flank; I shall require your fresh spirits to lead the charge I intend to make, and to ensure its success." Thaddeus bowed to these encouraging words, and took his place according to order.
Everything being ready, the detachment quitted the camp, and dashing through the dews of a sweet morning (for it was yet May), in a few hours arrived in view of the Russian battalions. Lonza, who, from the only redoubt now in his possession, caught a glimpse of this welcome reinforcement, rallied his few remaining men, and by the time that Kosciusko came up, contrived to join him in the van. The fight recommenced. Thaddeus, at the head of his hussars, in full gallop bore down upon the enemy's right flank. They received the charge with firmness; but their young adversary, perceiving that extraordinary means were necessary to make the desired effect, calling on his men to follow him, put spurs to his horse and rushed into the thickest of the battle. His soldiers did not shrink; they pressed on, mowing down the foremost ranks, whilst he, by a lucky stroke of his sabre, disabled the sword-arm of the Russian standard-bearer and seized the colors. His own troops seeing the standard in his hand, with one accord, in loud and repeated cries, shouted victory. Part of the reserve of the enemy, alarmed at this outcry, gave ground, and retreating with precipitation, was soon followed by some of the rear ranks of the centre, to which Kosciusko had penetrated, while its commander, after a short but desperate resistance, was slain. The left flank next gave way, and though holding a brave stand at intervals, at length fairly turned about and fled across the country.
The conquerors, elated with so sudden a success, put their horses on full speed; and without order or attention, pursued the fugitives until they were lost amidst the trees of a distant wood. Kosciusko called on his men to halt, but he called in vain; they continued their career, animating each other, and with redoubled shouts drowned the voice of Thaddeus, who was galloping forward repeating the command. At the entrance of the wood they were stopped by a few Russian stragglers, who had formed themselves into a body. These men withstood the first onset of the Poles with considerable steadiness; but after a short skirmish, they fled, or, perhaps, seemed to fly, a second time, and took refuge in the bushes, where, still regardless of orders, their enemies followed. Kosciusko, foreseeing the consequence of this rashness, ordered Thaddeus to dismount a part of his squadron, and march after these headstrong men into the forest. He came up with them on the edge of a heathy tract of land, just as they were closing in with a band of the enemy's arquebusiers, who, having kept up a quick running fire as they retreated, had drawn their pursuers thus far into the thickets. Heedless of anything but giving their enemy a complete defeat, the Polanders went on, never looking to the left nor to the right, till at once they found themselves encompassed by two thousand Muscovite horse, several battalions of chasseurs, and in front of fourteen pieces of cannon, which this dreadful ambuscade opened upon them.
Thaddeus threw himself into the midst of his countrymen, and taking the place of their unfortunate conductor, who had been killed in the first sweep of the artillery, prepared the men for a desperate stand. He gave his orders with intrepid coolness—though under a shower of musketry and a cannonade which carried death in every round—that they should draw off towards the flank of the battery. He thought not of himself; and in a few minutes the scattered soldiers were consolidated into a close body, squared with pikemen, who stood like a grove of pines in a day of tempest, only moving their heads and arms. Many of the Russian horse impaled themselves on the sides of this little phalanx, which they vainly attempted to shake, although the ordnance was rapidly weakening its strength. File after file the men were swept down, their bodies making a horrid rampart for their resolute brothers in arms, who, however, rendered desperate, at last threw away their most cumbrous accoutrements, and crying to their leader, "Freedom or death!" followed him sword in hand, and bearing like a torrent upon the enemy's ranks, cut their way through the forest. The Russians, exasperated that their prey should not only escape, but escape by such dauntless valor, hung closely on their rear, goading them with musketry, whilst they (like a wounded lion closely pressed by the hunters, retreats, yet stands proudly at bay) gradually retired towards the camp with a backward step, their faces towards the foe.
Meanwhile the palatine Sobieski, anxious for the fate of the day, mounted the dyke, and looked eagerly around for the arrival of some messenger from the little army. As the wind blew strongly from the south, a cloud of dust precluded his view; but from the approach of firing and the clash of arms, he was led to fear that his friends had been defeated, and were retreating towards the camp. He instantly quitted the lines to call out a reinforcement; but before he could advance, Kosciusko and his squadron on the full charge appeared in flank of the enemy, who suddenly halted, and wheeling round, left the harassed Polanders to enter the trenches unmolested.
Thaddeus, covered with dust and blood, flung himself into his grandfather's arms. In the heat of action his left arm had been wounded by a Cossack. [Footnote: Cossacks. There are two descriptions of these formidable auxiliaries: those of clear Tartar race, the other mixed with Muscovites and their tributaries. The first and the fiercest are called Don Cossacks, because of their inhabiting the immense steppes of the Don river, on the frontiers of Asia. They are governed by a hetman, a native chief, who personally leads them to battle. The second are the Cossacks of the Crimea, a gallant people of that finest part of the Russian dominions, and, by being of a mingled origin, under European rule, are more civilized and better disciplined than their brethren near the Caucasus. They are generally commanded by Russian officers.] Aware that neglect then might disable him from further service, at the moment it happened he bound it up in his sash, and had thought no more of the accident until the palatine remarked blood on his cloak.
"My injury is slight, my dear sir." said he. "I wish to Heaven that it were all the evil which has befallen us to-day! Look at the remnant of our brave comrades."
Sobieski turned his eyes on the panting soldiers, and on Kosciusko, who was inspecting them. Some of them, no longer upheld by desperation, were sinking with wounds and fatigue; these the good general sent off in litters to the medical department; and others, who had sustained unharmed the conflict of the day, after having received the praise and admonition of their commander, were dismissed to their quarters.
Before this inspection was over, the palatine had to assist Thaddeus to his tent; in spite of his exertions to the contrary, he became so faint, it was necessary to lead him off the ground.
A short time restored him. With his arm in a sling, he joined his brother officers on the fourth day. After the duty of the morning, he heard with concern that, during his confinement, the enemy had augmented their force to so tremendous a strength, it was impossible for the comparatively slender force of the Poles to remain longer at Winnica. In consequence of this report, the prince had convened a council late the preceding night, in which it was determined that the camp should immediately be razed, and removed towards Zielime.
This information displeased Thaddeus, who in his fairy dreams of war had always made conquest the sure end of his battles; and many were the sighs he drew when, at an hour before dawn on the following day, he witnessed the striking of the tents, which he thought too like a prelude to a shameful flight from the enemy. While he was standing by the busy people, and musing on the nice line which divides prudence from pusillanimity, his grandfather came up, and bade him mount his horse, telling him that, owing to the unhealed state of his wound, he was removed from the vanguard, and ordered to march in the centre, along with the prince. Thaddeus remonstrated against this arrangement, and almost reproached the palatine for forfeiting his promise, that he should always be stationed near his person. The veteran would not be moved, either by argument or entreaty; and Thaddeus, finding that he neither could nor ought to oppose him, obeyed, and followed an aid-de-camp to his highness.
THE PASS OF VOLUNNA.
After a march of three hours, the army came in sight of Volunna, where the advanced column suddenly halted. Thaddeus, who was about a half mile to its rear, with a throbbing heart heard that a momentous pass must be disputed before they could proceed. He curbed his horse, then gave it the spur, so eagerly did he wish to penetrate the cloud of smoke which rose in volumes from the discharge of musketry, on whose wing, at every round, he dreaded might be carried the fate of his grandfather. At last the firing ceased, and the troops were commanded to go forward. On approaching near the contested defile, Thaddeus shuddered, for at every step the heels of his charger struck upon the wounded or the dead. There lay his enemies, here lay his friends! His respiration was nearly suspended, and his eyes clung to the ground, expecting at each moment to fasten on the breathless body of his grandfather.
Again the tumult of battle presented itself. About an hundred soldiers, in one firm rank, stood at the opening of the pass, firing on the now vacillating steadiness of the enemy. Thaddeus checked his horse. Five hundred had been detached to this post; how few remained! Could he hope that Sobieski had escaped so desperate a rencontre? Fearing the worst, and dreading to have those fears confirmed, his heart sickened when he received orders from Poniatowski to examine the extent of the loss. He rode to the mouth of the defile. He could nowhere see the palatine. A few of his hussars, a little in advance, were engaged over a heap of the killed, defending it from a troop of Cossacks, who appeared fighting for the barbarous privilege of trampling on the bodies. At this sight Thaddeus, impelled by despair, called out, "Courage, soldiers! The prince with artillery!" The enemy, looking forward, saw the information was true, and with a shout of derision, took to flight. Poniatowski, almost at the word, was by the side of his young friend, who, unconscious of any idea but that of filial solicitude, had dismounted.
"Where is the palatine?" was his immediate inquiry to a chasseur who was stooping towards the slain. The man made no answer, but lifted from the heap the bodies of two soldiers; beneath, Thaddeus saw the pale and deathly features of his grandfather. He staggered a few paces back, and the prince, thinking he was falling, hastened to support him; but he recovered himself, and flew forward to assist Kosciusko, who had raised the head of the palatine upon his knee.
"Is he alive?" inquired Thaddeus.
Hope was now warm in his grandson's breast. The soldiers soon released Sobieski from the surrounding dead; but his swoon continuing, the prince desired that he might be laid on a bank, until a litter could be brought from the rear to convey him to a place of security. Meantime, Thaddeus and General Butzou bound up his wounds and poured some water into his mouth. The effusion of blood being stopped, the brave veteran opened his eyes, and in a few moments more, whilst he leaned on the bosom of his grandson, was so far restored as to receive with his usual modest dignity the thanks of his highness for the intrepidity with which he had preserved a passage which ensured the safety of the whole army,
Two surgeons, who arrived with the litter, relieved the anxiety of the bystanders by an assurance that the wounds, which they re-examined, were not dangerous. Having laid their patient on the vehicle, they were preparing to retire with it into the rear, when Thaddeus petitioned the prince to grant him permission to take the command of the guard which was appointed to attend his grandfather. His highness consented; but Sobieski positively refused.
"No, Thaddeus," said he; "you forget the effect which this solicitude about so trifling a matter might have on the men. Remember that he who goes into battle only puts his own life to the hazard, but he that abandons the field, sports with the lives of his soldiers. Do not give them leave to suppose that even your dearest interest could tempt you from the front of danger when it is your duty to remain there." Thaddeus obeyed his grandfather in respectful silence; at seven o'clock the army resumed its march.
Near Zielime the prince was saluted by a reinforcement. It appeared very seasonably, for scouts had brought information that directly across the plain a formidable division of the Russian army, under General Brinicki, was drawn up in order of battle, to dispute his progress.
Thaddeus, for the first time, shuddered at the sight of the enemy, Should his friends be defeated, what might be the fate of his grandfather, now rendered helpless by many wounds! Occupied by these fears, with anxiety in his heart, he kept his place at the head of the light horse, close to the hill.
Prince Poniatowski ordered the lines to extend themselves, that the right should reach to the river, and the left be covered by the rising ground, on which were mounted seven pieces of ordnance. Immediately after these dispositions, the battle commenced with mutual determination, and continued with unabated fury from eight in the morning until sunset. Several times the Poles were driven from their ground; but as often recovering themselves, and animated by their commanders, they prosecuted the fight with advantage. General Brinicki, perceiving that the fortune of the day was going against him, ordered up the body of reserve, which consisted of four thousand men and several cannon. He erected temporary batteries in a few minutes, and with these new forces opened a rapid and destructive fire on the Polanders. Kosciusko, alarmed at perceiving a retrograde motion in his troops, gave orders for a close attack on the enemy in front, whilst Thaddeus, at the head of his hussars, should wheel round the hill of artillery, and with loud cries charge the opposite flank. This stratagem succeeded. The arquebusiers, who were posted on that spot, seeing the impetuosity of the Poles, and the quarter whence they came, supposed them to be a fresh squadron, gave ground, and opening in all directions, threw their own people into a confusion that completed the defeat. Kosciusko and the prince were equally successful, and a general panic amongst their adversaries was the consequence. The whole of the Russian army now took to flight, except a few regiments of carabineers, which were entangled between the river and the Poles. These were immediately surrounded by a battalion of Masovian infantry, who, enraged at the loss their body had sustained the preceding day, answered a cry for quarter with reproach and derision. At this instant the Sobieski squadron came up, and Thaddeus, who saw the perilous situation of these regiments, ordered the slaughter to cease, and the men to be taken prisoners. The Masovians exhibited strong signs of dissatisfaction at such commands; but the young count charging through them, ranged his troops before the Russians, and declared that the first man who should dare to lift a sword against his orders should be shot. The Poles dropped their arms. The poor carabineers fell on their knees to thank his mercy, whilst their officers, in a sullen silence, which seemed ashamed of gratitude, surrendered their swords into the hands of their deliverers.
During this scene, only one very young Russian appeared wholly refractory. He held his sword in a menacing posture when Thaddeus drew near, and before he had time to speak, the young man made a cut at his head, which a hussar parried by striking the assailant to the earth, and would have killed him on the spot, had not Thaddeus caught the blow on his own sword; then instantly dismounting, he raised the officer from the ground, and apologized for the too hasty zeal of his soldier. The youth blushed, and, bowing, presented his sword, which was received and as directly returned.
"Brave sir," said Thaddeus, "I consider myself ennobled in restoring this weapon to him who has so courageously defended it."
The Russian made no reply but by a second bow, and put his hand on his breast, which seemed wet with blood. Ceremony was now at an end. Thaddeus never looked upon the unfortunate as strangers, much less as enemies. Accosting the wounded officer with a friendly voice, he assured him of his services, and bade him lean on him. Overcome, the young man, incapable of speaking, accepted his assistance; but before a conveyance could arrive, for which two men were dispatched, he fainted in his arms. Thaddeus being obliged to join the prince with his prisoners, unwillingly left the young Russian in this situation; but before he did so he directed one of his lieutenants to take care that the surgeons should pay attention to the officer, and have his litter carried next to the palatine's during the remainder of the march.
When the army halted at nine o'clock, P.M., preparations were made to fix the camp; and in case of a surprise from any part of the dispersed enemy which might have rallied, orders were delivered for throwing up a dyke. Thaddeus, having been assured that his grandfather and the wounded Russian were comfortably stationed near each other, did not hesitate to accept the command of the intrenching party. To that end he wrapped himself loosely in his pelisse, and prepared for a long watch. The night was beautiful. It being the month of June, a softening warmth still floated through the air, as if the moon, which shone over his head, emitted heat as well as splendor. His mind was in unison with the season. He rode slowly round from bank to bank, sometimes speaking to the workers in the fosse, sometimes lingering for a few minutes. Looking on the ground, he thought on the element of which he was composed, to which he might so soon return; then gazing upward, he observed the silent march of the stars and the moving scene of the heavens. On whatever object he cast his eyes, his soul, which the recent events had dissolved into a temper not the less delightful for being tinged with melancholy, meditated with intense compassion, and dwelt with wonder on the mind of man, which, whilst it adores the Creator of the universe, and measures the immensity of space with an expansion of intellect almost divine, can devote itself to the narrow limits of sublunary possessions, and exchange the boundless paradise above for the low enjoyments of human pride. He looked with pity over that wide tract of land which now lay betwixt him and the remains of those four thousand invaders who had just fallen victims to the insatiate desires of ambition. He well knew the difference between a defender of his own country and the invader of another's. His heart beat, his soul expanded, at the prospect of securing liberty and life to a virtuous people. He felt all the happiness of such an achievement, while he could only imagine how that spirit must shrink from reflection which animates the self-condemned slave to fight, not merely to fasten chains on others, but to rivet his own the closer. The best affections of man having put the sword into the hand of Thaddeus, his principle as a Christian did not remonstrate against his passion for arms.
When he was told the fortifications were finished, he retired with a tranquil step towards the Masovian quarters. He found the palatine awake, and eager to welcome him with the joyful information that his wounds were so slight as to promise a speedy amendment, Thaddeus asked for his prisoner. The palatine answered that he was in the next tent, where a surgeon closely attended him, who had already given a very favorable opinion of the wound, which was in the muscles of the breast.
"Have you seen him, my dear sir?" inquired Thaddeus.
"Yes," replied the palatine; "I was supported into his marque before I retired to my own. I told him who I was, and repeated your offers of service. He received my proffer with expressions of gratitude, and at the same time declared he had nothing to blame but his own folly for bringing him to the state in which he now lies."
"How, my lord?" rejoined Thaddeus. "Does he repent of being a soldier? or is he ashamed of the cause for which he fought?"
"Both, Thaddeus; he is not a Muscovite, but a young Englishman."
"An Englishman! and raise his arm against a country struggling for loyalty and liberty!"
"It is very true," returned the palatine; "but as he confesses it was his folly and the persuasions of others which impelled him, he may be pardoned. He is a mere youth; I think hardly your age. I understand that he is of rank; and having undertaken a tour in whatever part of Europe is now open to travellers, under the direction of an experienced tutor, they took Russia in their route. At St. Petersburg he became intimate with many of the nobility, particularly with Count Brinicki, at whose house he resided; and when the count was named to the command of the army in Poland, Mr. Somerset (for that is your prisoner's name), instigated by his own volatility and the arguments of his host, volunteered with him, and so followed his friend to oppose that freedom here which he would have asserted in his own nation."
Thaddeus thanked his grandfather for this information; and pleased that the young man, who had so much interested him, was a brave Briton, not in heart an enemy, he gayly and instantly repaired to his tent.
A generous spirit is as eloquent in acknowledging benefits as it is bounteous in bestowing them; and Mr. Somerset received his preserver with the warmest demonstrations of gratitude. Thaddeus begged him not to consider himself as particularly obliged by a conduct which every soldier of honor has a right to expect from another. The Englishman bowed his head, and Thaddeus took a seat by his bedside.
Whilst he gathered from his own lips a corroboration of the narrative of the palatine, he could not forbear inquiring how a person of his apparent candor, and who was also the native of a soil where national liberty had so long been the palladium of its happiness, could volunteer in a cause the object of which was to make a brave people slaves?
Somerset listened to these questions with blushes; and they did not leave his face when he confessed that all he could say in extenuation of what he had done was to plead his youth, and having thought little on the subject.
"I was wrought upon," continued he, "by a variety of circumstances: first, the predilections of Mr. Loftus, my governor, are strongly in favor of the court of St. Petersburg; secondly, my father dislikes the army, and I am enthusiastically fond of it—this was the only opportunity, perhaps, in which I might ever satisfy my passion; and lastly, I believe that I was dazzled by the picture which the young men about me drew of the campaign. I longed to be a soldier; they persuaded me; and I followed them to the field as I would have done to a ballroom, heedless of the consequences."
"Yet," replied Thaddeus, smiling, "from the intrepidity with which you maintained your ground, when your arms were demanded, any one might have thought that your whole soul, as well as your body, was engaged in the cause."
"To be sure," returned Somerset, "I was a blockhead to be there; but when there, I should have despised myself forever had I given up my honor to the ruffians who would have wrested my sword from me! But when you came, noble Sobieski, it was the fate of war, and I confided myself to a brave man."
THE BANKS OF THE VISTULA.
Each succeeding morning not only brought fresh symptoms of recovery to the two invalids, but condensed the mutual admiration of the young men into a solid and ardent esteem.
It is not the disposition of youthful minds to weigh for months and years the sterling value of those qualities which attract them. As soon as they see virtue, they respect it; as soon as they meet kindness, they believe it: and as soon as a union of both presents itself, they love it. Not having passed through the disappointments of a delusive world, they grasp for reality every pageant which appears. They have not yet admitted that cruel doctrine which, when it takes effect, creates and extends the misery it affects to cure. Whilst we give up our souls to suspicion, we gradually learn to deceive; whilst we repress the fervors of our own hearts, we freeze those which approach us; whilst we cautiously avoid occasions of receiving pain, at every remove we acquire an unconscious influence to inflict it on those who follow us. They, again, meet from our conduct and lips the lesson that destroys the expanding sensibilities of their nature; and thus the tormenting chain of deceived and deceiving characters may be lengthened to infinitude.
About the latter end of the month, Sobieski received a summons to court, where a diet was to be held on the effect of the victory at Zielime, to consider of future proceedings. In the same packet his majesty enclosed a collar and investiture of the order of St. Stanislaus, as an acknowledgment of service to the young Thaddeus; and he accompanied it with a note from himself, expressing his commands that the young knight should return with the palatine and other generals, to receive thanks from the throne.
Thaddeus, half wild with delight at the thoughts of so soon meeting his mother, ran to the tent of his British friend to communicate the tidings. Somerset participated in his pleasure, and with reciprocal warmth accepted the invitation to accompany him to Villanow.
"I would follow you, my friend," said he, pressing the hand of Thaddeus, "all over the world."
"Then I will take you to the most charming spot in it?" cried he. "Villanow is an Eden; and my mother, the dear angel, would make a desert so to me."
"You speak so rapturously of your enchanted castle, Thaddeus," returned his friend, "I believe I shall consider my knight-errantry, in being fool enough to trust myself amidst a fray in which I had no business, as one of the wisest acts of my life!"
"I consider it," replied Thaddeus, "as one of the most auspicious events in mine."
Before the palatine quitted the camp, Somerset thought it proper to acquaint Mr. Loftus, who was yet at St. Petersburg, of the particulars of his late danger, and that he was going to Warsaw with his new friends, where he should remain for several weeks. He added, that as the court of Poland, through the intercession of the palatine, had generously given him his liberty, he should be able to see everything in that country worthy of investigation, and that he would write to him again, enclosing letters for England, soon after his arrival at the Polish capital.
The weather continuing fine, in a few days the party left Zielime; and the palatine and Somerset, being so far restored from their wounds that they could walk, the one with a crutch and the other by the support of his friend's arm, they went through the journey with animation and pleasure. The benign wisdom of Sobieski, the intelligent enthusiasm of Thaddeus, and the playful vivacity of Somerset, mingling their different natures, produced such a beautiful union, that the minutes flew fast as their wishes. A week more carried them into the palatinate of Masovia, and soon afterwards within the walls of Villanow.
Everything that presented itself to Mr. Somerset was new and fascinating. He saw in the domestic felicity of his friend scenes which reminded him of the social harmony of his own home. He beheld in the palace and retinue of Sobieski all the magnificence which bespoke the descendant of a great king, and a power which wanted nothing of royal grandeur but the crown, which he had the magnanimity to think and to declare was then placed upon a more worthy brow. Whilst Somerset venerated this true patriot, the high tone his mind acquired was not lowered by associating with characters nearer the common standard. The friends of Sobieski were men of tried probity— men who at all times preferred their country's welfare before their own peculiar interest. Mr. Somerset day after day listened with deep attention to these virtuous and energetic noblemen. He saw them full of fire and personal courage when the affairs of Poland were discussed; and he beheld with admiration their perfect forgetfulness of themselves in their passion for the general good. In these moments his heart bowed down before them, and all the pride of a Briton distended his breast when he thought that such men as these his ancestors were. He remembered how often their chivalric virtues used to occupy his reflections in the picture-gallery at Somerset Castle, and his doubts, when he compared what is with what was, that history had glossed over the actions of past centuries, or that a different order of men lived then from those which now inhabit the world. Thus, studying the sublime characters of Sobieski and his friends, and enjoying the endearing kindness of Thaddeus and his mother, did a fortnight pass away without his even recollecting the promise of writing to his governor. At the end of that period, he stole an hour from the countess's society, and enclosed in a short letter to Mr. Loftus the following epistle to his mother:—
To LADY SOMERSET, SOMERSET CASTLE, LEICESTERSHIRE.
"Many weeks ago, my dearest mother, I wrote a letter of seven sheets from the banks of the Neva, which, long ere this time, you and my dear father must have received. I attempted to give you some idea of the manners of Russia, and my vanity whispers that I succeeded tolerably well. The court of the famous Catharine and the attentions of the hospitable Count Brinicki were then the subjects of my pen.
"But how shall I account for my being here? How shall I allay your surprise and displeasure on seeing that this letter is dated from Warsaw? I know that I have acted against the wish of my father in visiting one of the countries he proscribes. I know that I have disobeyed your commands in ever having at any period of my life taken up arms without an indispensable necessity; and I have nothing to allege in my defence. I fell in the way of temptation, and I yielded to it. I really cannot enumerate all the things which induced me to volunteer with my Russian friends; suffice it to say that I did so, and that we were defeated by the Poles at Zielime; and as Heaven has rather rewarded your prayers than punished my imprudence, I trust you will do the same, and pardon an indiscretion I vow never to repeat.
"Notwithstanding all this, I must have lost my life through my folly, had I not been preserved, even in the moment when death was pending over me, by a young officer with whose family I now am. The very sound of their title will create your respect; for we of the patrician order have a strange tenacity in our belief that virtue is hereditary, and in this instance our creed is duly honored. Their patronymic is Sobieski; the family which bears it is the only remaining posterity of the great monarch of that name; and the count, who is at its head, is Palatine of Masovia, which, next to the throne, is the first dignity in the state. He is one of the warmest champions of his country's rights; and though born to command, has so far transgressed the golden adage of despots, 'Ignorance and subjection,' that throughout his territories every man is taught to worship his God with his heart as well as with his knees. The understandings of his peasants are opened to all useful knowledge. He does not put books of science and speculation into their hands, to consume their time in vain pursuits: he gives them the Bible, and implements of industry, to afford them the means of knowing and of practising their duty. All Masovia around his palace blooms like a garden. The cheerful faces of the farmers, and the blessings which I hear them implore on the family when I am walking in the field with the young count (for in this country the sons bear the same title with their fathers [Footnote: Prince, (ancient Kniaz) and Boyard, (which is equivalent in rank to our old English Baron,) are titles used by Russians and Polanders, both nations being descended from the Sclavonians, and their languages derived from the same roots. Prince indicates the highest rank of a subject; Boyard simply that of Nobleman. But both personages must be understood to be of hereditary power to raise forces on their estates for the service of the sovereign, to lead them in battle, and to maintain all their expenses. The title of Count has been adopted within a century or two by both nations, and occasionally appended to the ancient heroic designation of Boyard. The feminine to these titles is formed by adding gina to the paternal title; thus Kniazgina Olga, means Princess Olga; also, Boyarda, Lady. The titles of Palatine, Vaivode, Starost and the like belong to civil and military offices.]), have even drawn a few delighted drops from the eyes of your thoughtless son. I know that you think I have nothing sentimental about me, else you would not so often have poured into my not inattentive ears, 'that to estimate the pleasures of earth and heaven, we must cultivate the sensibilities of the heart. Shut our eyes against them, and we are merely nicely- constructed speculums, which reflect the beauties of nature, but enjoy none.' You see, mamma, that I both remember and adopt your lessons.
"Thaddeus Sobieski is the grandson of the palatine, and the sole heir of his illustrious race. It is to him that I owe the preservation of my life at Zielime, and much of my happiness since; for he is not only the bravest but the most amiable young man in the kingdom; and he is my friend! Indeed, as things have happened, you must think that out of evil has come good. Though I have been disobedient, I have repented my fault, and it has introduced me to the knowledge of a people whose friendship will henceforward constitute the greatest pleasure of my days. The mother of Thaddeus is the only daughter of the palatine; and of her I can say no more than that nothing on earth can more remind me of you; she is equally charming, equally tender to your son.
"Whilst the palatine is engaged at the diet, her excellency, Thaddeus, and myself, with now and then a few visitors from Warsaw, form the most agreeable parties you can suppose. We walk together, we read together, we converse together, we sing together—at least, the countess sings to us, which is all the same; and you know that time flies swiftly on the wings of harmony. She has an uncommonly sweet voice, and a taste which I never heard paralleled. By the way, you cannot imagine anything more beautiful than the Polish music. It partakes of that delicious languor so distinguished in the Turkish airs, with a mingling of those wandering melodies which the now- forgotten composers must have caught from the Tartars. In short, whilst the countess is singing, I hardly suffer myself to breathe; and I feel just what our poetical friend William Scarsdale said a twelvemonth ago at a concert of yours, 'I feel as if love sat upon my heart and flapped it with his wings.'
"I have tried all my powers of persuasion to prevail on this charming countess to visit our country. I have over and over again told her of you, and described her to you; that you are near her own age (for this lovely woman, though she has a son nearly twenty, is not more than forty;) that you are as fond of your ordinary boy as she is of her peerless one; that, in short, you and my father will receive her and Thaddeus, and the palatine, with open arms and hearts, if they will condescend to visit our humbler home at the end of the war. I believe I have repeated my entreaties, both to the countess and my friend, regularly every day since my arrival at Villanow, but always with the same issue: she smiles and refuses; and Thaddeus 'shakes his ambrosial curls' with a 'very god-like frown' of denial; I hope it is self-denial, in compliment to his mother's cruel and unprovoked negative.
"Before I proceed, I must give you some idea of the real appearance of this palace. I recollect your having read a superficial account of it in a few slight sketches of Poland which have been published in England; but the pictures they exhibit are so faint, they hardly resemble the original. Pray do not laugh at me, if I begin in the usual descriptive style! You know there is only one way to describe houses and lands and rivers; so no blame can be thrown on me for taking the beaten path, where there is no other. To commence:—
"When we left Zielime, and advanced into the province of Masovia, the country around Praga rose at every step in fresh beauty. The numberless chains of gently swelling hills which encompass it on each side of the Vistula were in some parts checkered with corn fields, meadows, and green pastures covered with sheep, whose soft bleatings thrilled in my ears and transported my senses into new regions, so different was my charmed and tranquillized mind from the tossing anxieties attendant on the horrors I had recently witnessed. Surely there is nothing in the world, short of the most undivided reciprocal attachment, that has such power over the workings of the human heart as the mild sweetness of nature. The most ruffled temper, when emerging from the town, will subside into a calm at the sight of a wide stretch of landscape reposing in the twilight of a fine evening. It is then that the spirit of peace settles upon the heart, unfetters the thoughts and elevates the soul to the Creator. It is then that we behold the Parent of the universe in his works; we see his grandeur in earth, sea, and sky: we feel his affection in the emotions which they raise, and, half mortal, half etherealized, forget where we are, in the anticipation of what that world must be of which this earth is merely the shadow. [Footnote: This description of the banks of the Vistula was given to me with smiles and sighs. The reality was once enjoyed by the narrator, and there was a delight in the retrospection "sweet and mournful to the soul." At the time these reflections arose on such a scene, I often tasted the same pleasure in evening visits to the beautiful rural environs of London, which then extended from the north side of Fitzroy Square to beyond the Elm Grove on Primrose Hill, and forward through the fields to Hampstead. But most of that is all streets, or Regent's Park; and the sweet Hill, then the resort of many a happy Sunday group, has not now a tree standing on it, and hardly a blade of grass, "to mark where the primrose has been."]
"Autumn seemed to be unfolding all her beauties to greet the return of the palatine. In one part the haymakers were mowing the hay and heaping it into stacks; in another, the reapers were gathering up the wheat, with a troop of rosy little gleaners behind them, each of whom might have tempted the proudest Palemon in Christendom to have changed her toil into 'a gentler duty.' Such a landscape intermingled with the little farms of these honest people, whom the philanthropy of Sobieski has rendered free (for it is a tract of his extensive domains I am describing), reminded me of Somerset. Villages repose in the green hollows of the vales, and cottages are seen peeping from amidst the thick umbrage of the woods which cover the face of the hills. The irregular forms and thatched roofs of these simple habitations, with their infant inhabitants playing at the doors, compose such lovely groups, that I wish for our dear Mary's pencil and fingers (for, alas! that way mine are motionless!) to transport them to your eyes.
"The palace of Villanow, which is castellated, now burst upon my view. It rears its embattled head from the summit of a hill that gradually slopes down towards the Vistula, in full view to the south of the plain of Vola, a spot long famous for the election of the kings of Poland. [Footnote: It was from this very assumption by the nation, on the extinction of the male line of the monarchs of the house of Jaghellon, that all their subsequent political calamities may be dated. The last two sovereigns of this race were most justly styled good and great kings—-father and son—Sigismund I. and II. But on the death of the last, about the middle of the sixteenth century, certain nobles of the nation, intoxicated with their wealth and privileges, run wild for dictation in all things; and as the foundation for such rule, they determined to make the succession of their future kings entirely dependent on the free vote of public suffrage; and the plain of Vola was made the terrible arena. So it may be called; for, from the time of the first monarch so elected, Henry of Valois, a stranger to the country, and brother to the execrable Charles IX. of France, bribery or violence have been the usual keys to the throne of Poland. For the doors of the country being once opened by the misguided people themselves to the influence of ambition, partiality, and passion, and shut against the old tenure of a settled succession, foreign powers were always ready to step in, with the gold or the sword; and Poland necessarily became a vassal adjunct to whatever neighboring country furnished the new sovereign. Thus it was, with a few exceptions (as is still case of the glorious John Sobieski), until the election of Stanislaus Augustus, who, though nominated by the power of the Empress of Russia, yet being, like Sobieski, a native prince of the nation, determined to govern the people of Poland in the spirit of his and their most glorious ancestors; and true to the vow, treading in the steps of the last of the Jaghellons, he gave to Poland the constitution of 1791, which, with the re-enaction of many wise laws, again made the throne hereditary. Hence the devoted struggles of every arm in the country in loyal defence of such a recovered existence.] On the north of the building, the earth is cut into natural ramparts, which rise in high succession until they reach the foundations of the palace, where they terminate in a noble terrace. These ramparts, covered with grass, overlook the stone outworks, and spread down to the bottom of the hill, which being clothed with fine trees and luxuriant underwood, forms such a rich and verdant base to the fortress as I have not language to describe: were I privileged to be poetical, I would say it reminds me of the God of war sleeping amid roses in the bower of love. Here the eye may wander over the gifts of bounteous Nature, arraying hill and dale in all the united treasures of spring and autumn. The forest stretches its yet unseared arms to the breeze; whilst that breeze comes laden with the fragrance of the tented hay, and the thousand sweets breathed from flowers, which in this delicious country weep honey.
"A magnificent flight of steps led us from the foot of the ramparts up to the gate of the palace. We entered it, and were presently surrounded by a train of attendants in such sumptuous liveries, than I found myself all at once carried back into the fifteenth century, and might have fancied myself within the courtly halls of our Tudors and Plantagenets. You can better conceive that I can paint the scene which took place between the palatine, the countess, and her son. I can only repeat, that from that hour I have known no want of happiness but what arises from regret that my dear family are not partakers with me.
"You know that this stupendous building was the favorite residence of John Sobieski, and that he erected it as a resting-place from the labors of his long and glorious reign. I cannot move without meeting some vestige of that truly great monarch. I sleep in his bed chamber: there hangs his portrait, dressed in the robes of sovereignty; here are suspended the arms with which he saved the very kingdoms which have now met together to destroy his country. On one side is his library; on the other, the little chapel in which he used to pay his morning and evening devotions. Wherever I look, my eye finds some object to excite my reflections and emulation. The noble dead seem to address me from their graves; and I blush at the inglorious life I might have pursued had I never visited this house and its inhabitants. Yet, my dearest mother, I do not mean to insinuate that my honored father and brave ancestors have not set me examples as bright as man need follow. But human nature is capricious; we are not so easily stimulated by what is always in our view as with sights which, rising up when we are removed from our customary associations, surprise and captivate our attention. Villanow has only awakened me to the lesson which I conned over in drowsy carelessness at home. Thaddeus Sobieski is hardly one year my senior; but, good heaven! what has he not done? what has he not acquired? Whilst I abused the indulgence of my parents, and wasted my days in riding, shooting, and walking the streets, he was learning to act as became a man of rank and virtue; and by seizing every opportunity to serve the state, he has obtained a rich reward in the respect and admiration of his country. I am not envious, but I now feel the truth of Caesar's speech, when he declared 'The reputation of Alexander would not let him sleep.' Nevertheless, I dearly love my friend. I murmur at my own dements, not at his worth.
"I have scribbled over all my paper, otherwise I verily believe I should write more; however, I promise you another letter in a week or two. Meanwhile I shall send this packet to Mr. Loftus, who is at St. Petersburg, to forward it to you. Adieu, my dear mother! I am, with reverence to my father and yourself.
"Your truly affectionate son,
"VILLANOW, August, 1792."
SOCIETY IN POLAND.
"TO LADY SOMERSET, SOMERSET CASTLE, ENGLAND.
[Written three weeks after the preceding.]
"You know, my dear mother, that your Pembroke is famous for his ingenious mode of showing the full value of every favor he confers! Can I then relinquish the temptation of telling you what I have left to make you happy with this epistle?
"About five minutes ago, I was sitting on the lawn at the feet of the countess, reading to her and the Princess Poniatowski the charming poem of 'The Pleasures of Memory.' As both these ladies understand English, they were admiring it, and paying many compliments to the graces of my delivery, when the palatine presented himself, and told me, if I had any commands for St. Petersburg, I must prepare them, for a messenger was to set off on the next morning, by daybreak.' I instantly sprang up, threw my book into the hand of Thaddeus, and here I am in my own room scribbling to you!
"Even at the moment in which I dip my pen in the ink, my hurrying imagination paints on my heart the situation of my beloved home when this letter reaches you. I think I see you and my good aunt, seated on the blue sofa in your dressing-room, with your needle work on the little table before you; I see Mary in her usual nook—the recess by the old harpsichord—and my dear father bringing in this happy letter from your son! I must confess this romantic kind of fancy-sketching makes me feel rather oddly: very unlike what I felt a few months ago, when I was a mere coxcomb—indifferent, unreflecting, unappreciating, and fit for nothing better than to hold pins at my lady's toilet. Well, it is now made evident to me that we never know the blessings bestowed on us until we are separated from the possession of them. Absence tightens the strings which unites friends as well as lovers: at least I find it so; and though I am in the fruition of every good on this side the ocean, yet my very happiness renders me ungrateful, and I repine because I enjoy it alone. Positively, I must bring you all hither to pass a summer, or come back at the termination of my travels, and carry away this dear family by main force to England.
"Tell my cousin Mary that, either way, I shall present to her esteem the most amiable and accomplished of my sex; but I warn her not to fall in love with him, neither in propri, person, nor by his public fame, nor with his private character. Tell her 'he is a bright and particular star,' neither in her sphere nor in any other woman's. In this way he is as cold as 'Dian's Crescent;' and to my great amazement too, for when I throw my eyes over the many lovely young women who at different times fill the drawing-room of the countess, I cannot but wonder at the perfect indifference with which he views their (to me) irresistible charms.
"He is polite and attentive to them all; he talks with them, smiles with them, and treats them with every gentle complacency; but they do not live one instant in his memory. I mean they do not occupy his particular wishes; for with regard to every respectful sentiment towards the sex in general, and esteem to some amiable individuals, he is as awake as in the other case he is still asleep. The fact is, he has no idea of appropriation; he never casts one thought upon himself; kindness is spontaneous in his nature; his sunny eyes beam on all with modest benignity, and his frank and glowing conversation is directed to every rank of people. They imbibe it with an avidity and love which makes its way to his heart, without kindling one spark of vanity. Thus, whilst his fine person and splendid actions fill every eye and bosom, I see him moving in the circle unconscious of his eminence and the admiration he excites.
"Drawn by such an example, to which his high quality as well as extraordinary merit gives so great an influence, most of the younger nobility have been led to enter the army. These circumstances, added to the detail of his bravery and uncommon talents in the field, have made him an object of universal regard, and, in consequence, wherever he is seen he meets with applause and acclamation: nay, even at the appearance of his carriage in the streets, the passengers take off their hats and pray for him till he is out of sight. It is only then that I perceive his cheek flush with the conviction that he is seated in their hearts.
"'It is this, Thaddeus,' said I to him one day, when walking together we were obliged to retire into a house from the crowds that followed him; 'it is this, my dear friend, which shields your heart against the arrows of love. You have no place for that passion; your mistress is glory, and she courts you.'
"'My mistress is my country,' replied he; 'at present I desire no other. For her I would die; for her only would I wish to live.' Whilst he spoke, the energy of his soul blazed in his eye. I smiled.
"'You are an enthusiast, Thaddeus,' I said.
"'Pembroke!' returned he, in a surprised and reproachful tone.
"'I do not give you that name opprobriously,' resumed I, laughing; 'but there are many in my country, who, hearing these sentiments, would not scruple to call you mad.'
"'Then I pity them,' returned Thaddeus. 'Men who cannot ardently feel, cannot taste supreme happiness. My grandfather educated me at the feet of patriotism; and when I forget his precepts and example, may my guardian angel forget me!'
"'Happy, glorious Thaddeus!' cried I, grasping his hand; 'how I envy you your destiny! to live as you do, in the lap of honor, virtue and glory the aim and end of your existence!'
"The animated countenance of my friend changed at these words, and laying his hand on my arm, he said, 'Do not envy me my destiny. Pembroke, you are the son of a free and loyal country, at peace with itself; insatiate power has not dared to invade its rights. Your king, in happy security, reigns in the confidence of his people, whilst our anointed Stanislaus is baited and insulted by oppression from without and ingratitude within. Do not envy me; I would rather live in obscurity all my days than have the means which calamity may produce of acquiring celebrity over the ruins of Poland. O! my friend, the wreath that crowns the head of conquest is thick and bright; but that which binds the olive of peace on the bleeding wounds of my country will be the dearest to me.'
"Such sentiments, my clear madam, have opened new lights upon my poor mistaken faculties. I never considered the subject so maturely as my friend has done; victory and glory were with me synonymous words. I had not learned, until frequent conversations with the young, ardent, and pious Sobieski taught me, how to discriminate between animal courage and true valor—between the defender of his country and the ravager of other states. In short, I see in Thaddeus Sobieski all that my fancy hath ever pictured of the heroic character. Whilst I contemplate the sublimity of his sentiments and the tenderness of his soul, I cannot help thinking how few would believe that so many admirable qualities could belong to one mind, and that mind remain unacquainted with the throes of ambition or the throbs of self-love."
Pembroke judged rightly of his friend; for if ever the real disinterested amor patri glowed in the breast of a man, it animated the heart of the young Sobieski. At the termination of the foregoing sentence in the letter to his mother, Pembroke was interrupted by the entrance of a servant, who presented him a packet which had that moment arrived from St. Petersburg. He took it, and putting his writing materials into a desk, read the following epistle from his governor:
"TO PEMBROKE SOMERSET, ESQ.
"My dear sir,
"I have this day received your letter, enclosing one for Lady Somerset. You must pardon me that I have detained it, and will continue to do so until I am favored with your answer to this, for which I shall most anxiously wait.
"You know, Mr. Somerset, my reputation in the sciences; you know my depth in the languages; and besides, the Marquis of Inverary, with whom I travelled over the Continent, offered you sufficient credentials respecting my knowledge of the world, and the honorable manner in which I treat my pupils. Sir Robert Somerset and your lady mother were amply satisfied with the account which his lordship gave of my character; but with all this, in one point every man is vulnerable. No scholar can forget those lines of the poet:—
'Felices ter, et amplius, Quos irrupta tenet copula; nec malis Divulsus qurimoniis, Suprem citius solvet amor die.'
It has been my misfortune that I have felt them.
"You are not ignorant that I was known to the Brinicki family, when I had the honor of conducting the marquis through Russia. The count's accomplished kinswoman, the amiable and learned widow of Baron Surowkoff, even then took particular notice of me; and when I returned with you to St. Petersburg. I did not find that my short absence had obliterated me from her memory.
"You are well acquainted with the dignity of that lady's opinions on political subjects. She and I coincided in ardor for the consolidating cause of sovereignty, and in hatred of that levelling power which pervades all Europe. Many have been the long and interesting conversations we have held together on the prosecution of the grand schemes of the three great contracting monarchs.
"The baroness, I need not observe, is as handsome as she is ingenuous; her understanding is as masculine as her person is desirable; and I had been more or less than man had I not understood that my figure and talents were agreeable to her. I cannot say that she absolutely promised me her hand, but she went as far that way as delicacy would permit. I am thus circumstantial, Mr. Somerset, to show you that I do not proceed without proof, She has repeatedly said in my presence that she would never marry any man unless he were not only well-looking, but of the profoundest erudition, united with an acquaintance with men and manners which none can dispute. 'Besides,' added she, 'he must not differ with me one tittle in politics, for on that head I hold myself second to no man or woman in Europe.' And then she has complimented me, by declaring that I possessed more judicious sentiments on government than any man in St. Petersburg, and that she should consider herself happy, on the first vacancy in the imperial college, to introduce me at court, where she was 'sure the empress would at once discover the value of my talents; but,' she continued, 'in such a case, I will not allow that even her majesty shall rival me in your esteem.' The modesty natural to my character told me that these praises must have some other source than my comparatively unequal abilities; and I unequivocally found it in the partiality with which her ladyship condescended to regard me.
"Was I to blame, Mr. Somerset? Would not any man of sensibility and honor have comprehended such advances from a woman of her rank and reputation? I could not be mistaken; her looks and words needed no explanation which my judgment could not pronounce. Though I am aware that I do not possess that lumen purpureum juveni which attracts very young, uneducated women, yet I am not much turned of fifty; and from the baroness's singular behavior, I had every reason to expect handsomer treatment than she has been pleased to dispense to me since my return to this capital.
"But to proceed regularly—(I must beg your pardon for the warmth which has hurried me to this digression): you know, sir, that from the hour in which I had the honor of taking leave of your noble family in England, I strove to impress upon your rather volatile mind a just and accurate conception of the people amongst whom I was to conduct you. When I brought you into this extensive empire, I left no means unexerted to heighten your respect not only for its amiable sovereign, but for all powers in amity with her. It is the characteristic of genius to be zealous. I was so, in favor of the pretensions of the great Catherine to that miserable country in which you now are, and to which she deigned to offer her protection. To this zeal, and my unfortunate though honorable devotion to the wishes of the baroness, I am constrained to attribute my present dilemma.
"When Poland had the insolence to rebel against its illustrious mistress, you remember that all the rational world was highly incensed. The Baroness Surowkoff declared herself frequently, and with vehemence she appealed to me. My veracity and my principles were called forth, and I confessed that I thought every friend to the Tzaritza ought to take up arms against that ungrateful people. The Count Brinicki was then appointed to command the Russian forces preparing to join the formidable allies; and her ladyship, very unexpectedly on my part, answered me by approving what I said, and added that of course I meant to follow her cousin into Poland, for that even she, as a woman, was so earnest in the cause, she would accompany him to the frontiers, and there await the result.
"What could I do? How could I withstand the expectations of a lady of her quality, and one who I believed loved me? However, for some time I did oppose my wish to oblige her; I urged my cloth, and the impossibility of accounting for such a line of conduct to the father of my pupil? The baroness ridiculed all these arguments as mere excuses, and ended with saying, 'Do as you please, Mr. Loftus. I have been deceived in your character; the friend of the Baroness Surowkoff must be consistent; he must be as willing to fight for the cause he espouses as to speak for it: in this case, the sword must follow the oration, else we shall see Poland in the hands of a rabble.'
"This decided me. I offered my services to the count to attend him to the field. He and the young lords persuaded you to do the same; and as I could not think of leaving you, when your father had placed you under my charge, I was pleased to find that my approval confirmed your wish to turn soldier. I was not then acquainted, Mr. Somerset (for you did not tell me of it until we were far advanced into Poland), with Sir Robert's and my lady's dislike of the army. This has been a prime source of my error throughout this affair. Had I known their repugnance to your taking up arms, my duty would have triumphed over even my devotion to the baroness; but I was born under a melancholy horoscope; nothing happens as any one of my humblest wishes might warrant.
"At the first onset of the battle, I became so suddenly ill that I was obliged to retire; and on this unfortunate event, which was completely unwilled on my part (for no man can command the periods of sickness), the baroness founded a contempt which has disconcerted all my schemes. Besides, when I attempted to remonstrate with her ladyship on the promise which, if not directly given, was implied, she laughed at me; and when I persisted in my suit, all at once, like the rest of her ungrateful and undistinguishing sex, she burst into a tempest of invectives, and forbade me her presence.
"What am I now to do, Mr. Somerset? This inconsistent woman has betrayed me into conduct diametrically opposite to the commands of your family. Your father particularly desired that I would not suffer you to go either into Hungary or Poland. In the last instance I have permitted you to disobey him. And my Lady Somerset (who, alas! I now remember lost both her father and brother in different engagements), you tell me, had declared that she never would pardon the man who should put military ideas into your head.
"Therefore, sir, though you are my pupil, I throw myself on your generosity. If you persist in acquainting your family with the late transactions at Zielime, and your present residence in Poland, I shall finally be ruined. I shall not only forfeit the good opinion of your noble father and mother, but lose all prospect of the living of Somerset, which Sir Robert was so gracious as to promise should be mine on the demise of the present incumbent. You know, Mr. Somerset, that I have a mother and six sisters in Wales, whose support depends on my success in life; if my preferment be stopped now, they must necessarily be involved in a distress which makes me shudder.
"I cannot add more, sir; I know well your character for generosity, and I therefore rest upon it with the utmost confidence. I shall detain the letter which you did me the honor to enclose for my Lady Somerset till I receive your decision; and ever, whilst I live, will I henceforth remain firm to my old and favorite maxim, which I adopted from the glorious epistle of Horace to Numicius. Perhaps you may not recollect the lines? They run thus:—
Nil admirari, prope res est una, Numici, Solaque, quae possit facere et servare beatum.
"I have the honor to be, "Dear sir, "Your most obedient servant, "ANDREW LOFTUS.
"St. PETERSBURG, September, 1792."
"P. S. Just as I was about sealing this packet, the English ambassador forwarded to me a short letter from your father, in which he desires us to quit Russia, and to make the best of our way to England, where you are wanted on a most urgent occasion. He explains himself no further, only repeating his orders in express commands that we set off instantly. I wait your directions."
This epistle disconcerted Mr. Somerset. He always guessed the Baroness Surowkoff was amusing herself with his vain and pedantic preceptor; but he never entertained a suspicion that her ladyship would carry her pleasantry to so cruel an excess. He clearly saw that the fears of Mr. Loftus with regard to the displeasure of his parents were far from groundless; and therefore, as there was no doubt, from the extreme age of Dr. Manners, that the rectory of Somerset would soon become vacant, he thought it better to oblige his poor governor, and preserve their secret for a month or two, than to give him up to the indignation of Sir Robert. On these grounds, Pembroke resolved to write to Mr. Loftus, and ease the anxiety of his heart. Although he ridiculed his vanity, he could not help respecting the affectionate solicitude of a son and a brother, and as that plea had won him, half angry, half grieved, and half laughing, he dispatched a few hasty lines.
"To THE REVEREND ANDREW LOFTUS, ST. PETERSBURG.
"What whimsical fit, my dear sir, has seized my father, that I am recalled at a moment's notice? Faith, I am so mad at the summons, and at his not deigning to assign a reason for his order, that I do not know how I may be tempted to act.
"Another thing, you beg of me not to say a word of my having been in Poland; and for that purpose you have withheld the letter which I sent to you to forward to my mother! You offer far-fetched and precious excuses for having betrayed your own wisdom, and your pupil's innocence, into so mortal an offence. One cause of my being here, you say, was your 'ardor in the cause of insulted Russia, and your hatred of that levelling power which pervades all Europe.'
"Well, I grant it. I understood from you and Brinicki that you were leading me against a set of violent, discontented men of rank, who, in proportion as each was inflated with his own personal pride, despised all of their own order who did not agree with them, and, coalescing together under the name of freedom, were introducing anarchy throughout a country which Catharine would graciously have protected. All this I find to be in error. But both of you may have been misled: the count by partiality and you by misrepresentation; therefore I do not perceive why you should be in such a terror. The wisest man in the world may see through bad lights; and why should you think my father would never pardon you for having been so unlucky?
"Yet to dispel your dread of such tidings ruining you with Sir Robert, I will not be the first to tell him of our quixoting. Only remember, my good sir,—though, to oblige you, I withhold my letters to my mother, and when I arrive in England shall lock up my lips from mentioning Poland,—that positively, I will not be mute one day longer than that in which my father presents you with the living of Somerset; then you will be independent of his displeasure, and I may, and will, declare my everlasting gratitude to this illustrious family.
"I am half mad when I think of leaving them. I must now tear myself from this mansion of comfort and affection, to wander with you in some rumbling old barouche 'over brake and through briar!' Well, patience! Another such upset to your friends of the Neva, and with 'victory perched like an eagle on their laurelled brows,' I may have some chance of wooing the Sobieskis to the banks of the Thames. At present, I have not sufficient hope to keep me in good-humor.
"Meet me this day week at Dantzic: I shall there embark for England. You had best not bring the foreign servants with you; they might blab. Discharge them at St. Petersburg, and hire a courier for yourself, whom we may drop at the seaport.
"I have the honor to remain,
"Your most obedient servant,
"VILLANOW, September, 1792."
When Somerset joined his friends at supper, and imparted to them the commands of his father, an immediate change was produced in the spirits of the party. During the lamentations of the ladies and the murmurs of the young men, the countess tried to dispel the effects of the information by addressing Pembroke with a smile, and saying, "But we hope that you have seen enough at Villanow to tempt you back again at no very distant period? Tell Lady Somerset you have left a second mother in Poland, who will long to receive another visit from her adopted son."
"Yes, my dear madam," returned he; "and I shall hope, before a very distant period, to see those two kind mothers united as intimately by friendship as they are in my heart."
Thaddeus listened with a saddened countenance. He had not been accustomed to the thought of a long separation, and when he met it now, he hardly knew how to proportion his uneasiness to the privation. Hope and all the hilarities of youth flushed in his soul; his features continually glowed with animation, whilst the gay beaming of his eyes ever answered to the smile on his lips. Hence the slightest veering of his mind was perceptible to the countess, who, turning round, saw him leaning thoughtfully in his chair, whilst Pembroke, with increasing vehemence, was running through various invectives against the hastiness of his recall.
"Come, come, Thaddeus!" cried she; "let us think no more of this parting until it arrives. You know that anticipation of evil is the death of happiness; and it will be a kind of suicide should we destroy the hours we may yet enjoy together in vain complainings that they are so soon to terminate."
A little exhortation from the countess, and a maternal kiss which she imprinted on his cheek, restored him to cheerfulness, and the evening passed more pleasantly than it had portended.
Much as the palatine esteemed Pembroke Somerset, his mind was too deeply absorbed in the condition of the kingdom to attend to less considerable cares. He beheld his country, even on the verge of destruction, awaiting with firmness the approach of the earthquake which threatened to ingulf it in the neighboring nations. He saw the storm lowering; but he determined, whilst there remained one spot of vantage ground above the general wreck, that Poland should yet have a name and a defender. These thoughts possessed him; these plans engaged him; and he had not leisure to regret pleasure when he was struggling for existence.
The empress continued to pour her armies into the heart of the kingdom. The King of Prussia, boldly flying from his treaties, marched to bid her colors a conqueror's welcome; and the Emperor of Germany, following the example of so great a prince, did not blush to show that his word was equally contemptible.
Dispatches daily arrived of the villages being laid waste; that neither age, sex, nor situation shielded the unfortunate inhabitants, and that all the frontier provinces were in flames.
The Diet was called, [Footnote: The constitutional Diet of Poland nearly answers in principle to the British three estates in Parliament—King, Lords, and Commons.] and the debates agitated with the anxiety of men who were met to decide on their dearest interests. The bosom of the benevolent Stanislaus bled at the dreadful picture of his people's sufferings, and hardly able to restrain his tears, he answered the animated exordiums of Sobieski for resistance to the last with an appeal immediately to his heart.
"What is it that you urge me to do, my lord?" said he. "Was it not to secure the happiness of my subjects that I labored? and finding my designs impracticable, what advantage would it be to them should I pertinaciously oppose their small numbers to the accumulated array of two empires, and of a king almost as powerful as either. What is my kingdom but the comfort of my people? What will it avail me to see them fall around me, man by man, and the few who remain bending in speechless sorrow over their graves? Such a sight would break my heart. Poland without its people would be a desert, and I a hermit rather than a king."
In vain the palatine combated these arguments, showing the vain quiet such a peace might afford, by declaring it could only be temporary. In vain he told his majesty that he would purchase safety for the present race at the vast expense of not only the liberty of posterity, but of its probity and happiness.
"However you disguise slavery," cried he, "it is slavery still. Its chains, though wreathed with roses, not only fasten on the body but rivet on the mind. They bend it from the loftiest virtue to a debasement beneath calculation. They disgrace honor; they trample upon justice. They transform the legions of Rome into a band of singers. They prostrate the sons of Athens and of Sparta at the feet of cowards. They make man abjure his birth right, bind himself to another's will, and give that into a tyrant's hands which he received as a deposit from Heaven—his reason, his conscience, and his soul. Think on this, and then, if you can, subjugate Poland to her enemies."
Stanislaus, weakened by years and subdued by disappointment, now retained no higher wish than to save his subjects from immediate outrage. He did not answer the palatine, but with streaming eyes bent over the table, and annulled the glorious constitution of 1791. Then with emotions hardly short of agony, he signed an order presented by a plenipotentiary from the combined powers, which directed Prince Poniatowski to deliver the army under his command into the hands of General Brinicki.
As the king put his signature to these papers, Sobieski, who had strenuously withstood each decision, started from his chair, bowed to his sovereign, and in silence left the apartment. Several noblemen followed him.
These pacific measures did not meet with better treatment from without. When they were noised abroad, an alarming commotion arose among the inhabitants of Warsaw, and nearly four thousand men of the first families in the kingdom assembled themselves in the park of Villanow, and with tumultuous eagerness declared their resolution to resist the invaders of their country to their last gasp. The Prince Sapieha, Kosciusko, and Sobieski, with the sage Dombrowski, were the first who took this oath of fidelity to Poland; and they administered it to Thaddeus, who, kneeling down, inwardly invoked Heaven to aid him, as he swore to fulfil his trust.
In the midst of these momentous affairs, Pembroke Somerset bade adieu to his Polish friends, and set sail with his governor from Dantzic for England.
THE DIET OF POLAND.
Those winter months which before this year had been at Villanow the season for cheerfulness and festivity, now rolled away in the sad pomp of national debates and military assemblies.
Prussia usurped the best part of Pomerelia, and garrisoned it with troops; Catharine declared her dominion over the vast tract of land which lies between the Dwina and Borysthenes; and Frederick William marked down another sweep of Poland. to follow the fate of Dantzic and of Thorn, while watching the dark policy of Austria regarding its selecting portions of the dismembering state.
Calamities and insults were heaped day after day on the defenceless Poles. The deputies of the provinces were put into prison, and the provisions intended for the king's table interrupted and appropriated by the depredators to their own use. Sobieski remonstrated on this last outrage; but incensed at reproof, and irritated at the sway which the palatine still held, an order was issued for all the Sobieski estates in Lithuania and Podolia to be sequestrated and divided between four of the invading generals.
In vain the Villanow confederation endeavored to remonstrate with the empress. Her ambassador not only refused to forward the dispatches, but threatened the nobles "if they did not comply with every one of his demands, he would lay all the estates, possessions, and habitations of the members of the Diet under an immediate military execution. Nay, punishment should not stop there; for if the king joined the Sobieski party (to which he now appeared inclined), the royal domains should not only meet the same fate, but harsher treatment should follow, until both the people and their proud sovereign were brought into due subjection."
These menaces were too arrogant to have any other effect upon the Poles than that of giving a new spur to their resolution. With the same firmness they repulsed similar fulminations from the Prussian ambassador, and, with a coolness which was only equalled by their intrepidity, they prepared to resume their arms.
Hearing by private information that their threats were despised, next morning, before daybreak, these despotic envoys surrounded the building where the confederation was sitting with two battalions of grenadiers and four pieces of cannon, and then issued orders that no Pole should pass the gates without being fired on. General Rautenfeld, who was set over the person of the king, declared that not even his majesty might stir until the Diet had given an unanimous and full consent to the imperial commands.
The Diet set forth the unlawfulness of signing any treaty whilst thus withheld from the freedom of will and debate. They urged that it was not legal to enter into deliberation when violence had recently been exerted against any individual of their body; and how could they do it now, deprived as they were of five of their principal members, whom the ambassadors well knew they had arrested on their way to the Senate? Sobieski and four of his friends being the members most inimical to the oppression going on, were these five. In vain their liberation was required; and enraged at the pertinacity of this opposition, Rautenfeld repeated the former threats, with the addition of more, swearing that they should take place without appeal if the Diet did not directly and unconditionally sign the pretensions both of his court and that of Prussia.
After a hard contention of many hours, the members at last agreed amongst themselves to make a solemn public protest against the present tyrannous measures of the two ambassadors; and seeing that any attempt to inspire them even with decency was useless, they determined to cease all debate, and kept a profound silence when the marshal should propose the project in demand.
This sorrowful silence was commenced in resentment and retained through despair; this sorrowful silence was called by their usurpers a consent; this sorrowful silence is held up to the world and to posterity as a free cession by the Poles of all those rights which they had received from nature, ratified by laws, and defended with their blood. [Footnote: Thus, like the curule fathers of Rome, they sat unyielding, awaiting the threatened stroke. But the dignity of virtue held her shield over them; and with an answering silence on the part of the confederated ambassadors, the Diet-chamber was vacated.]
The morning after this dreadful day, the Senate met at one of the private palaces; and, indignant and broken-hearted, they delivered the following declaration to the people:—
"The Diet of Poland, hemmed in by foreign troops, menaced with an influx of the enemy, which would be attended by universal ruin, and finally insulted by a thousand outrages, have been forced to witness the signing of a submissive treaty with their enemies.
"The Diet had strenuously endeavored to have added to that treaty some conditions to which they supposed the lamentable state of the country would have extorted an acquiescence, even from the heart of a conqueror's power. But the Diet were deceived: they found such power was unaccompanied by humanity; they found that the foe, having thrown his victim to the ground, would not refrain from exulting in the barbarous triumph of trampling upon her neck.
"The Diet rely on the justice of Poland—rely on her belief that they would not betray the citadel she confided to their keeping. Her preservation is dearer to them than their lives; but fate seems to be on the side of their destroyer. Fresh insults have been heaped upon their heads and new hardships have been imposed upon them. To prevent all deliberations on this debasing treaty, they are not only surrounded by foreign troops, and dared with hostile messages, but they have been violated by the arrest of their prime members, whilst those who are still suffered to possess a personal freedom have the most galling shackles laid upon their minds.