The Minister von Froulay had more specific reasons for his hostility— the most specific of all being that he had designed his daughter for one Bouverot, a disreputable court intriguer, his leaning towards Bouverot being based on financial liabilities, and stimulated by financial expectations. The minister's lady detested Bouverot, but in desiring separation between Liana and Albano, she was her husband's ally. Behold, then, Liana torn between duty towards her mother and love for Albano.
Once Albano saw her, but heard no explanation. The prince was wedded to the Princess of Haarbaar, and it was at a wedding festivity in the grounds of the pleasure palace of Lilar that Albano looked upon his beloved. But she was pledged for the time to tell him nothing, and she told him nothing. The princess looked curiously at her, for Liana exactly resembled the princess's younger sister, the philanthropic Idoine, who devoted herself to the idyllic happiness of her peasantry in the Arcadian village that it was her whim to rule.
To the aged and saintly court chaplain, Spener, Liana at last brought her perplexities. Here the history moves in veils. How he extorted from her the promise to renounce her Albano for ever is a mystery watched and hidden by the Great Sphinx of the oath she swore to him.
On the next day Albano was summoned, and stood with quivering lips before the beloved.
"I am true to you—even unto death," she said; "but all is over."
He looked upon her, wild, wondering.
"I have resigned you," she said; "and my parents are not to blame. There is a mystery that has constrained me—"
"Oh, God!" he cried. "Is it thus with external fidelity and love?" In whirling, cruel passion he pictured his love, her coldness, his pain, her violated oath.
"I did not think thou wert so hard," she said. "Oh, it grows dark to me; let me to my mother!"
Albano gazed into the groping, timid face, and guessed all—her blindness had returned!
The mother rushed up. "May God bring you retribution for this!" cried Albano to her. "Farewell, unhappy Liana!"
For many days Albano lived without love or hope, in bitter self-reproach; every recollection darted into him a scorpion-sting. And to him in his agony came the tormenting news that the fickle Roquairol had deserted Rabette. He drove the false one from his presence; sister and brother, beloved and friend, were now utterly lost to him.
At length he learned that Liana had recovered her sight, and that she was dying. Once more, for the last time, he was admitted to her presence. She reclined in an easy-chair, white-clad, with white, sunken cheeks.
"Welcome, Albano!" she said feebly, but with the old smile. "Some day thou wilt know why I parted from thee. On this, my dying day, I tell thee my heart has been true to thee." She handed him a sheet with a sketch she had made with trembling hand of the noble head of Linda de Romeiro. "It is my last wish that them shouldst love her," she said. "She is more worthy of thee."
"Ah, forgive, forgive!" sobbed Albano.
"Farewell, beloved!" she said calmly, while her feeble hand pressed his. For a while she was silent. Suddenly she said, with a low tone of gladness, "Caroline! Here, here, Caroline! How beautiful thou art!" Liana's fingers ceased to play; she lay peaceful and smiling, but dead.
II.—Linda De Romeiro
Albano's state for a long time was one of fever. He lay dressed in bed, unable to walk, in a burning heat, talking wildly, and as each hour struck on the clock, springing up to kneel down and utter the prayer, "Liana, appear, and give me peace!" to the high, shut-up heavens.
"Poor brother!" said Schoppe the librarian, his old preceptor and dear friend. "I swear to thee thou shalt get thy peace to-day."
He went to Linda de Romeiro, now in Pestitz after long wandering, and placed his design before her. Would the Princess Idoine, Liana's likeness, appear before Albano as a vision and give him peace? Linda consented to plead with Idoine. But Idoine made a difficulty. It was not the unusualness and impropriety of the thing that she dreaded, but the untruthfulness and unworthiness of playing false with the holy name of a departed soul, and cheating a sick man with a superficial similarity.
At length Idoine gave her decision. "If a human life hangs upon this, I must conquer my feeling."
As eight o'clock struck, Albano knelt in the dusk, crying, "Peace, peace!"
Idoine trembled as she heard him; but she entered, clothed in white, the image of the dead Liana.
"Albano, have peace!" she said, in a low and faltering tone.
"Liana!" he groaned, weeping.
"Peace!" cried she more strongly, and vanished.
"I have my peace now, good Schoppe," said Albano softly, "and now I will sleep."
Time gradually unfolded Albano's grief instead of weakening it. His life had become a night, in which the moon is under the earth, and he could not believe that Luna would gradually return with an increasing bow of light. Not joys, but only actions—those remote stars of night—were now his aim. As he travelled with his father in Italy after his recovery, the news of the French Revolution gave an object to his eagerness.
"Take here my word," he wrote to Schoppe, "that as soon as the probable war of Gallic freedom breaks out I take my part decidedly in it, for it."
But at Ischia, Albano was dazzled by a wonder; he saw Linda de Romeiro. When she raised her veil, beauty and brightness streamed out of a rising sun; delicate, maidenly colours, lovely lines and sweet fullness of youth played like a flower garland about the brow of a goddess, with soft blossoms around the holy seriousness and mighty will on brow and lip, and around the dark glow of the large eye.
As Albano and Linda walked on the mountain Epomeo, looking upon the coasts and promontories of that rare region, upon cities and sea, upon Vesuvius without flame or thunder, white with sand or snow, Albano's heart was an asbestos leaf written over and cast into the fire—burning, not consuming; his whole former life went out, the leaf shone fiery and pure for Linda's hand. He gazed into her face lovingly and serenely as a sun-god in morning redness, and pressed her hands. "Give them to me for ever!" said he earnestly.
She inclined modestly her beautiful head upon his breast, but immediately raised it again, with its large, moist eyes, and said hurriedly, "Go now! Early to-morrow come, Albano! Adio! Adio!"
Count Gaspard bestowed his paternal consent on the union, and the lovers returned separately to Hohenfliess. A difference arose; Albano was still bent on warring for France, Linda sought to dissuade him. They quarrelled, and parted in anger.
On the day after the quarrel Linda received a letter in Albano's handwriting begging forgiveness, and asking for a meeting in the gardens of Lilar. She went there at the appointed evening hour, although, owing to the night-blindness from which, like many Spaniards, she often suffered, she could not see her lover. But she kissed him, and heard his burning words of love.
But Albano had not written, and had not entered Lilar. Roquairol's old passion for Linda was undiminished; his rage at Albano was beyond bounds. He could mimic Albano's writing and voice; he knew of Linda's night-blindness. On the next night, in the presence of Albano and Linda, he slew himself with his own hand.
The death of Roquairol lay like a blight between the lovers. They parted for ever.
"War!" This word alone gave Albano peace. He made himself ready for a journey to France, and ere he set forth he sought out the little spot of earth, beneath a linden-tree, where reposed the gentle Liana, the friendly, lovely angel of peace.
Suddenly, with a shudder, he beheld the white form of Liana herself leaning against the linden. He believed some dream had drawn down the airy image from heaven, and he expected to see it pass away. It lingered, though quiet and mute. Kneeling down, he exclaimed, "Apparition, comest thou from God? Art thou Liana?"
Quickly the white form looked round, and saw the youth. She rose slowly, and said, "My name is Idoine. I am innocent of the cruel deception, most unhappy youth." Then he covered his eyes, from a sudden, sharp pang at the return of the cold, heavy reality. Thereupon he looked at her again, and his whole being trembled at her glorified resemblance to the departed—prouder and taller her stature, paler her complexion, more thoughtful the maidenly brow. She could not, when he looked upon her so silently and comparingly, repress her sympathy; she wept, and he too.
"Do I, too, distress you?" said he, in the highest emotion.
"I only weep," she innocently said, "that I am not Liana."
"Noble princess," he replied, "this holy spot takes away all sense of mutual strangeness. Idoine, I know that you once gave me peace, and here I thank you."
"I did it," she said, "without knowing you, and therefore could allow myself the use of a fleeting resemblance."
He looked at her sharply; everything within him loved her, and his whole heart, opened by wounds, was unfolded to the still soul. But a stern spirit closed it. "Unhappy one, love no one again; for a dark, destroying angel goes with poisoned sword behind thy love."
Idoine turned to go. He knelt, pressed her hand to his bosom, and only said, "Peace, all-gracious one!" Idoine, after a few swift steps, passed out of his sight.
Albano hastened preparations for his journey; but ere the preparations were ended, a letter was brought to him that caused him to abandon the project altogether. It was a letter from the long-dead Princess Eleonore, wife of the old prince who had died when Albano had first entered Pestitz. Now, in the fullness of time, was the letter placed before Albano's eyes and the token of the fullness of time was the death, without issue, of Prince Luigi, and the seeming inheritance of his dominions by the House of Haarkaar.
Thus the letter began:
"My son,—Hear thine own history from the mouth of thy mother; from no other will it come to thee more acceptably.
"The birth of thy brother Luigi at a late period of our married life annihilated the hopes of succession of the house of Haarkaar. But Count Cesara discovered proofs of some dark actions which were to cost thy poor brother his life. 'They will surely get the better of us at last,' said thy father.
"Madame Cesara and I loved each other; we were both of romantic spirit. She had just borne a lovely daughter, called Linda. We made the singular contract that, if I bore a son, we would exchange; with her, my son could grow up without incurring the danger which had always threatened thy brother in my house.
"Soon afterwards I brought forth thee and thy sister Julienne at a birth. 'I keep' I said, to the countess, 'my daughter, thou keepest thine; as to Albano, let the prince decide.' Thy father allowed that thou shouldst be brought up as son of the count. The documents of thy genealogy were thrice made out, and I, the count, and the court chaplain Spener, were put in possession of them. The Countess Cesara went off with Linda to Valencia, and took the name Romeiro. By this change of names all would be covered up as it now stands.
"Ah, I shall not live to be permitted openly to clasp thy son in my arms! May it go well with thee, dearest child! God guide all our weak expedients for the best.
"Thy faithful mother,
Albano stood for a long time speechless. Joy of life, new powers and plans, delight in the prospect of the throne, the images of new relations, and displeasure at the past, stormed through each other in his spirit.
He went out, and in the twilight stood upon the mountains, whence he could overlook, but with other eyes than once, the city which was to be the circus and theatre of his powers. He belongs now to a German house, the people around him are his kinsmen; the prefiguring ideals, which he had once sketched to himself at the coronation of his brother, of the warm rays wherewith a prince as a constellation can enlighten and enrich lands, were now put into his hands for fulfilment. His pious father, still blessed by the grandchildren of the country, pointed to him the pure sun-track of his princely duty: only actions give life strength, only moderation gives it a charm.
He descended to Bluemenbuhl. The funeral bell of the little church of Bluemenbuhl tolled for Luigi. Albano joined his sister Julienne, and they betook themselves with Idoine and Rabette to the church. At the bright altar was the venerable Spener; the long coffin of the brother stood before the altar between rows of lights. Here, near such altar-lights, had once the oppressed Liana knelt while swearing the renunciation of her love. The whole constellation of Albano's shining past had gone down below the horizon, and only one bright star of all the group stood glimmering still above the earth—Idoine.
After the solemn service, Idoine addressed herself to him oftener; her sweet voice was more tender, though more tremulous; her maidenly shyness of the resemblance to Liana seemed conquered or forgotten. Her existence had decided itself within her, and on her virgin love, as on a spring soil by one warm evening rain, all buds had been opened into bloom.
"How many a time, Albano," said Julienne, "hast thou here, in thy long-left youthful years, looked toward the mountains for thine own ones—for thy hidden parents, and brothers and sisters—for thou hadst always a good heart!"
Here Idoine unconsciously looked at him with inexpressible love, and his eyes met hers.
"Idoine," said he, "I have that heart still; it is unhappy, but unstained."
Then Idoine hid herself quickly and passionately in Julienne's bosom, and said, scarcely audibly, "Julienne, if Albano rightly knows me, then be my sister!"
"I do know thee, holy being!" said Albano, and clasped his bride to his bosom.
"Look up at the fair heaven!" cried Julienne. "The rainbow of eternal peace blooms there, and the tempests are over, and the world's all so bright and green. Wake up, my brother and sister!"
* * * * *
The Papers of the Forest Schoolmaster
In Austrian literature the "story in dialect" is a modern development. Its founder and most distinguished exponent is Peter Kettenfeier Rosegger, who was born at Alpel, near Krieglach, on July 31, 1843, and who has spent his lifetime among the people of the Styrian Alps. Mr. Rosegger first attracted attention in 1875 with a volume of short stories, bearing the general title of "Schriften des Waldschulmeisters," or "Papers of the Forest Schoolmaster," and since then he has written a large number of similar tales, all more or less sentimental in tone, and all dealing with certain aspects of peasant life. "The Papers of the Forest Schoolmaster," which takes the form of a diary, is not only one of the most winsome idylls that has come from Herr Rosegger's pen, but it exhibits a delicacy of touch, a keen penetration into the mysteries of human life, and a deep insight into nature in her various moods; and under all there is a strong current of romance and a great sense of the poetry of things—qualities that have made its author one of the foremost prose poets in recent German literature.
Mist and rain made it impossible for me to ascend the "Grey Tooth" for some days after I had arrived at Winkelsteg, the highest village in the remotest valley, and I was temporarily lodged in the schoolhouse, which had been deserted since the schoolmaster, who—so I was told—had lived in this out-of-the-way corner for fifty years, had disappeared last Christmas. The whole next day the rain continued to beat against the window. There was nothing to be done, and I spent my time in arranging the scattered but numbered sheets of the vanished schoolmaster's manuscript, which I found littered in the drawer allotted to me for my scant belongings. And then I began to read that strange man's diary, the first page of which only bore the words:
The Papers of the Forest Schoolmaster
So I am at last settled in this wilderness. And I will write it all down, although I know not for whom. My father died when I was seven, and I was taken charge of by an itinerant umbrella-maker who taught me his trade, and on his death left me his stock of some two dozen umbrellas, which I took to the market. A heavy shower just at midday helped me to sell them rapidly, and I only retained one for my own protection and for that of an elegant gentleman who, unable to secure a carriage, made me accompany him to town to save him from getting drenched. He made me tell him all about myself, and offered to take me as apprentice in his bookshop. He was a kind master. When he discovered' that I was more interested in the contents of his books than in my work he secured me admission in a college. I studied hard, and obtained my meals at the houses of private pupils whom I undertook to coach. My friend Henry, a clothmaker's son, had procured me a post as teacher to Hermann, the son of the Baron von Schrankenheim. I was treated with every consideration in his house, and became deeply attached to my pupil's sister. Of course, the case was hopeless then; but in a few years, when I should have passed my examinations and taken my degrees—who knows?
An indiscreet speech, which offended my teachers, made an end to all my dreams. I was ploughed, and I resolved at once to leave the town, and to seek my fortune in the world. I first enlisted with Andreas Hofer to fight the French invaders, and was carried off a prisoner into France. Then only I learnt that the Tyrolese were rebels against their own emperor, that I had fought for a bad cause; and to atone for it I took service with the great Napoleon's army. I was among those who escaped from the Russian disaster, and, in my enthusiasm for Napoleon, whom I regarded as the liberator of the peoples, fought for him against my own country. At Leipzig I shot Henry, my best friend, whom I only recognised when in his agony he called me by my name. Then only my eyes were opened. Failure had dogged my every step. A hermit's life in the wilderness was all that was left for me. This resolve I communicated to the Baron von Schrankenheim, who, after vain attempts to dissuade me from my purpose, spoke to me of this wilderness, his property, where I could do real good among the rough wood-cutters, poachers, shepherds and charcoal-burners, who, cut off from the rest of the world, eked out their existence without priest or doctor or schoolmaster. Winkelsteg was to be my hermitage; and now I am here, a schoolmaster without a school. I shall have to study these rough folk and gain their confidence before I can set to work.
The Forest Folk
Strange trades are carried on in this wilderness. These people literally dig their bread out of earth and stone and ant-heaps, scrape it off the trees, distill it out of uneatable fruit. There is the root-digger, whose booty of mountain ovens is said to go to far Turkey to be turned into scent. He would long have given up digging, to live entirely on poaching, but for his hope to unearth some day treasure of gold and jewels. One of these "forest-devils" has just died. He never worked at all. His profession was eating. He went from village to village and from fair to fair, eating cloth and leather, nails, glass, stones, to the amazement of his audience. He died from eating a poisonous root given him by some unknown digger—they say it was the devil himself. His funeral oration was delivered by a pale, bent, quiet man, known as the Solitary, of whose life nobody can give one any information.
Then there is the pitch-boiler. You can smell him from afar, and see him glitter through the thicket. His pitch-oil is bought by the wood-cutter for his wounds, by the charcoal-burner for his burns, by the carter for his horse, by the brandy-distiller for his casks. It is a remedy for all ailments. The most dangerous of all the forest-devils is the brandy-distiller. He is better dressed than the others, has a kind word for everybody, and plays the tempter with but too great success.
Black Matthias is dying in his miserable hut. His little boy and girl are playing around him, and his wife bids them be silent. "Let them shout," says Matthias; "but try and keep down Lazarus' temper." On his death-bed Matthias told me the story of his life—how he, a jolly, happy fellow, fell into the recruiting-officers' trap, escaped from their clutches, was betrayed by his own village people, and flogged through the line, and how they rubbed vinegar and salt into his wounded back; how he escaped from the battlefield and found refuge in this wilderness—a changed man, quarrelsome, with an uncontrollable temper, which led him into many a brawl; and how, under great provocation, he had stabbed a wood-burner at the inn, and had been beaten within an inch of his life by the wood-cutters. His life was now ebbing away fast, and he had good reason to fear that his uncontrollable temper would live in his son. Hence his exhortation to his wife. Black Matthias died a few hours after he had told me of his sad life.
And so I get to know them all, and make friends with them all, especially with the children, and with the shepherd lad Berthold and the poor milkmaid Aga. There was a wedding down at Heldenichlag, where they have a parish church, and dancing and merrymaking at the inn all night. Next morning Berthold went to the priest. He wanted to marry Aga, but the priest told him he was too young, too poor; he could come back again in ten years! The poor lad is left speechless and does not know how to explain why he wants to be united for ever with his Aga. Sadly he leaves the room, but out in the open air his spirit returns to him. On the second day of the wedding feast there was no holding him. He was the wildest and merriest of the lot. In the afternoon we all returned to Winkelsteg in the forest.
I know I must begin with a church. And at last I have obtained the baron's consent. I have designed the plan myself—it must be large enough to hold all who are in need of comfort here, and bright and cheerful, for there is darkness enough in the forest. And the steeple must be slender like a finger pointing heavenwards. Three bells there must be to announce the Trinity of God in one Person, and to sing the song of faith, hope, and love. And an organ there must be, but no pictures and gilding and show.
I have been taking a census. How very limited is their range of names. They have no family names, and only some half dozen Christian names! This must be altered. I must invent names for them, according to their occupation or dwelling or character: Sepp Woodcutter, Hiesel Springhutter, and so forth. They like their new names; only Berthold gets angry and refuses to take a name. "A name for me? I want no name; I am nobody. The priest won't let me marry. Call me Berthold Misery, or call me Satan!"
I have been ill—the result of being snowed up on the way home from a visit to a forester who had been wounded by a poacher. The danger is over now, but my eyes continue to suffer. The forest folk have been very good to me, and much concerned about my progress. And now I am able to go out again. To-day I was watching a spider in the thicket, when I saw Aga rushing towards me. "Ah, it's you!" she cried. "You must help us. We want to live in honour and decency. The priest won't marry us. You can ask for our blessing." The next moment Berthold had joined her and they were kneeling before me. And I pronounced the words which I had no right to pronounce. I married them in the heart of the green forest.
St. James's Day, 1817.
Matthias's widow is in despair. Lazarus has disappeared. In a fit of temper he threw a stone at her, then gave a wild yell and rushed away. "It was a small stone, but there is a heavy stone upon my heart," laments the mother; "his running away is the biggest stone he could have thrown."
St. Catherine's Day, 1817.
Lazarus' sister found a letter pinned on to a stick on her father's grave, which she often visits. It was from her brother, and told them not to worry—he is "in the school of the Cross." And then there was another letter to say that he was well, and thinking of them all. They answered, imploring him to return, and fixed the note and a little cross on the tomb. It is still there, and has never been opened.
Berthold is gone among the wood-cutters, and has got his hut. A little girl was born to Aga yesterday, and I was sent for to baptise it. I am no priest, and must not steal a name from the calendar. So I called her Forest Lily, and baptised her with the water of the priest.
The first Sunday in these forests! The church is finished, and the bells have summoned the people from the whole neighbourhood. The priest has come from Heldenichlag to dedicate the church, and the schoolmaster to play the organ. But some of the folk grumble because there is no inn by the church; and I hear that the grassteiger has applied for a spirit license. This is the shadow of the church!
In the evening, as I went back to the church, I saw a youth, apparently at prayer, who took to his heels the moment he found he was discovered. I caught him up and recognised. Lazarus! But I could not get a word out of him. I rang the church bells, and soon the lad was surrounded by the astonished villagers. He only murmured, "Paulus, Paulus!" and refused to take the proffered food, though he looked half starved. I took him back to his mother the same evening.
Lazarus must have been through a miraculous school. He has completely lost his evil temper, but he refuses to speak clearly of his life during the past year, though he mumbles of a rock-cave, a good dark man, of penance, and of a crucifix. We have no priest. I have to look after the church, ring the bells, play the organ, sing and conduct prayer on Sundays. I hear bad news of Hermann, my old pupil. He is said to be leading a wild life in the capital. I cannot believe it.
And now we have a priest—as strange and mysterious as the altar crucifix which I had taken to the church from the rock valley. On the last day of the hay-month, when I entered the church to ring the bells, I found "the Solitary" reading mass on the highest step of the altar. I asked for an explanation, and he answered with a rusty voice that he would tell me all next Saturday at a desolate place he appointed in the forest.
The Solitary has told me the whole sad story of his life. He was born in a palace, and had been rocked in a golden cradle. He had drained the cup of pleasure to the very dregs, and then, prompted by his tutor, had joined a religious order, taken the binding vow, and renounced his fortune to the order. A girl, whom he had known before, implored him not to leave her and her child in distress. It was too late—he was now penniless and irrevocably bound. She drowned herself and haunted his dreams, even after he had become a priest under the name of Paulus. Blind obedience was exacted from him by his order, and when he refused to betray a king's confession he was sent as missionary to India. After his return he became a zealot, exacting severe penance from sinners, and through his severity driving a man to suicide. In his remorse he, too, had sought refuge in this wilderness, where no one knew him, and where one day he found Lazarus, took him to his cave, and taught him to tame his quick temper. I had always thought the first pastor at Winkelsteg should be a repentant sinner, and not a just man. We have now our priest.
For more than ten years I have neglected my diary, partly because I was no longer alone, but had a friend and companion in "the Solitary," partly because I was busy with the building of the schoolhouse. I have my own ideas on education. The child is a book in which we read, and into which we ought to write. They ought to hear of nought but the beautiful, the good, the great. They ought to learn patriotism—not the patriotism which makes them die, but that which makes them live for their country.
Berthold has become a poacher. I have already had to intercede for him with the gamekeeper. Then, one winter's night, Forest Lily, his daughter, was sent out to beg some milk for the babies. Snow fell heavily, and she did not return. For three days they searched, and finally found her huddled up with a whole herd of deer in a snow-covered thicket of dry branches—kept alive by the animals' warmth and the pot of milk she was taking home. When Berthold heard that the forest animals had saved his child, he smashed his gun against a rock, and shouted, "Never again! never again!"
Carnival Time, 1832.
In the parsonage lies a farm-hand with a broken jaw. Drink and quarrel and fight—it is ever the same. The priest has warned them often enough. He has called the brandy-distiller a poison-brewer, and a few days ago the distiller came to the parsonage, armed with a heavy stick. He poured out his complaints. The priest was spoiling his honest business. What was he to do? He took up a threatening attitude. "So you have come at last," said Father Paulus; "I was going to come to you. So you won't give them any more spirits—you are a benefactor of the community! I quite agree with you. You will prepare medicines and oils and ointments from the roots and resin? I'll help you, and in a few years you will be a well-to-do man."
The distiller was speechless. He had said nothing of the sort, but it all seemed so reasonable to him. He grumbled a few words, stumbled across the threshold, and threw his stick away as far as it would fly.
March 22, 1832.
Our priest died to-day.
I can scarcely believe it. But there is no knocking at the window as I pass the parsonage—no friendly face smiling at me. And I can scarcely believe that he has gone.
Ascension Day, 1835.
A few days ago I had a letter from my former pupil, our present master. He was ill, tired of the world, and wanted to find peace and rest in the mountains. He remembered his old teacher, and asked me to be his guide. I went to meet him, and he behaved so strangely that I thought I was walking with a madman. On the second day he seemed better. He wanted to ascend at once the highest peak, known as the "Grey Tooth." And as we passed the dark mountain lake, we saw a beautiful young woman bathing. She looked like a water-nymph. But when she saw us she disappeared under the water, and did not show herself again. Was she drowning herself from very modesty? I pulled her out of the water, we dressed her; then fear gave her strength, she jumped up and ran away. It was my "Forest Lily."
Hermann no longer insisted on climbing the mountain. He came with me to Winkelsteg, remained three days, made Berthold gamekeeper, and arranged that he should forthwith marry Aga in our church. Before he left he said to me: "She thought more of her maidenhood than of her life. I never knew there were such women. This is a new world for me—I, too, belong to the forest. I entrust her to you—teach her if she wants to learn, and take care of her. And keep the secret If I can be cured, I shall return."
It has come to pass. Schrankenheim has broken through class prejudice. Two days ago he was married to Forest Lily in our church. They have left us, and have gone to the beautiful city of Salzburg.
The years pass in loneliness and monotony. Yet they have brought a great change. A prosperous village now surrounds the church, and orchards surround the village. And the folk are no longer savages. How smartly they are now dressed on Sundays! The young people have more knowledge than the old, but too little reverence for the old. But they still smoke tobacco and drink spirits. What can an old schoolmaster do quite by himself?
Hermann's beautiful sister, she who turned my head so many years ago, is coming here to seek refuge from the troubles in town, where they are building barricades. I must see that everything is made pleasant and comfortable for her.
To-day she gave a dinner party, and invited the parson and the innkeeper. And I was sent a piece of meat and a glass of wine. I gave it to a beggar. So two beggars have received alms to-day. I hear they spoke of me during dinner. She said I received charity from her father when I was a poor student; then I ran away from school and returned as a vagabond. So you know it now, Andreas Erdmann!
Christmas Eve, 1864.
I have not left the forest for fifty years. If I could only see the sea. They say on a clear day you can see it from the "Grey Tooth." To-morrow——
Here the diary broke off abruptly. The next day being bright and sunny, I engaged a lad to guide me on the deferred ascent. It was glorious. And whilst my eyes were searching the far distance, my companion gave a sudden scream, and pointed—at a human head protruding from the snow. He recognised the schoolmaster. We dug him out of the hard snow and found in his pocket a paper on which a shaky hand had written in pencil: "Christmas Day. At sunset I beheld the sea and lost my eyesight"
* * * * *
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
The New Heloise
Jean Jacques Rousseau, born at Geneva on June 28, 1712, tells the story of his own life in the "Confessions" (see LIVES AND LETTERS, Vol. X). All his dreams of felicity having been shattered, he took up his abode in Paris, where he made a poor living by copying music. Hither, again, he returned after a short stay in Venice, where he acted as secretary in the Embassy. He now secured work on the great Encyclopaedia, and became known, in 1749, by an essay on the arts and sciences, in which he attacked all culture as an evidence and cause of social degeneration. A successful opera followed in 1753; and to the same year belongs his "Essay on Inequality among Men" ("Discours sur l'inegalite parmi les Hommes"), in which he came forward as the apostle of the state of nature, and of anarchy. His revolutionary ideas were viewed with great displeasure by the authorities, and he fled in 1764 to Switzerland; and in 1766, under the auspices of David Hume, to England. Rousseau wrote "The New Heloise" ("La Nouvelle Heloise") in 1756-7, while residing at the Hermitage at Montmorency—an abode where, in spite of certain quarrels and emotional episodes, he passed some of the most placid days of his life. This book, the title of which was founded on the historic love of Abelard and Heloise (see Vol. IX), was published in 1760. Rousseau's primary intention was to reveal the effect of passion upon persons of simple but lofty nature, unspoiled by the artificialities of society. The work may be described as a novel because it cannot very well be described as anything else. It is overwhelmingly long and diffuse; the slender stream of narrative threads its way through a wilderness of discourses on the passions, the arts, society, rural life, religion, suicide, natural scenery, and nearly everything else that Rousseau was interested in—and his interests were legion. "The New Heloise" is thoroughly characteristic of the wandering, enthusiastic, emotional-genius of its author. Several brilliant passages in it are ranked among the classics of French literature; and of the work as a whole, it may be said, judicially and without praise or censure, that there is nothing quite like it in any literature. Rousseau died near Paris, July 2, 1778.
I.—"The Course of True Love"
I must escape from you, mademoiselle. I must see you no more.
You know that I entered your house as tutor to yourself and your cousin, Mademoiselle Claire, at your mother's invitation. I did not foresee the peril; at any rate, I did not fear it. I shall not say that I am now paying the price of my rashness, for I trust I shall never fail in the respect due to your high birth, your beauty, and your noble character. But I confess that you have captured my heart. How could I fail to adore the touching union of keen sensibility and unchanging sweetness, the tender pity, all those spiritual qualities that are worth so much more to me than personal charms?
I have lost my reason. I promise to strive to recover it. You, and you alone, can help me. Forbid me from appearing in your presence, show this letter if you like to your parents; drive me away. I can endure anything from you. I am powerless to escape of my own accord.
I must, then, reveal my secret! I have striven to resist, but I am powerless. Everything seems to magnify my love for you; all nature seems to be your accomplice; every effort that I make is in vain. I adore you in spite of myself.
I hope and I believe that a heart which has seemed to me to deserve the whole attachment of mine will not belie the generosity that I expect of it; and I hope, also that if you should prove unworthy of the devotion I feel for you, my indignation and contempt will restore to me the reason that my love has caused me to lose.
Oh, how am I to realise the torrent of delights that pours into my heart? And how can I best reassure the alarms of a timid and loving woman? Pure and heavenly beauty, judge more truly, I beseech you, of the nature of your power. Believe me, if I adore your loveliness, it is because of the spotless soul of which that loveliness is the outward token. When I cease to love virtue, I shall cease to love you, and I shall no longer ask you to love me.
My friend, I feel that every day I become more attached to you; the smallest absence from you is insupportable; and when you are not with me I must needs write you, so that I may occupy myself with you unceasingly.
My mind is troubled with news that my father has just told me. He is expecting a visit from his old friend, M. de Wolmar; and it is to M. de Wolmar, I suspect, that he designs that I should be married. I cannot marry without the approval of those who gave me life; and you know what the fury of my father would be if I were to confess my love for you—for he would assuredly not suffer me to be united to one whom he deems my inferior in that mere worldly rank for which I care nothing. Yet I cannot marry a man I do not love; and you are the only man I shall ever love.
It pains me that I must not reveal our secret to my dear mother, who esteems you so highly; but would she not reveal it, from a sense of duty, to my father? It is best that only my inseparable Cousin Claire should know the truth.
FROM CLAIRE TO JULIE
I have bad news for you, my dear cousin. First of all, your love affair is being gossipped about; secondly, this gossip has indirectly brought your lover into serious danger.
You have met my lord Edouard Bomston, the young English noble who is now staying at Vevay. Your lover has been on terms of such warm friendship with him ever since they met at Sion some time ago that I could not believe they would ever have quarrelled. Yet they quarrelled last night, and about you.
During the evening, M. d'Orbe tells me, mylord Edouard drank freely, and began to talk about you. Your lover was displeased and silent. Mylord Edouard, angered at his coldness, declared that he was not always cold, and that somebody, who should be nameless, caused him to behave in a very different manner. Your lover drew his sword instantly; mylord Edouard drew also, but stumbled in his intoxication, and injured his leg. In spite of M. d'Orbe's efforts to reconcile them, a meeting was arranged to take place as soon as mylord Edouard's leg was better.
You must prevent the duel somehow, for mylord Edouard is a dangerous swordsman. Meanwhile, I am terrified lest the gossip about you should reach your father's ears. It would be best to get your lover to go away before any mischief comes to pass.
FROM JULIE TO MYLORD EDOUARD
I am told that you are about to fight the man whom I love—for it is true that I love him—and that he will probably die by your hand. Enjoy in advance, if you can, the pleasure of piercing the bosom of your friend, but be sure that you will not have that of contemplating my despair. For I swear that I shall not survive by one day the death of him who is to me as my life's breath. Thus you will have the glory of slaying with a single stroke two hapless lovers who have never willingly committed a fault towards you, and who have delighted to honour you.
Have no fear for me, dearest Julie. Read this, and I am sure that you will share in my feelings of gratitude and affection towards the man with whom I have quarrelled.
This morning mylord Edouard entered my room, accompanied by two gentlemen. "I have come," he said, "to withdraw the injurious words that intoxication led me to utter in your presence. Pardon me, and restore to me your friendship. I am ready to endure any chastisement that you see fit to inflict upon me."
"Mylord," I replied, "I acknowledge your nobility of spirit. The words you uttered when you were not yourself are henceforth utterly forgotten." I embraced him, and he bade the gentlemen withdraw.
When we were alone, he gave me the warmest testimonies of friendship; and, touched by his generosity, I told him the whole story of our love. He promised enthusiastically to do what he could to further our happiness; and this is the nobler in him, inasmuch as he admitted that he had himself conceived a tender admiration for you.
Dearest, the worst has happened. My father knows of our love. He came to me yesterday pale with fury; in his wrath he struck me. Then, suddenly, he took me in his arms and implored my forgiveness. But I know that he will never consent to our union; I shall never dare to mention your name in his presence. My love for you is unalterable; our souls are linked by bonds that time cannot dissolve. And yet—my duty to my parents! How can I do right by wronging them? Oh, pity my distraction!
It seems that mylord Edouard impulsively asked my father for his consent to our union, telling him how deeply we loved each other, and that he would mortally injure his daughter's happiness if he denied her wishes. My father replied, in bitter anger, that he would never suffer his child to be united to a man of humble birth. Mylord Edouard hotly retorted that mere distinctions of birth were worthless when weighed in the scale with true refinement and true virtue. They had a long and violent argument, and parted in enmity.
I must take counsel with Cousin Claire, who never suffers her reason to be clouded with those heart-torments of which I am the unhappy victim.
FROM CLAIRE TO JULIE
On learning of your distress, dear cousin, I made up my mind that your lover must go away, for your sake and his own; I summoned M. d'Orbe and mylord Edouard. I told M. d'Orbe that the success of his suit to me depended on his help to you. You know that my friendship for you is greater than any love can be. Mylord Edouard acted splendidly. He promised to endow your lover with a third of his estate, and to take him to Paris and London, there to win the distinction that his talents deserve.
M. d'Orbe went to order a chaise, and I proceeded to your lover and told him that it was his duty to leave at once. At first he passionately refused, then he yielded to despair; then he begged to be allowed to see you once more. I refused; I urged that all delays were dangerous. His agony brought tears to my eyes, but I was firm. M. d'Orbe led him away; mylord Edouard was waiting with the chaise, and they are now on the way to Besancon and Paris.
Why was I not allowed to see you before leaving? Did you fear that the parting would kill me? Be reassured. I do not suffer—I think of you—I think of the time when I was dear to you. Nay, you love me yet, I know it. But why so cruelly drive me away? Say one word, and I return like the lightning. Ah, these babblings are but flung into empty air. I shall live and die far away from you—I have lost you for ever!
FROM MYLORD EDOUARD TO JULIE
Deep depression has succeeded violent grief in the mind of your lover. But I can count upon his heart, it is a heart framed to fight and to conquer.
I have a proposition to make which I hope you will carefully consider. In your happiness and your lover's I have a tender and inextinguishable interest, since between you I perceive a deeper harmony than I have ever known to exist between man and woman. Your present misfortunes are due to my indiscretion; let me do what I can to repair the fault.
I have in Yorkshire an old castle and a large estate. They are yours and your lover's, Julie, if you will accept them. You can escape from Vevay with the aid of my valet, when I have left there; you can join your lover, be wedded to him, and spend the rest of your days happily in the place of refuge I have designed for you.
Reflect upon this, I beseech you. I should add that I have said nothing of this project to your lover. The decision rests with you and you alone.
FROM JULIE TO MYLORD EDOUARD
Your letter, mylord, fills me with gratitude and admiration. It would indeed be joy for me to gain happiness under the auspices of so generous a friend, and to procure from his kindness the contentment that fortune has denied me.
But could contentment ever be granted to me if I had the consciousness of having pitilessly abandoned those who gave me birth? I am their only living child; all their pleasure, all their hope is in me. Can I deliver up their closing days to shame, regrets, and tears? No, mylord, happiness could not be bought at such a price. I dare brave all the sorrows that await me here; remorse I dare not brave.
FROM JULIE TO HER LOVER
I have just returned from the wedding of Claire and M. d'Orbe. You will, I know, share my pleasure in the happiness of our dearest friend; and such is the worth of the friendship that joins us, that the good fortune of one of us should be a real consolation for the sorrows of the other two.
Continue to write me from Paris, but let me tell you that I am not pleased with the bitterness of your letters—a bitterness unworthy of my philosophic tutor of the happy bygone days at Vevay. I wish my true love to see all things clearly, and to be the just and honest man I have always deemed him—not a cynic who seeks a sorry comfort in misfortune by carping at the rest of mankind.
FROM MADAME D'ORBE TO JULIE'S LOVER
I am about to ask of you a great sacrifice; but I know you will perceive it to be a necessary sacrifice, and I think that your devotion to Julie's true happiness will endure even this final test.
Julie's mother has died, and Julie has tormented herself with the idea that her love troubles have hastened her parent's end. Since then she has had a serious illness, and is now in a depressed state both physically and mentally. Nothing, I am convinced, can cure her save absolute oblivion of the past, and the beginning of a new life—a married life.
M. de Wolmar is here once more, and Julie's father will insist upon her union with him. This quiet, emotionless, observant man cannot win her love, but he can bring her peace. Will you cease from all correspondence with her, and renounce all claim to her? Remember that Julie's whole future depends upon your answer. Her father will force her to obey him; prove that you are worthy of her love by removing all obstacles to her obedience.
FROM JULIE'S LOVER TO HER FATHER
I hereby renounce all claims upon the hand of Julie d'Etange, and acknowledge her right to dispose of herself in matrimony without consulting her heart.
FROM MADAME D'ORBE TO JULIE'S LOVER
Julie is married. Give thanks to the heaven that has saved you both. Respect her new estate; do not write to her, but wait to hear from her. Now is the time when I shall learn whether you are worthy of the esteem I have ever felt for you.
FROM MYLORD EDOUARD TO JULIE'S LOVER
A squadron is fitting out at Plymouth for the tour of the globe, under the command of my old friend George Anson. I have obtained permission for you to accompany him. Will you go?
FROM JULIE'S LOVER TO MADAME D'ORBE
I am starting, dear and charming cousin, for a voyage round the world—to seek in another hemisphere the peace that I cannot enjoy in this. Adieu, tender and inseparable friends, may you make each other's happiness!
III.—The Philosophic Husband
FROM M. DE WOLMAR TO SAINT PREUX (PSEUDONYM OF JULIE'S LOVER)
I learn that you have returned to Europe after all these years of travel. Although I have not as yet the pleasure of knowing you, permit me nevertheless to address you. The wisest and dearest of women has opened her heart to me. I believe that you are worthy of having been loved by her, and I invite you to our home. Innocence and peace reign within it; you will find there friendship, hospitality, esteem, and confidence.
P.S.—Come, my friend; we wait you with eagerness. Do not grieve me by a refusal.
FROM SAINT PREUX TO MYLORD EDOUARD
I have seen her, mylord! She has called me her friend—her dear friend. I am happier than ever I was in my life.
Yet when I approached M. de Wolmar's house at Clarens, I was in a state of frantic nervousness. Could I bear to see my old love in the possession of another? Would I not be driven to despair? As the carriage neared Clarens, I wished that it would break down. When I dismounted I awaited Julie in mortal anxiety. She came running and calling out to me, she seized me in her arms. All my terrors were banished, I knew no feeling but joy.
M. de Wolmar, meanwhile, was standing beside us. She turned to him, and introduced me to him as her old friend. "If new friends have less ardour than old ones," he said to me as he embraced me, "they will be old friends in their turn, and will yield nothing to others." My heart was exhausted, I received his embraces passively.
When we reached the drawing-room she disappeared for a moment, and returned—not alone. She brought her two children with her, darling little boys, who bore on their countenances the charm and the fascination of their mother. A thousand thoughts rushed into my mind, I could not speak; I took them in my arms, and welcomed their innocent caresses.
The children withdrew, and M. de Wolmar was called away. I was alone with Julie. I was conscious of a painful restraint; she was seemingly at ease, and I became gradually reassured. We talked of my travels, and of her married life; there was no mention of our old relations.
I came to realise how Julie was changed, and yet the same. She is a matron, the happy mother of children, the happy mistress of a prosperous household. Her old love is not extinguished; but it is subdued by domestic peace and by her unalterable virtue—let me add, by the trust and kindness of her elderly husband, whose unemotional goodness has been just what was needed to soothe her passion and sorrow. I am her old and dear friend; I can never be more. And, believe me, I am content. Occasionally, pangs of regret tear at my heart, but they do not last long; my passion is cured, and I can never experience another.
How can I describe to you the peace and felicity that reign in this household? M. de Wolmar is, above all things, a man of system; the life of the establishment moves with ordered regularity from the year's beginning to its end. But the system is not mechanical; it is founded on wide experience of men, and governed by philosophy. In the home life of Julie and her husband and children luxury is never permitted; even the table delicacies are simple products of the country. But, without luxury, there is perfect comfort and perfect confidence. I have never known a community so thoroughly happy, and it is a deep joy to me to be admitted as a cherished member of it.
One day M. de Wolmar drew Julie and myself aside, and where do you think he took us? To a plantation near the house, which Julie had never entered since her marriage. It was there that she had first kissed me. She was unwilling to enter the place, but he drew her along with him, and bade us be seated. Then he began:
"Julie, I knew the secret of your love before you revealed it to me. I knew it before I married you. I may have been in the wrong to marry you, knowing that your heart was elsewhere; but I loved you, and I believed I could make you happy. Have I succeeded?"
"My dear husband," said Julie, in tears, "you know you have succeeded."
"One thing only," he went on, "was necessary to prove to you that your old passion was powerless against your virtue, and that was the presence of your old lover. I trusted you; I believed, from my knowledge of you, that I could trust him. I invited him here, and since then I have been quietly watching. My high anticipations of him are justified. And as for you, Julie, the haunting fears that your virtue would fail before the test inflicted by the return of your lover have, once and for all, been put to rest. Past wounds are healed. Monsieur," he added, turning to me, "you have proved yourself worthy of our fullest confidence and our warmest friendship."
What could I answer? I could but embrace him in silence.
Madame d'Orbe, now a widow, is about to come here to take permanent charge of the household, leaving Julie to devote herself to the training of the children.
Hasten to join us, mylord; your coming is anxiously awaited. For my own part, I shall not be content until you have looked with your own eyes upon the peaceful delights of our life at Clarens.
FROM SAINT PREUX TO MYLORD EDOUARD
Madame d'Orbe is now with us. We look to you to complete the party. When you have made a long stay at Clarens, I shall be ready to join you in your projected journey to Rome.
Julie has revealed to me the one trouble of her life. Her husband is a freethinker. Will you aid me in trying to convince him of his error, and thus perfecting Julie's happiness?
FROM SAINT PREUX TO MADAME D'ORBE
Mylord Edouard and I, after leaving you all yesterday, proceeded no farther than Villeneuve; an accident to one of mylord's attendants delayed us, and we spent the night there.
As you know, I had parted from Julie with regret, but without violent emotion. Yet, strangely enough, when I was alone last night the old grief came back. I had lost her! She lived and was happy; her life was my death, her happiness my torment! I struggled with these ideas. When I lay down, they pursued me in my sleep.
At length I started up from a hideous dream. I had seen Julie stretched upon her death-bed. I knew it was she, although her face was covered by a veil. I advanced to tear it off; I could not reach it. "Be calm, my friend," she said feebly; "the veil of dread covers me, no hand can remove it." I made another effort, and awoke.
Again I slept, again I dreamt the dream. A third time I slept, a third time it appeared to me. This was too much. I fled from my room to mylord Edouard's.
At first, he treated the dream as a jest; but, seeing my panic-stricken earnestness, he changed his tune. "You will have a chance of recovering your reason to-morrow," he said. Next morning we set out on our journey, as I thought. Brooding over my dream, I never noticed that the lake was on the left-hand of the carriage, that we were returning. When I roused myself, I found that we were back again at Clarens!
"Now, go and see her again; prove that the dream was wrong," said Edouard.
I went nervously, feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself. I could hear you and Julie talking in the garden. I was cured in an instant of my superstitious folly; it fled from my mind. I retired without seeing her, feeling a man again. I rejoined mylord Edouard, and drove back to Villeneuve. We are about to resume the journey to Rome.
FROM MADAME D'ORBE TO SAINT PREUX
Why did you not come to see us, instead of merely listening to our voices? You have transfixed the terror of your dream to me. Until your return, I shall never look upon Julie without trembling, lest I should lose her.
M. de Wolmar has let you know his wish that you should remain permanently with us and superintend the education of his children. I am sure you will accept Rejoin us swiftly, then; I shall not have an easy moment until you are amongst us once more.
FROM MADAME D'ORBE TO SAINT PREUX
It has come to pass. You will never see her more! The veil! The veil! Julie is dead!
FROM M. DE WOLMAR TO SAINT PREUX
I have allowed your first hours of grief to pass in silence. I was in no condition to give details, nor you to receive them. Now I may write, and you may read.
We were on a visit to the castle of Chillon, guests of the bailli of Vevay. After dinner the whole party walked on the ramparts, and our youngest son slipped and fell into the deep water. Julie plunged in after him. Both were rescued; the child was soon brought round, but Julie's state was critical. When she had recovered a little, she was taken back to Clarens. The doctor told her she had but three days to live. She spent those three days in perfect cheerfulness and tranquillity of spirit, conversing with Madame D'Orbe, the pastor, and myself, expressing her content that her life should end at a time when she had attained complete happiness. On the fourth morning we found her lifeless.
During the three days she wrote a letter, which I enclose. Fulfil her last requests. There yet remains much for you to do on earth.
FROM JULIE TO SAINT PREUX
All is changed, my dear friend; let us suffer the change without a murmur. It was not well for us that we should rejoin each other.
For it was an illusion that my love for you was cured; now, in the presence of death, I know that I still love you. I avow this without shame, for I have done my duty. My virtue is without stain, my love without remorse.
Come back to Clarens; train my children, comfort their noble father, lead him into the light of Christian faith. Claire, like yourself, is about to lose the half of her life; let each of you preserve the other half by a union that in these latter days I have often wished to bring about.
Adieu, sweet friend, adieu!
* * * * *
BERNARDIN DE ST. PIERRE
Paul and Virginia
Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint Pierre was born at Havre on January 19, 1737. Like many boys that are natives of seaports, he was anxious to become a sailor; but a single voyage cured him of his desire for a seafaring life, although not of his love for travel. For some years afterwards he was a rolling stone, sometimes soldier and sometimes engineer, visiting one European country after another. In 1771 he obtained a government appointment in Mauritius, a spot which was the subject of his first book (see TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE, Vol. XIX), and which was afterwards made the scene of "Paul and Virginia." In his "Nature Studies," 1783, he showed an enthusiasm for nature that contrasted vividly with the artificiality of most eighteenth-century writers; but his fame was not established until he had set all the ladies of France weeping with his "Paul and Virginia," perhaps the most sentimental book ever written. It was published in 1787, and although it does not cause in modern readers the tearful raptures that it provoked on its first appearance, its fame has survived as the most notable work of a romantic and nature-loving sentimentalist with remarkable powers of narration. Saint Pierre died on January 21, 1814.
I.—The Home Among the Rocks
On the eastern declivity of the mountain which rises behind Port Louis, in the Isle of France, are still to be seen, on a spot of ground formerly cultivated, the ruins of two little cottages. They are situated almost in the midst of a basin formed by enormous rocks, with only one opening, from which you may look upon Port Louis and the sea.
I took pleasure in retiring to this place, where one can at once enjoy an unbounded prospect and profound solitude. One day, as I was sitting near the cottages, an elderly man approached me. His hair was completely white, his aspect simple and majestic. I saluted him, and he sat down beside me.
"Can you inform me, father," I asked, "to whom these two cottages belonged?"
"My son," replied he, "these ruins were inhabited by two families, which there found the means of true happiness. But who will deign to take an interest in the history, however affecting, of a few obscure individuals?"
"Father," I replied, "relate to me, I beseech you, what you know of them; and be assured that there is no man, however depraved by prejudices, but loves to hear of the felicity which nature and virtue bestow."
Upon this the old man related what follows.
In the year 1735 there came to this spot a young widow named Madame de la Tour. She was of a noble Norman family; but her husband was of obscure birth. She had married him portionless, and against the will of her relations, and they had journeyed here to seek their fortune. The husband soon died, and his widow found herself destitute of every possession except a single negro woman. She resolved to seek a subsistence by cultivating a small plot of ground, and this was the spot that she chose.
Providence had one blessing in store for Madame de la Tour—the blessing of a friend. Inhabiting this spot was a sprightly and sensible woman of Brittany, named Margaret. She, like madame, had suffered from the sorrows of love; she had fled to the colonies, and had here established herself with her baby and an old negro, whom she had purchased with a poor, borrowed purse.
When Madame de la Tour had unfolded to Margaret her former condition and her present wants the good woman was moved with compassion; she tendered to the stranger a shelter in her cottage and her friendship. I knew them both, and went to offer them my assistance. The territory in the rock-basin, amounting to about twenty acres, I divided equally between them. Margaret's cottage was on the boundary of her own domain, and close at hand I built another cottage for Madame de la Tour. Scarcely had I completed it when a daughter was born to madame. She was called Virginia; the infant son of Margaret bore the name of Paul.
The two friends, so dear to each other in spite of their difference in rank, spun cotton for a livelihood. They seldom visited Port Louis, for fear of the contempt with which they were treated on account of the coarseness of their dress. But if they were exposed to a little suffering when abroad, they returned home with so much more additional satisfaction. They found there cleanliness and freedom, blessings which they owed entirely to their own industry, and to servants animated with zeal and affection. As for themselves, they had but one will, one interest, one table. They had everything in common.
Their mutual love redoubled at the sight of their two children. Nothing was to be compared with the attachment which the babes showed for each other. If Paul complained, they brought Virginia to him; at the sight of her he was pacified. If Virginia suffered, Paul lamented; but Virginia was wont to conceal her pain, that her sufferings might not distress him. All their study was to please and assist each other. They had been taught no religion but that which instructs us to love one another; and they raised toward heaven innocent hands and pure hearts, filled with the love of their parents. Thus passed their early infancy, like a beautiful dawn, which seems to promise a still more beautiful day.
Madame de la Tour had moments of uneasiness during her daughter's childhood; sometimes she used to say to me: "If I should die what would become of Virginia, dowerless as she is?" She had an aunt in France, a woman of quality, rich, old, and a devotee, to whom she had written at the time of Virginia's birth. Not until 1746—eleven years later—did a reply reach her. Her aunt told her that she merited her condition for having married an adventurer; that the untimely death of her husband was a just chastisement of God; that she had done well not to dishonour her country by returning to France; and that after all she was in an excellent country, where everybody made fortunes except the idle.
She added, however, that in spite of all this she had strongly recommended her to the governor of the island, M. de la Bourdonaye. But, conformably to a custom too prevalent, in feigning to pity she had calumniated her; and, consequently, madame was received by the governor with the greatest coolness.
Returning to the plantation with a bitter heart, madame read the letter tearfully to all the family. Margaret clasped her to her arms; Virginia, weeping, kissed her hands; Paul stamped with rage; the servants hearing the noise, ran in to comfort her.
Such marks of affection soon dissipated madame's anguish.
"Oh, my children!" she cried. "Misfortune only attacks me from afar; happiness is ever around me!"
As the years went on, Paul and Virginia grew up together in purity and contentment. Every succeeding day was to them a day of happiness. They were strangers to the torments of envy and ambition. By living in solitude, so far from degenerating into savages, they had become more humane. If the scandalous history of society did not supply them with topics of discourse, nature filled their hearts with transports of wonder and delight. They contemplated with rapture the power of that Providence which, by aid of their hands, had diffused amid these barren rocks abundance, beauty, and simple and unceasing pleasures.
When the weather was fine, the families went on Sundays to mass at the church of Pamplemousses. When mass was over, they ministered to the sick or gave comfort to the distressed. From these visits Virginia often returned with her eyes bathed in tears, but her heart overflowing with joy, for she had been blessed with an opportunity of doing good.
Paul and Virginia had no clocks nor almanacs nor books of history or philosophy; the periods of their lives were regulated by those of nature. They knew the hour of the day by the shadow of the trees; the seasons by the times when the trees bore flowers or fruits; and years by the number of the harvests.
"It is dinner-time," Virginia would say to the family; "the shadows of the banana-trees are at their feet." Or, "Night approaches, for the tamarinds are closing their leaves."
When asked about her age and that of Paul, "My brother," she would answer, "is the same age with the great coconut-tree of the fountain, and I the same age with the small one. The mango-trees have yielded their fruit twelve times, and the orange-trees have opened their blossoms twenty-four times since I came into the world."
Thus did these two children of nature advance in life; hitherto no care had wrinkled their foreheads, no intemperance had corrupted their blood, no unhappy passion had depraved their hearts; love, innocence, piety were daily unfolding the beauties of their souls in graces ineffable, in their features, their attitude, and their movements.
Nevertheless, in time Virginia felt herself disturbed by a strange malady. Serenity no longer sat upon her forehead, nor smiles upon her lips. She withdrew herself from her innocent amusements, from her sweet occupations, and from the society of her family.
Sometimes, at the sight of Paul, she ran up to him playfully, when all of a sudden an unaccountable embarrassment seized her; a lively red coloured her cheeks, and her eyes no longer dared to fix themselves on his.
Meanwhile Margaret said to Madame de la Tour, "Why should we not marry our children? Their passion for each other is extreme, although my son is not sensible of it."
"Not yet," answered madame; "they are too young, and too poor. But if we send Paul to India for a short time, commerce will supply him with the means of buying some slaves. On his return we will marry him to Virginia, for I am certain that no one can make my daughter so happy as your son Paul. Let us consult our neighbour about it."
So they discussed the matter with me, and I approved of their plan. But when I opened the business to Paul, I was astonished when he replied, "Why would you have me quit my family for a visionary project of fortune? If we wish to engage in trade, cannot we do so by carrying our superfluities to the city, without any necessity for my rambling to India? What if any accident should befall my family during my absence, more especially Virginia, who even now is suffering? Ah, no! I could never make up my mind to quit them."
I durst not hint to him that Virginia was lovesick, and that the voyage had been projected that the two might be separated until they had grown a little older.
Just at this time a letter came to Madame de la Tour from her aunt, who had just recovered from a dangerous illness, and whose obdurate heart had been softened by the fear of death. She requested her niece to return to France; or, if the state of her health prevented her from undertaking the voyage, to send Virginia thither, on whom she intended to bestow a good education, a place at court, and a bequest of all her possessions. The return of her favour, she added, depended entirely on compliance with these injunctions.
The letter filled the family with utter consternation.
"Can you leave us?" Margaret asked, in deep anxiety.
"No," replied madame, "I will never leave you. With you I have lived, and with you I mean to die."
At these words tears of joy bedewed the cheeks of the whole household, and the most joyous of all, although she gave the least testimony to her pleasure, was Virginia.
But next morning they were surprised to receive a visit from the governor. He, too, had heard from madame's aunt. "Surely," he said, "you cannot without injustice deprive your young and beautiful daughter of so great an inheritance." Taking madame aside, he told her that a vessel was on the point of sailing, and that a lady who was related to him would take care of her daughter. He then placed upon the table a large bag of piastres, which one of his slaves had brought. "This," he said, "is what your aunt has sent to make the preparations for the voyage."
After the governor had left, madame urged her daughter to go. But wealth had no temptations for Virginia. She thought only of her family, and of her love for Paul. "Oh, I shall never have resolution to quit you!" she cried.
But in the evening came her father confessor, sent by the governor. "My children," said he as he entered, "there is wealth in store for you now, thanks to Heaven. You have at length the means of gratifying your benevolent feeling by ministering to the unhappy. We must obey the will of Providence," he continued, turning to Virginia. "It is a sacrifice, I grant, but it is the command of the Almighty."
Virginia, with downcast eyes and trembling voice, replied, "If it is the command of God that I should go, God's will be done." And burst into tears.
I was with the family at supper that evening. Little was eaten, and nobody uttered a syllable.
After supper Virginia rose first, and went out. Paul quickly followed her. The rest of us went out soon afterwards, and we sat down under the banana-trees. Paul and Virginia were not far off, and we heard every word they said.
"You are going to leave us," began Paul, "for the sake of a relation whom you have never seen!"
"Alas!" replied Virginia. "Had I been allowed to follow my own inclinations, I should have remained here all my days. But my mother wishes me to go. My confessor says it is the will of God that I should go."
"Ah!" said Paul. "And do you say nothing of the attractions of wealth? You will soon find another on whom you can bestow the name of brother among your equals—one who has riches and high birth, which I cannot offer you. But whither can you go to be more happy than where you are? Cruel girl! How will our mothers bear this separation? What will become of me? Oh, since a new destiny attracts you, since you seek fortune in far countries, let me at least go with you! I will follow you as your slave."
Paul's voice was stifled with sobs. "It is for your sake that I go!" cried Virginia tearfully. "You have laboured daily to support us. By my wealth I shall seek to repay the good you have done to us all. And would I choose any brother but thee! Oh, Paul, Paul, you are far dearer to me than a brother!"
At these words he clasped her in his arms. "I shall go with her. Nothing shall shake my resolution!" he declared, in a terrible voice.
We ran towards them, and Paul turned savagely on Madame de la Tour. "Do you act the part of a mother," he cried, "you who separate brother and sister? Pitiless woman! May the ocean never give her back to your arms!" His eyes sparkled; sweat ran down his countenance.
"Oh, my friend," cried Virginia to him in terror, "I swear by all that could ever unite two unhappy beings that if I remain here I will only live for you; and if I depart, I will one day return to be yours!"
His head drooped; a torrent of tears gushed from his eyes.
"Come to-night to my home, my friend," I said. "We will talk this matter over to-morrow."
"I cannot let her go!" cried madame, in distraction.
Paul accompanied me in silence. After a restless night he arose at daybreak, and returned to his own home.
Virginia had gone! The vessel had sailed at daybreak, and she was on board.
By intricate paths Paul climbed to the summit of a rock cone, from which a vast area of sea was visible. From here he perceived the vessel that bore away Virginia; and here I found him in the evening, his head leaning against the rock, his eyes fixed on the ground.
When I had persuaded him to return home, he bitterly reproached madame with having so cruelly deceived him. She told us that a breeze had sprung up in the early morning, and that the governor himself, his officers, and the confessor has come and carried Virginia off in spite of all their tears and protests, the governor declaring that it was for their good that she was thus hurried away.
Paul wandered miserably among all the spots that had been Virginia's favourites. He looked at her goats, and at the birds that came fluttering to be fed by the hand of her who had gone. He watched the dog vainly searching, following the scent up and down. He cherished little things that had been hers—the last nosegay she had worn, the coconut cup out of which she was accustomed to drink.
At length he began to labour in the plantation again. He also besought me to teach him reading and writing, so that he might correspond with Virginia; and geography and history, that he might learn the situation and character of the country whither she had gone.
We heard a report that Virginia had reached France in safety; but for two years we heard no other news of her.
When at length a letter arrived from Virginia it appeared that she had written several times before, but as she had received no replies, she feared that her great-aunt had intercepted her former letters.
She had been placed in a convent school, and although she lived in the midst of riches, she had not the disposal of a single farthing. She was not allowed to mention her mother's name, and was bidden to forget the land of savages where she was born; but she would sooner forget herself.
To Paul she sent some flower-seeds in a small purse, on which were embroidered the letters "P" and "V" formed of hair that he knew to be Virginia's.
But reports were current that gave him great uneasiness. The people of the vessel that had brought the letter asserted that Virginia was about to be married to a great nobleman; some even declared that the wedding was already over.
But soon afterwards his disquietude ceased at the news that Virginia was about to return.
On the morning of December 24, 1752, Paul saw a signal indicating that a vessel was descried at sea, and he hastened to the city. A pilot went out to reconnoitre her according to the custom of the port; he came back in the evening with the news that the vessel was the Saint Gerard, and that her captain hoped to bring her to anchor off Port Louis on the following afternoon. Virginia was on board, and sent by the pilot a letter to her mother which Paul, after kissing it with transport, carried hurriedly to the plantation.
Virginia wrote that her great-aunt had tried to force her into marriage, had disinherited her on her refusal, and had sent her back to the island. Her only wish now was once more to see and embrace her dear family.
Paul, in his excitement, rushed to tell me the news, although it was late at night. As we walked together we were overtaken by a breathless negro.
"A vessel from France has just cast anchor under Amber Island," he said. "She is firing distress guns, for the sea is very heavy."
"That will be Virginia's vessel," I said. "Let us go that way to meet her."
The heat was stifling, and the flashes of lightning that illumined the dense darkness revealed masses of thick clouds lowering over the island. In the distance we heard the boom of the distress-gun. We quickened our pace without saying a word, not daring to communicate our anxiety to each other.
When we reached the coast by Amber Island, we found several planters gathered round a fire, discussing whether the vessel could enter the channel in the morning and find safety.
Soon after dawn the governor arrived with a detachment of soldiers, who immediately fired a volley. Close at hand came the answering boom of the ship's gun; in the dim light we could see her masts and yards, and hear the voices of the sailors. She had passed through the channel, and was secure—save from the hurricane.
But the hurricane came. Black clouds with copper edging hung in the zenith; seabirds made their way, screaming, to shelter in the island. Then fearful noises as of torrents were heard from the sea; the mists of the morning were swept away and the storm was upon us.
The vessel was now in deadly peril, and ere long what we had feared took place. The cables on her bows snapped, and she was dashed upon the rocks half a cable's length from the shore. A cry of grief burst from every breast.
Paul was about to fling himself into the sea, when I seized him by the arm.
"Oh. let me go to her rescue," he cried, "or let me die!"
I tied a rope round his waist, and he advanced toward the ship, sometimes walking, sometimes swimming. He hoped to get on board the vessel, for the sea in its irregular movements left her almost dry. But presently it returned with redoubled fury, and the unhappy Paul was hurled back upon the shore, bleeding, bruised, and senseless.
The ship was now going to pieces, and the despairing crew were flinging themselves into the sea. On the stern gallery stood Virginia, stretching out her arms towards the lover who sought to save her. When he was thrust back she waved her hand towards us, as if bidding us an eternal farewell.
One sailor remained with her, striving to persuade her to undress and try to swim ashore. With a dignified gesture she repelled him. Then a prodigious mountain of water swept towards the vessel. The sailor sprang off, and was carried ashore. Virginia vanished from our sight.
We found her body on the beach of a bay near at hand, whither much of the wreckage had been carried. Her eyes were closed, but her countenance showed perfect calm; only the pale violet of death blended itself upon her cheeks with the rose of modesty. One of her hands was firmly closed. I disengaged from it, with much difficulty, a little casket; within the casket was a portrait of Paul—a gift from him which she had promised never to part with while she lived.
Paul was taken home stretched on a palanquin. His coming brought a ray of comfort to the unhappy mothers; the tears, which had been till then restrained through excess of sorrow, now began to flow, and, nature being thus relieved, all the three bereaved ones fell into a lethargic repose.
It was three weeks ere Paul was sufficiently recovered to walk. For day after day, when his strength was restored, he wandered among the places endeared to him by memories of Virginia. His eyes grew hollow, his colour faded, his health gradually but visibly declined. I strove to mitigate his feelings by giving him change of scene, by taking him to the busy inhabited parts of the island. My efforts proving quite ineffectual, I tried to console him by reminding him that Virginia had gained eternal happiness.
"Since death is a blessing, and Virginia is happy," he replied mournfully, "I will die, also, that I may again be united to her."
Thus, the consolation I sought to administer only aggravated his despair.
Paul died two months after his beloved Virginia, whose name was ever on his lips to the last. Margaret survived her son only by a week, and Madame de la Tour, who had borne all her terrible losses with a greatness of soul beyond belief, lived but another month.
By the side of Virginia, at the foot of the bamboos near the church of Pamplemousses, Paul was laid to rest. Close at hand the two mothers were buried. No marble is raised over their humble graves, no inscriptions record their virtues, but in the hearts of those who loved them, they have left a memory that time can never efface.
With these words the old man, tears flowing from his eyes, arose and went away.
* * * * *
The life of the great French novelist, George Sand, is as romantic as any of the characters in her novels. She was born at Paris in July, 1804, her real name being Armandine Lucile Aurore Dupin. At eighteen she married the son of a colonel and baron of the empire, by name Dudevant, but after nine years she separated from her husband, and, bent upon a literary career, made her way to Paris. Success came quickly. Entering into a literary partnership with her masculine friend, Jules Sandeau, the chief fruit of their joint enterprise was "Rose et Blanche." This was followed by her independent novel, "Indiana," a story that brought her the enthusiastic praises of the reading public, and the warm friendship of the most distinguished personages in French literary society. A few years later her relations with the poet Alfred De Musset provided the matter for what is now an historic episode. Her literary output was enormous, consisting of a hundred or more volumes of novels and stories, four volumes of autobiography, and six of correspondence. Yet everything that she wrote is marked by that richness, delicacy and power of style and of thought which constitutes her genius. "Consuelo," which appeared in 1844, is typical of all these in its sparkling dialogue, flowing narrative, and vivid description. George Sand died on June 7, 1876.
Little Consuelo, at the age of fourteen, was the best of all the pupils of the Maestro Porpora, a famous Italian composer, of the eighteenth century.
At that time in Venice a certain number of children received a musical education at the expense of the state, and it was Porpora, the great musician—then a soured and disappointed man—who trained the voices of the girls. They were not equally poor, these young ladies, and among them were the daughters of needy artists, whose wandering existence did not permit them a long stay in Venice. Of such parentage was little Consuelo, born in Spain, and arriving in Italy by the strange routes of Bohemians. Not that Gonsuelo was really a gipsy. She was of good Spanish blood, and had a calmness of mind and manner quite foreign to the wandering races. A rare and happy temperament was hers, and, in spite of poverty and orphanhood—for her mother, who brought her to Venice, was dead—Consuelo worked on with Porpora, finding the labour an enjoyment, and overcoming the difficulties of her art as if by some invisible instinct.
When Consuelo was eighteen Count Zustiniani, having heard her sing in Porpora's choir, decided she must come out as a prima donna in his theatre. For the fame and success of this theatre Zustiniani cared more than for anything else in the world—not that he was eager for money, but because he was an enthusiast for music—a man of taste, an amateur, whose great business in life was to gratify his taste. He liked to be talked about and to have his theatre and his magnificence talked about.
The success of Consuelo was assured when she appeared for the first time in Gluck's "Ipermnestra." The debutante was at once self-possessed and serious, receiving the applause of the audience without fear or humility. For her art itself, and not the results of art, were the main thing, and her inward satisfaction in her performance did not depend on the amount of approbation manifested by the public.