Short Fiction

By Xavier de Maistre.

Translated by John Andrews, Henry Attwell, H. C. Carey, and I. Lea.

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A Journey Round My Room

I

What more glorious than to open for one’s self a new career⁠—to appear suddenly before the learned world with a book of discoveries in one’s hand, like an unlooked-for comet blazing in the empyrean!

No longer will I keep my book in obscurity. Behold it, gentlemen; read it! I have undertaken and performed a forty-two days’ journey round my room. The interesting observations I have made, and the constant pleasure I have experienced all along the road, made me wish to publish my travels; the certainty of being useful decided the matter. And when I think of the number of unhappy ones to whom I offer a never failing resource for weary moments, and a balm for the ills they suffer, my heart is filled with inexpressible satisfaction. The pleasure to be found in travelling round one’s room is sheltered from the restless jealousy of men, and is independent of Fortune.

Surely there is no being so miserable as to be without a retreat to which he can withdraw and hide himself from the world. Such a hiding-place will contain all the preparations our journey requires.

Every man of sense will, I am sure, adopt my system, whatever may be his peculiar character or temperament. Be he miserly or prodigal, rich or poor, young or old, born beneath the torrid zone or near the poles, he may travel with me. Among the immense family of men who throng the earth, there is not one, no, not one (I mean of those who inhabit rooms), who, after reading this book can refuse his approbation of the new mode of travelling I introduce into the world.

II

I might fairly begin the eulogium of my journey by saying it has cost me nothing. This point merits attention. It will gain for it the praise and welcome of people of moderate means. And not of these only: there is another class with whom its success will, on this account, be even more certain. “And who are they?” you ask. Why, the rich, to be sure. And then, again, what a comfort the new mode of travelling will be to the sick; they need not fear bleak winds or change of weather. And what a thing, too, it will be for cowards; they will be safe from pitfalls or quagmires. Thousands who hitherto did not dare, others who were not able, and others to whom it never occurred to think of such a thing as going on a journey, will make up their minds to follow my example. Surely, the idlest person will not hesitate to set out with me on a pleasure jaunt which will cost him neither trouble nor money. Come then, let us start! Follow me, all ye whom the “pangs of despised love” or the slights of friends keep within doors⁠—follow me far from the meannesses and unkindnesses of men. Be ye unhappy, sick, or weary, follow me. Ye idle ones, arouse ye, one and all. And ye who brood over gloomy projects of reform and retreat, on account of some infidelity⁠—amiable anchorites of an evening’s duration, who renounce the world for your boudoir⁠—come, and be led by me to banish these dark thoughts; you lose a moment’s pleasure without gaining a moment’s wisdom! Deign to accompany me on my journey. We will jog cheerfully and by easy stages along the road of travellers who have seen both Rome and Paris. No obstacle shall hinder our way; and giving ourselves up gaily to Imagination, we will follow her whithersoever it may be her good pleasure to lead us.

III

How many inquisitive people there are in the world! I am sure my reader wants to know why the journey round my room has lasted forty-two days rather than forty-three, or any other number. But how am I to tell him what I do not know myself? All I can say is, that if the work is too long for him, it is not my fault that it was not shorter. I dismiss all the pride a traveller may fairly indulge in, and candidly declare I should have been well contented, for my part, with a single chapter. It is quite true that I made myself as comfortable as possible in my room; but still, alas, I was not my own master in the matter of leaving it. Nay, more, I even think that had it not been for the intervention of certain powerful persons who interested themselves in me, and towards whom I entertain a lively sense of gratitude, I should have had ample time for producing a folio volume; so prejudiced in my favor were the guardians who made me travel round my room.

And yet, intelligent reader, see how wrong these men were; and understand clearly, if you can, the argument I am about to put before you.

Can there be anything more natural or more just than to draw your sword upon a man who happens to tread on your toe, who lets slip a bitter word during a moment’s vexation caused by your own thoughtlessness, or who has had the misfortune to gain favor in the sight of your ladylove?

Under such or like circumstances, you betake yourself to a meadow, and there, like Nicole and the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” you try to give the fourth cut while your adversary parries tierce; and, that vengeance may be fully satisfied, you present your naked breast to him, thus running the risk of being killed by your enemy, in order to be avenged.

It is evident that such a custom is most reasonable. And yet, we sometimes meet with people who disapprove of so praiseworthy a course. But what is about of a piece with the rest of the business is, that the very persons who condemn the course we have described, and who would have it regarded as a grave error, would judge still more harshly anyone who refused to commit it. More than one unlucky wight has, by endeavoring to conform to their opinion, lost his reputation and his livelihood. So that, when people are so unfortunate as to have an affair of honor to settle, it would not be a bad plan to cast lots to see whether it shall be arranged according to law, or according to fashion. And as law and fashion are at variance, the judges might decide upon their sentence by the aid of dice⁠—and probably it is to some such decision as this that we should have to refer in order to explain how it came about that my journey lasted just two and forty days.

IV

My room is situated in latitude 48° east, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria. It lies east and west, and, if you keep very close to the wall, forms a parallelogram of thirty-six steps round. My journey will, however, be longer than this; for I shall traverse my room up and down and across, without rule or plan. I shall even zigzag about, following, if needs be, every possible geometrical line. I am no admirer of people who are such masters of their every step and every idea that they can say: “Tomorrow I shall make three calls, write four letters, and finish this or that work.” So open is my soul to all sorts of ideas, tastes, and feelings; so greedily does it absorb whatever comes first, that⁠ ⁠… but why should it deny itself the delights that are scattered along life’s hard path? So few and far between are they, that it would indeed be senseless not to stop, and even turn aside, to gather such as are placed within our reach. Of these joys, none, to my thinking, is more attractive than following the course of one’s fancies as a hunter follows his game, without pretending to keep to any set route. Hence, when I travel in my room, I seldom keep to a straight line. From my table I go towards a picture which is placed in a corner; thence I set out in an oblique direction for the door; and then, although on starting I had intended to return to my table, yet, if I chance to fall in with my armchair on the way, I at once, and most unceremoniously, take up my quarters therein. By the by, what a capital article of furniture an armchair is, and, above all, how convenient to a thoughtful man. In long winter evenings it is ofttimes sweet, and always prudent, to stretch yourself therein, far from the bustle of crowded assemblies. A good fire, some books and pens; what safeguards these against ennui! And how pleasant, again, to forget books and pens in order to stir the fire, while giving one’s self up to some agreeable meditation, or stringing together a few rhymes for the amusement of friends, as the hours glide by and fall into eternity, without making their sad passage felt.

V

Next to my armchair, as we go northward, my bed comes into sight. It is placed at the end of my room, and forms the most agreeable perspective. It is very pleasantly situated, and the earliest rays of the sun play upon my curtains. On fine summer days I see them come creeping, as the sun rises, all along the whitened wall. The elm-trees opposite my windows divide them into a thousand patterns as they dance upon my bed, and, reflecting its rose-and-white color, shed a charming tint around. I hear the confused twitter of the swallows that have taken possession of my roof, and the warbling of the birds that people the elms. Then do a thousand smiling fancies fill my soul; and in the whole universe no being enjoys an awakening so delightful, so peaceful, as mine.

I confess that I do indeed revel in these sweet moments, and prolong as far as I can the pleasure it gives me to meditate in the comfortable warmth of my bed. What scene can adapt itself so well to the imagination, and awaken such delicious ideas, as the couch on which my fancy floats me into the forgetfulness of self! Here it is that the mother, intoxicated with joy at the birth of a son, forgets her pangs. Hither it is that fantastic pleasures, the fruit of fancy or of hope, come to agitate us. In a word, it is here that during one half of a lifetime we forget the annoyances of the other half.

But what a host of thoughts, some agreeable, some sad, throng my brain at once⁠—strange minglings of terrible and delicious pictures!

A bed sees us born, and sees us die. It is the ever changing scene upon which the human race play by turns interesting dramas, laughable farces, and fearful tragedies. It is a cradle decked with flowers. A throne of love. A sepulchre.

VI

This chapter is for metaphysicians, and for metaphysicians only. It will throw a great light upon man’s nature. It is the prism with which to analyze and decompose the human faculties, by separating the animal force from the pure rays of intellect.

It would be impossible for me to explain how I came to burn my fingers at the very onset of my journey without expounding to my reader my system of the Soul and the Animal.1 And besides, this metaphysical discovery has so great an influence on my thoughts and actions, that it would be very difficult to understand this book if I did not begin by giving the key to its meaning.

Various observations have enabled me to perceive that man is made up of a soul and an animal. These two beings are quite distinct, but they are so dovetailed one into the other, or upon the other, that the soul must, if we would make the distinction between them, possess a certain superiority over the animal.

I have it from an old professor (and this is as long ago as I can remember), that Plato used to call matter the other. This is all very well; but I prefer giving this name par excellence to the animal which is joined to our soul. This substance it is which is really the other, and which plays such strange tricks upon us. It is easy enough to see, in a sort of general way, that man is twofold. But this, they say, is because he is made up of soul and body; and they accuse the body of I don’t know how many things, and very inconsistently, seeing that it can neither feel nor think. It is upon the animal that the blame should fall; upon that sensitive being, which, while it is perfectly distinct from the soul, is a real individual, enjoying a separate existence, with its own tastes, inclinations, and will, and which only ranks higher than other animals, because it is better educated than they, and is provided with more perfect organs.

Ladies and gentlemen! Be as proud of your intellect as you please, but be very suspicious of the other, especially when you are together.

I have experimented, I know not how oft, upon the union of these two heterogeneous creatures. I have, for instance, clearly ascertained that the soul can make herself obeyed by the animal, and that, by way of retaliation, the animal makes the soul act contrary to its own inclination. The one, as a rule, has the legislative, the other the executive power, but these two are often at variance. The great business of a man of genius is to train his animal well, in order that it may go alone, while the soul, delivered from this troublesome companion, can raise herself to the skies.

But this requires illustration. When, sir, you are reading a book, and an agreeable idea suddenly enters your imagination, your soul attaches herself to the new idea at once, and forgets the book, while your eyes follow mechanically the words and lines. You get through the page without understanding it, and without remembering what you have read. Now this is because your soul, having ordered her companion to read to her, gave no warning of the short absence she contemplated, so that the other went on reading what the soul no longer attended to.

VII

Is not this clear to you? Let us illustrate it still farther.

One day last summer at an appointed hour, I was wending my way to court. I had been sketching all day, and my soul, choosing to meditate upon painting, left the duty of taking me to the king’s palace to the animal.

How sublime, thought my soul, is the painter’s art! Happy is he who is touched by the aspect of nature, and does not depend upon his pictures for a livelihood; who does not paint solely as a pastime, but struck with the majesty of a beautiful form, and the wonderful way in which the light with its thousand tints plays upon the human face, strives to imitate in his works the wonderful effects of nature! Happy, too, is the painter who is led by love of landscape into solitary paths, and who can make his canvas breathe the feeling of sadness with which he is inspired by a gloomy wood or a desert plain. His productions imitate and reproduce nature. He creates new seas and dark caverns into which the sun has never peered. At his command, coppices of evergreens spring into life, and the blue of heaven is reflected on his pictures. He darkens the air, and we hear the roar of the storm. At another time he presents to the eye of the wondering beholder the delightful plains of ancient Sicily: startled nymphs flee the pursuit of a satyr through the bending reeds; temples of stately architecture raise their grand fronts above the sacred forest that surrounds them. Imagination loses itself among the still paths of this ideal country. Bluish backgrounds blend with the sky, and the whole landscape, reproduced in the waters of a tranquil river, forms a scene that no tongue can describe.

While my soul was thus reflecting, the other went its way, Heaven knows whither! Instead of going to court, according to orders, it took such a turn to the left, that my soul just caught it up at Madame de Hautcastel’s door, full half a mile from the Palais Royal!

Now I leave the reader to fancy what might have been the consequence had the truant visited so beautiful a lady alone.

VIII

If it is both useful and agreeable to have a soul so disengaged from matter that we can let it travel alone whenever we please, this has also its disadvantages. Through this, for instance, I got the burn I spoke of a few chapters back.

I generally leave my animal to prepare my breakfast. Its care it is to slice and toast my bread. My coffee it makes admirably, and helps itself thereto without my soul’s concerning herself in the transaction. But this is a very rare and nice performance to execute; for though it is easy enough while busied in a mechanical operation, to think of something quite different, it is extremely difficult, so to speak, to watch one’s self-work, or, if I express myself systematically, to employ one’s soul to examine the animal’s progress, and to watch its work without taking part in it. This is the most extraordinary metaphysical feat a man can execute.

I had rested my tongs on the embers to toast my bread, and some little time afterwards, while my soul was travelling, a burning stick fell on the hearth: my poor animal seized the tongs, and I burnt my fingers.

IX

I hope I have sufficiently developed my ideas in the foregoing chapters to furnish you, good reader, with matter for thought, and to enable you to make discoveries along the brilliant career before you. You cannot be other than highly satisfied with yourself if you succeed in the long run in making your soul travel alone. The pleasure afforded by this power will amply counterbalance any inconvenience that may arise from it. What more flattering delight is there than the being able thus to expand one’s existence, to occupy at once earth and heaven, to double, so to speak, one’s being? Is it not man’s eternal, insatiable desire to augment his strength and his faculties, to be where he is not, to recall the past, and live in the future? He would fain command armies, preside over learned societies, and be the idol of the fair. And, if he attain to all this, then he regrets the tranquillity of a rural life, and envies the shepherd’s cot. His plans, his hopes, are constantly foiled by the ills that flesh is heir to. He can find happiness nowhere. A quarter of an hour’s journey with me will show him the way to it.

Ah, why does he not leave to the other those carking cares and that tormenting ambition. Come, my poor friend! Make but an effort to burst from thy prison, and from the height of heaven, whither I am about to lead thee, from the midst of the celestial shades, from the empyrean itself, behold thy animal run along the road to fortune and honor. See with what gravity it walks among men. The crowd falls back with respect, and believe me, none will remark that it is alone. The people among whom it walks care very little whether it has a soul or not, whether it thinks or not. A thousand sentimental women will fall desperately in love with it without discovering the defect. It may even raise itself without thy soul’s help to the highest favor and fortune. Nay, I should not be astonished if, on thy return from the empyrean, thy soul, on getting home, were to find itself in the animal of a noble lord.

X

But you must not let yourself think that instead of keeping my promise to describe my journey round my room, I am beating the bush to see how I can evade the difficulty. This would be a great mistake on your part. For our journey is really going on; and while my soul, falling back on her own resources, was in the last chapter threading the mazy paths of metaphysics, I had so placed myself in my armchair, that its front legs being raised about two inches from the floor, I was able, by balancing myself from left to right, to make way by degrees, and at last, almost without knowing it, to get close to the wall, for this is how I travel when not pressed for time. When there, my hand possessed itself by a mere mechanical effort, of the portrait of Madame de Hautcastel; and the other amused itself with removing the dust which covered it. This occupation produced a feeling of quiet pleasure, and the pleasure was conveyed to my soul, lost though it was in the vast plains of heaven. For it is well to observe that when the mind is thus travelling in space, it still keeps linked to the senses by a secret and subtle chain; so that, without being distracted from its occupations, it can participate in the peaceful joys of the other. But should this pleasure reach a certain pitch, or should the soul be struck by some unexpected vision, it forthwith descends swift as lightning, and resumes its place.

And that is just what happened to me while dusting the picture. Whilst the cloth removed the dust, and brought to light those flaxen curls and the wreaths of roses that crowned them, my soul, from the sun, whither she had transported herself, felt a slight thrill of pleasure, and partook sympathetically of the joy of my heart. This joy became less indistinct and more lively, when, by a single sweep, the beautiful forehead of that charming face was revealed. My soul was on the point of leaving the skies in order to enjoy the spectacle. But had she been in the Elysian Fields, had she been engaged in a seraphic concert, she could not have stayed a single second longer when her companion, glowing with the work, seized a proffered sponge, and passed it at once over the eyebrows and the eyes, over the nose, over that mouth, ah heavens!⁠—my heart beats at the thought⁠—over the chin and neck! It was the work of an instant. The whole face seemed suddenly recalled into existence. My soul precipitated herself like a falling star from the sky. She found the other in a state of ecstasy, which she herself increased by sharing it. This strange and unexpected position caused all thought of time and space to vanish from my mind. I lived for a moment in the past, and, contrary to the order of nature, I grew young again. Yes, before me stands that adored one; ’tis she, her very self! She smiles on me, she will speak and own her love. That glance!⁠ ⁠… come, let me press thee to my heart, O, my loved one, my other self! Partake with me this intoxicating bliss! The moment was short, but ravishing. Cool reason soon reasserted her sway, and in the twinkling of an eye I had grown a whole year older. My heart grew icy cold, and I found myself on a level with the crowd of heedless ones who throng the earth.

XI

But we must not anticipate events. My hurry to communicate to the reader my system of the soul and animal caused me to abandon the description of my bed earlier than I ought to have done. When I have completed this description, I will continue my journey where I interrupted it in the last chapter. But let me pray you to bear in mind that we left one half of my ego four steps from my bureau, close to the wall, and holding the portrait of Madame de Hautcastel.

In speaking of my bed, I forgot to recommend every man to have, if possible, a bed with rose and white furniture. There can be no doubt that colors so far affect us as to make us cheerful or sad, according to their hues. Now, rose and white are two colors that are consecrated to pleasure. Nature in bestowing them upon the rose has given her the crown of Flora’s realm. And when the sky would announce to the world a fine day, it paints the clouds at sunrise with this charming tint.

One day we were with some difficulty climbing a steep pathway. The amiable Rosalie, whose agility had given her wings, was far in front. We could not overtake her. All on a sudden, having reached the top of a hillock, she turned toward us to take breath, and smiled at our slowness. Never, perhaps, did the two colors whose praise I proclaim so triumph. Her burning cheeks, her coral lips, her alabaster neck, were thrown into relief by the verdure around, and entranced us all. We could not but pause and gaze upon her. I will not speak of her blue eyes, or of the glance she cast upon us, because this would be going from the subject, and because I dwell upon these memories as little as possible. Let it suffice that I have given the best illustration conceivable of the superiority of these two colors over all others, and of their influence upon the happiness of man.

Here will I stop for today. Of what subject can I treat which would not now be insipid? What idea is not effaced by this idea? I do not even know when I shall be able to resume my work. If I go on with it at all, and if the reader desire to see its termination, let him betake himself to the angel who distributes thoughts, and beg him to cease to mingle with the disconnected thoughts he showers upon me at every moment the image of that hillock.

If this precaution is not taken, my journey will be a failure.

XII

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XIII

My efforts are useless. I must sojourn here awhile, whether I will or not. The “Halt!” is irresistible.

XIV

I remarked that I was singularly fond of meditating when influenced by the comfortable warmth of my bed; and that its agreeable color added not a little to the pleasure I experienced.

That I may be provided with this enjoyment, my servant is directed to enter my room half an hour before my time for rising. I hear him moving about my room with a light step, and stealthily managing his preparations. This noise just suffices to convey to me the pleasant knowledge that I am slumbering⁠—a delicate pleasure this, unknown to most men. You are just awake enough to know you are not entirely so, and to make a dreamy calculation that the hour for business and worry is still in the sandglass of time. Gradually my man grows noisier; it is so hard for him to restrain himself, and he knows too that the fatal hour draws near. He looks at my watch, and jingles the seals as a warning. But I turn a deaf ear to him. There is no imaginable cheat I do not put upon the poor fellow to lengthen the blissful moment. I give him a hundred preliminary orders. He knows that these orders, given somewhat peevishly, are mere excuses for my staying in bed without seeming to wish to do so. But this he affects not to see through, and I am truly thankful to him.

At last, when I have exhausted all my resources, he advances to the middle of the room, and with folded arms, plants himself there in a perfectly immovable position. It must be admitted that it would be impossible to show disapproval of my idleness with greater judgment and address. I never resist this tacit invitation, but, stretching out my arms to show I understand him, get up at once.

If the reader will reflect upon the behavior of my servant, he will convince himself that in certain delicate matters of this kind, simplicity and good sense are much better than the sharpest wit. I dare assert that the most studied discourse on the impropriety of sloth would not make me spring so readily from my bed as the silent reproach of Monsieur Joannetti.

This Monsieur Joannetti is a thoroughly honest fellow, and at the same time just the man for such a traveller as I. He is accustomed to the frequent journeys of my soul, and never laughs at the inconsistencies of the other. He even directs it occasionally when it is alone, so that one might say it is then conducted by two souls. When it is dressing, for instance, he will warn it by a gesture that it is on the point of putting on its stockings the wrong way, or its coat before its waistcoat.

Many a time has my soul been amused at seeing poor Joannetti running after this foolish creature under the arches of the citadel, to remind it of a forgotten hat or handkerchief. One day, I must confess, had it not been for this faithful servant, who caught it up just at the bottom of the staircase, the silly creature would have presented itself at court without a sword, as boldly as if it had been the chief gentleman-usher, bearing the august rod.

XV

“Come, Joannetti,” I said, “hang up this picture.” He had helped to clean it, and had no more notion than the man in the moon what had produced our chapter on the portrait. He it was, who, of his own accord, held out the wet sponge, and who, through that seemingly unimportant act, caused my soul to travel a hundred millions of leagues in a moment of time. Instead of restoring it to its place, he held it to examine it in his turn. A difficulty, a problem, gave him an inquisitive air, which I did not fail to observe.

“Well, and what fault do you find with that portrait?” said I.

“O, none at all, sir.”

“But come now, you have some remark to make, I know.”

He placed it upright on one of the wings of my bureau, and then drawing back a little, “I wish, sir,” he said, “that you would explain how it is that in whatever part of the room one may be, this portrait always watches you. In the morning, when I am making your bed, the face turns towards me; and if I move toward the window, it still looks at me, and follows me with its eyes as I go about.”

“So that, Joannetti,” said I, “if my room were full of people, that beautiful lady would eye everyone, on all sides, at once.”

“Just so, sir.”

“She would smile on every comer and goer, just as she would on me?”

Joannetti gave no further answer. I stretched myself in my easy-chair, and, hanging down my head, gave myself up to the most serious meditations. What a ray of light fell upon me! Alack, poor lover! While thou pinest away, far from thy mistress, at whose side another perhaps, has already replaced thee; whilst thou fixest thy longing eyes on her portrait, imagining that at least in picture, thou art the sole being she deigns to regard⁠—the perfidious image, as faithless as the original, bestows its glances on all around, and smiles on everyone alike!

And in this behold a moral resemblance between certain portraits and their originals, which no philosopher, no painter, no observer, had before remarked.

I go on from discovery to discovery.

XVI

Joannetti remained in the attitude I have described, awaiting the explanation he had asked of me. I withdrew my head from the folds of my travelling dress, into which I had thrust it that I might meditate more at my ease; and after a moment’s silence, to enable me to collect my thoughts after the reflections I had just made, I said, turning my armchair toward him⁠—

“Do you not see that as a picture is a plane surface, the rays of light proceeding from each point on that surface⁠ ⁠… ?”

At that explanation, Joannetti stretched his eyes to their very widest, while he kept his mouth half open. These two movements of the human face express, according to the famous Le Brun, the highest pitch of astonishment. It was, without doubt, my animal, that had undertaken this dissertation, while my soul was well aware that Joannetti knew nothing whatever about plane surfaces and rays of light. The prodigious dilatation of his eyelids caused me to draw back. I ensconced my head in the collar of my travelling coat, and this so effectively that I well-nigh succeeded in altogether hiding it. I determined to dine where I was. The morning was far advanced, and another step in my room would have delayed my dinner until nightfall. I let myself slip to the edge of my chair, and putting both feet on the mantelpiece, patiently awaited my meal. This was a most comfortable attitude; indeed, it would be difficult to find another possessing so many advantages, and so well adapted to the inevitable sojourns of a long voyage.

At such moments, Rose, my faithful dog, never fails to come and pull at the skirts of my travelling dress that I may take her up. She finds a very convenient ready-made bed at the angle formed by the two parts of my body. A V admirably represents my position. Rose jumps to her post if I do not take her up quickly enough to please her, and I often find her there without knowing how she has come. My hands fall into a position which minister to her well-being, and this, either through a sympathy existing between this good-natured creature and myself, or through the merest chance. But no, I do not believe in that miserable doctrine of chance⁠—in that unmeaning word! I would rather believe in animal magnetism.

There is such reality in the relations which exist between these two animals, that when out of sheer distraction, I put my two feet on the mantelpiece and have no thought at all about a halt, dinnertime not being near, Rose, observing this movement, shows by a slight wag of her tail the pleasure she enjoys. Reserve keeps her in her place. The other perceives this and is gratified by it, though quite unable to reason upon its cause. And thus a mute dialogue is established between them, a pleasing interchange of sensations which could not be attributed to simple chance.

XVII

Do not reproach me for the prolixity with which I narrate the details of my journey. This is the wont of travellers. When one sets out for the ascent of Mont Blanc, or to visit the yawning tomb of Empedocles, the minutest particulars are carefully described. The number of persons who formed the party, the number of mules, the quality of the food, the excellent appetite of the travellers⁠—everything, to the very stumbling of the quadrupeds, is carefully noted down for the instruction of the sedentary world.

Upon this principle, I resolved to speak of my dog Rose⁠—an amiable creature for whom I entertain sincere regard⁠—and to devote a whole chapter to her.

We have lived together for six years, and there has never been any coolness between us, and if ever any little disputes have arisen, the fault has been chiefly on my side, and Rose has always made the first advances towards reconciliation.

In the evening, if she has been scolded she withdraws sadly and without a murmur. The next morning at daybreak, she stands near my bed in a respectful attitude, and at her master’s slightest movement, at the first sign of his being awake, she makes her presence known by rapidly tapping my little table with her tail.

And why should I refuse my affection to this good-natured creature that has never ceased to love me ever since we have lived together? My memory would not enable me to enumerate all the people who have interested themselves in me but to forget me. I have had some few friends, several ladyloves, a host of acquaintances; and now I am to all these people as if I had never lived; they have forgotten my very name.

And yet what protestations they made, what offers of assistance! Their purse was at my disposal, and they begged me to depend upon their eternal and entire friendship!

Poor Rose, who has made me no promises, renders me the greatest service that can be bestowed upon humanity, for she has always loved her master, and loves him still. And this is why I do not hesitate to say that she shares with my other friends the affection I feel towards them.

XVIII

We left Joannetti standing motionless before me, in an attitude of astonishment, awaiting the conclusion of the sublime explanation I had begun.

When he saw me bury my head in my dressing-gown, and thus end my dissertation, he did not doubt for a moment that I had stopped short for lack of resources, and that he had fairly overcome me by the knotty question he had plied me with.

Notwithstanding the superiority he had hereby gained over me, he felt no movement of pride, and did not seek to profit by his advantage. After a moment’s silence, he took the picture, put it back in its place, and withdrew softly on tiptoe. He felt that his presence was a sort of humiliation to me, and his delicacy of feeling led him thus to retire unobserved. His behavior on this occasion interested me greatly, and gave him a higher place than ever in my affections. And he will have too, without doubt, a place in the heart of my readers. If there be one among them who will refuse it him after reading the next chapter, such a one must surely have a heart of stone.

XIX

“Good Heavens!” said I to him one day, “three times have I told you to buy me a brush. What a head the fellow has!” He answered not a word; nor had he the evening before made any reply to a like expostulation. “This is very odd,” I thought to myself, “he is generally so very particular.”

“Well, go and get a duster to wipe my shoes with,” I said angrily. While he was on his way, I regretted that I had spoken so sharply, and my anger entirely subsided when I saw how carefully he tried to remove the dust from my shoes without touching my stockings. “What,” I said to myself, “are there then men who brush others’ shoes for money!” This word “money” came upon me like a flash of lightning. I suddenly remembered that for a long time my servant had not had any money from me.

“Joannetti,” said I, drawing away my foot, “have you any change?”

A smile of justification lit up his face at the question.

“No, sir; for the last week I have not possessed a penny. I have spent all I had for your little purchases.”

“And the brush? I suppose that is why⁠ ⁠… ?”

He still smiled. Now, he might very well have said, “No, sir; I am not the empty-headed ass you would make out your faithful servant to be. Pay me the one pound two shillings and sixpence halfpenny you owe me, and then I’ll buy you your brush.” But no, he bore this ill treatment rather than cause his master to blush at his unjust anger. And may Heaven bless him! Philosophers, Christians! have you read this?

“Come, Joannetti,” said I, “buy me the brush.”

“But, sir, will you go like that, with one shoe clean, and the other dirty?”

“Go, go!” I replied, “never mind about the dust, never mind that.”

He went out. I took the duster, and daintily wiped my left shoe, on which a tear of repentance had fallen.

XX

The walls of my room are hung with engravings and pictures, which adorn it greatly. I should much like to submit them to the reader’s inspection, that they might amuse him along the road we have to traverse before we reach my bureau. But it is as impossible to describe a picture well, as to paint one from a description.

What an emotion he would feel in contemplating the first drawing that presents itself! He would see the unhappy Charlotte,2 slowly, and with a trembling hand, wiping Albert’s pistols. Dark forebodings, and all the agony of hopeless, inconsolable love, are imprinted on her features, while the cold-hearted Albert, surrounded by bags of law papers and various old documents, turns with an air of indifference towards his friend to bid him goodbye. Many a time have I been tempted to break the glass that covers this engraving, that I might tear Albert away from the table, rend him to pieces, and trample him under foot. But this would not do away with the Alberts. There will always be sadly too many of them in the world. What sensitive man is there who has not such a one near him, who receives the overflowings of his soul, the gentle emotions of his heart, and the flights of his imagination just as the rock receives the waves of the sea? Happy is he who finds a friend whose heart and mind harmonize with his own; a friend who adheres to him by likeness of tastes, feeling, and knowledge; a friend who is not the prey of ambition or greediness, who prefers the shade of a tree to the pomp of a court! Happy is he who has a friend!

XXI

I had a friend. Death took him from me. He was snatched away at the beginning of his career, at the moment when his friendship had become a pressing need to my heart. We supported one another in the hard toil of war. We had but one pipe between us. We drank out of the same cup. We slept beneath the same tent. And, amid our sad trials, the spot where we lived together became to us a new fatherland. I had seen him exposed to all the perils of a disastrous war. Death seemed to spare us to each other. His deadly missives were exhausted around my friend a thousand times over without reaching him; but this was but to make his loss more painful to me. The tumult of war, and the enthusiasm which possesses the soul at the sight of danger might have prevented his sighs from piercing my heart, while his death would have been useful to his country, and damaging to the enemy. Had he died thus, I should have mourned him less. But to lose him amid the joys of our winter-quarters; to see him die at the moment when he seemed full of health, and when our intimacy was rendered closer by rest and tranquillity⁠—ah, this was a blow from which I can never recover!

But his memory lives in my heart, and there alone. He is forgotten by those who surrounded him, and who have replaced him. And this makes his loss the more sad to me.

Nature, in like manner indifferent to the fate of individuals, dons her green spring robe, and decks herself in all her beauty near the cemetery where he rests. The trees cover themselves with foliage, and intertwine their branches; the birds warble under the leafy sprays; the insects hum among the blossoms: everything breathes joy in this abode of death.

And in the evening, when the moon shines in the sky, and I am meditating in this sad place, I hear the grasshopper, hidden in the grass that covers the silent grave of my friend, merrily pursuing his unwearied song. The unobserved destruction of human beings, as well as all their misfortunes, are counted for nothing in the grand total of events.

The death of an affectionate man who breathes his last surrounded by his afflicted friends, and that of a butterfly killed in a flower’s cup by the chill air of morning, are but two similar epochs in the course of nature. Man is but a phantom, a shadow, a mere vapor that melts into the air.

But daybreak begins to whiten the sky. The gloomy thoughts that troubled me vanish with the darkness, and hope awakens again in my heart. No! He who thus suffuses the east with light, has not made it to shine upon my eyes only to plunge me into the night of annihilation. He who has spread out that vast horizon, who raised those lofty mountains whose icy tops the sun is even now gilding, is also He who made my heart to beat, and my mind to think.

No! My friend is not annihilated. Whatever may be the barrier that separates us, I shall see him again. My hopes are based on no mere syllogism. The flight of an insect suffices to persuade me. And often the prospect of the surrounding country, the perfume of the air, and an indescribable charm which is spread around me, so raise my thoughts, that an invincible proof of immortality forces itself upon my soul, and fills it to the full.

XXII

The chapter I have just written had often presented itself to my pen, but I had as often rejected it. I had promised myself that I would only allow the cheerful phase of my soul to show itself in this book. But this project, like many others, I was forced to abandon. I hope the sensitive reader will pardon me for having asked his tears; and if anyone thinks I should have omitted this chapter, he can tear it from his copy, or even throw the whole book on the fire.

Enough for me, dear Jenny, that thy heart approves it, thou best and best-beloved of women, best and best-beloved of sisters. To thee I dedicate my work. If it please thee, it will please all gentle and delicate hearts. And if thou wilt pardon the follies into which, albeit against my will, I sometimes fall, I will brave all the critics of the universe.

XXIII

One word only upon our next engraving.

It represents the family of the unfortunate Ugolino, dying of hunger. Around him are his sons. One of them lies motionless at his feet. The rest stretch their enfeebled arms towards him, asking for bread; while the wretched father, leaning against a pillar of his prison, his eyes fixed and haggard, his countenance immovable, dies a double death, and suffers all that human nature can endure.

And there is the brave Chevalier d’Assas, dying, by an effort of courage and heroism unknown in our days, under a hundred bayonets.

And thou who weepest under the palm-trees, poor negro woman! thou, whom some barbarous fellow has betrayed and deserted, nay, worse, whom he has had the brutality to sell as a vile slave, notwithstanding thy love and devotion, notwithstanding the pledge of affection thou hast borne at thy breast⁠—I will not pass before thine image without rendering to thee the homage due to thy tenderness and thy sorrows.

Let us pause a moment before the other picture. It is a young shepherdess tending her flock alone on the heights of the Alps. She sits on an old willow trunk, bleached by many winters. Her feet are covered by the broad leaves of a tuft of cacalia, whose lilac blossoms bloom above her head. Lavender, wild thyme, the anemone, centaury, and flowers which are cultivated with care in our hothouses and gardens, and which grow in all their native beauty on the Alps, form the gay carpet on which her sheep wander.

Sweet shepherdess! tell me where is the lovely spot thou callest thy home. From what far-off sheepfold didst thou set out at daybreak this morning? Could I not go thither and live with thee?

But alas, the sweet tranquillity thou enjoyest will soon vanish! The demon of war, not content with desolating cities, will ere long carry anxiety and alarm to thy solitary retreat. Even now I see the soldiers advancing: they climb height after height, as they march upward towards the clouds. The cannons’ roar is heard high above the thunderclap.

Fly, O shepherdess! Urge on thy flock! Hide thee in the farthest caves, for no longer is repose to be found on this sad earth!

XXIV

I do not know how it is, but of late my chapters have always ended in a mournful strain. In vain do I begin by fixing my eyes on some agreeable object; in vain do I embark when all is calm: a sudden gale soon drifts me away. To put an end to an agitation which deprives me of the mastery of my ideas, and to quiet the beating of a heart too much disturbed by so many touching images, I see no remedy but a dissertation. Yes, thus will I steel my heart.

And the dissertation shall be about painting, for I cannot at this moment expatiate upon any other subject. I cannot altogether descend from the point I just now reached. Besides, painting is to me what Uncle Toby’s hobbyhorse was to him.3

I would say a few words, by the way, upon the question of preeminence between the charming arts of painting and music. I would cast my grain into the balance, were it but a grain of sand, a mere atom.

It is urged in favor of the painter, that he leaves his works behind him; that his pictures outlive him, and immortalize his memory.

In reply to this we are reminded that musical composers also leave us their operas and oratorios.

But music is subject to fashion, and painting is not. The musical passages that deeply affected our forefathers seem simply ridiculous to the amateurs of our own day; and they are placed in absurd farces to furnish laughter for the nephews of those whom they once made to weep.

Raphael’s pictures will enchant our descendants as greatly as they did our forefathers.

This is my grain of sand.

XXV

“But what,” said Madame de Hautcastel to me one day⁠—“what if the music of Cherubini or Cimarosa differs from that of their predecessors? What care I if the music of the past make me laugh, so long as that of the present day touch me by its charms? Is it at all essential to my happiness that my pleasures should resemble those of my great-grandmother? Why talk to me of painting, an art which is only enjoyed by a very small class of persons, while music enchants every living creature?”

I hardly know at this moment how one could reply to this observation, which I did not foresee when I began my chapter.

Had I foreseen it, perhaps I should not have undertaken that dissertation. And pray do not imagine that you discover in this objection the artifice of a musician, for upon my honor I am none, Heaven be my witness, and all those who have heard me play the violin!

But, even supposing the merits of the two arts to be equal, we must not be too hasty in concluding that the merits of the disciples of Painting and Music are therefore balanced. We see children play the harpsichord as if they were maestri, but no one has ever been a good painter at twelve years old. Painting, besides taste and feeling, requires an amount of thoughtfulness that musicians can dispense with. Any day may you hear men who are well nigh destitute of head and heart, bring out from a violin or harp the most ravishing sounds.

The human animal may be taught to play the harpsichord, and when it has learned of a good master, the soul can travel at her ease while sounds with which she does not concern herself are mechanically produced by the fingers. But the simplest thing in the world cannot be painted without the aid of all the faculties of the soul.

If, however, anyone should take it into his head to ply me with a distinction between the composition and the performance of music, I confess that he would give me some little difficulty. Ah, well! were all writers of essays quite candid they would all conclude as I am doing. When one enters upon the examination of a question, a dogmatic tone is generally assumed, because there has been a secret decision beforehand, just as I, notwithstanding my hypocritical impartiality, had decided in favor of painting. But discussion awakens objections, and everything ends with doubt.

XXVI

Now that I am more tranquil, I will endeavor to speak calmly of the two portraits that follow the picture of the shepherdess of the Alps.

Raphael! Who but thyself could paint thy portrait; who but thyself would have dared attempt it? Thy open countenance, beaming with feeling and intellect, proclaims thy character and thy genius.

To gratify thy shade, I have placed beside thee the portrait of thy mistress, whom the men of all generations will hold answerable for the loss of the sublime works of which art has been deprived by thy premature death.

When I examine the portrait of Raphael, I feel myself penetrated by an almost religious respect for that great man, who, in the flower of his age, excelled the ancients, and whose pictures are at once the admiration and the despair of modern artists. My soul, in admiring it, is moved with indignation against that Italian who preferred her love to her lover, and who extinguished at her bosom that heavenly flame, that divine genius.

Unhappy one! Knewest thou not that Raphael had announced a picture superior even to that of the Transfiguration? Didst thou not know that thine arms encircled the favorite of nature, the father of enthusiasm, a sublime genius⁠ ⁠… a divinity?

While my soul makes these observations, her companion, whose eyes are attentively fixed upon the lovely face of that fatal beauty, feels quite ready to forgive her the death of Raphael.

In vain my soul upbraids this extravagant weakness; she is not listened to at all. On such occasions a strange dialogue arises between the two, which terminates too often in favor of the bad principles, and of which I reserve a sample for another chapter.

And if, by the way, my soul had not at that moment abruptly closed the inspection of the gallery, if she had given the other time to contemplate the rounded and graceful features of the beautiful Roman lady, my intellect would have miserably lost its supremacy.

And if, at that critical moment I had suddenly obtained the favor bestowed upon the fortunate Pygmalion, without having the least spark of the genius which makes me pardon Raphael his errors, it is just possible that I should have succumbed as he did.

XXVII

My engravings, and the paintings of which I have spoken, fade away into nothing at the first glance bestowed upon the next picture. The immortal works of Raphael and Correggio, and of the whole Italian school, are not to be compared to it. Hence it is that when I accord to an amateur the pleasure of travelling with me, I always keep this until the last as a special luxury, and ever since I first exhibited this sublime picture to connoisseurs and to ignoramuses, to men of the world, to artists, to women, to children, to animals even, I have always found the spectators, whoever they might be, show, each in his own way, signs of pleasure and surprise, so admirably is nature rendered therein.

And what picture could be presented to you, gentlemen; what spectacle, ladies, could be placed before your eyes more certain of gaining your approval than the faithful portraiture of yourselves? The picture of which I speak is a mirror, and no one has as yet ventured to criticise it. It is to all who look on it a perfect picture, in depreciation of which not a word can be said.

You will at once admit that it should be regarded as one of the wonders of the world.

I will pass over in silence the pleasure felt by the natural philosopher in meditating upon the strange phenomena presented by light as it reproduces upon that polished surface all the objects of nature. A mirror offers to the sedentary traveller a thousand interesting reflections, a thousand observations which render it at once a useful and precious article.

Ye whom Love has held or still holds under his sway, learn that it is before a mirror that he sharpens his darts, and contemplates his cruelties. There it is that he plans his maneuvers, studies his tactics, and prepares himself for the war he wishes to declare. There he practices his killing glances and little affectations, and sly poutings, just as a player practices, with himself for spectator, before appearing in public.

A mirror, being always impartial and true, brings before the eyes of the beholder the roses of youth and the wrinkles of age, without calumny and without flattery. It alone among the councilors of the great, invariably tells them the truth.

It was this recommendation that made me desire the invention of a moral mirror, in which all men might see themselves, with their virtues and their vices. I even thought of offering a prize to some academy for this discovery, when riper reflection proved to me that such an invention would be useless.

Alas! how rare it is for ugliness to recognize itself and break the mirror! In vain are looking-glasses multiplied around us which reflect light and truth with geometrical exactness. As soon as the rays reach our vision and paint us as we are, self-love slips its deceitful prism between us and our image, and presents a divinity to us.

And of all the prisms that have existed since the first that came from the hands of the immortal Newton, none has possessed so powerful a refractive force, or produced such pleasing and lively colors, as the prism of self-love.

Now, seeing that ordinary looking-glasses record the truth in vain, and that they cannot make men see their own imperfections, everyone being satisfied with his face, what would a moral mirror avail? Few people would look at it, and no one would recognize himself. None save philosophers would spend their time in examining themselves⁠—I even have my doubts about the philosophers.

Taking the mirror as we find it, I hope no one will blame me for ranking it above all the pictures of the Italian school.

Ladies, whose taste cannot be faulty, and whose opinion should decide the question, generally upon entering a room let their first glance fall upon this picture.

A thousand times have I seen ladies, aye, and gallants, too, forget at a ball their lovers and their mistresses, the dancing, and all the pleasures of the fête, to contemplate with evident complaisance this enchanting picture, and honoring it even, from time to time, in the midst of the liveliest quadrille, with a look.

Who then can dispute the rank that I accord to it among the masterpieces of the art of Apelles?

XXVIII

I had at last nearly reached my bureau. So close was I, that had I stretched out my arm I could have touched the corner nearest to me. But at this very moment I was on the verge of seeing the fruit of all my labors destroyed, and of losing my life. I should pass over in silence the accident that happened to me, for fear of discouraging other travellers, were it not that it is so difficult to upset such a post-chaise as I employ, that it must be allowed that one must be uncommonly unlucky⁠—as unlucky, indeed, as it is my lot to be⁠—to be exposed to a like danger.

There I was, stretched at full length upon the ground, completely upset, and it was done so quickly, so unexpectedly, that I should have been almost tempted to question the cause of my abject position, had not a singing in my ears and a sharp pain in my left shoulder too plainly demonstrated it.

This was again the other, who had played a trick upon me.

Startled by the voice of a poor man who suddenly asked alms at my door, and by the voice of Rose, my other half suddenly turned the armchair sharply round, before my soul had time to warn it that a piece of brick, which served as a drag, was gone. The jerk was so violent that my post-chaise was quite thrown from its centre of gravity, and turned over upon me.

This was, I must own, one of the occasions upon which I had most to complain of my soul. For instead of being vexed at herself for having been absent, and scolding her companion for its hurry, she so far forgot herself as to give way to the most animal resentment, and to insult the poor fellow cruelly.

“Idle rascal,” she said, “go and work.” (An execrable apostrophe this, the invention of miserly, heartless Mammon.)

“Sir,” replied the man, hoping to soften my heart, “I come from Chambéry.”

“So much the worse for you.”

“I am James. You saw me when you were in the country. I used to drive the sheep into the fields.”

“And what do you do here?” My soul began to regret the harshness of my first words; I almost think she regretted them a moment before they were uttered. In like manner, when one meets in the road a rut or puddle, one sees it, but has not time to avoid it.

Rose finished the work of bringing me to good sense and repentance. She had recognized Jem, who had often shared his crust with her, and she testified by her caresses, her remembrance and gratitude.

Meanwhile, Joannetti, who had gathered together what was left of my dinner, his own share, gave it at once to Jem.

Poor Joannetti!

Thus it is that in my journey I get lessons of philosophy and humanity from my servant and my dog.

XXIX

Before proceeding farther, I wish to remove a suspicion which may have crossed the minds of my readers.

I would not for all the world be suspected of having undertaken this journey just because I did not know how to spend my time, and was in a manner compelled thereto by circumstances. I here affirm, and swear by all that is dear to me, that I projected it long before the event took place which deprived me of my liberty for forty-two days. This forced retirement only served as an opportunity for setting out sooner than I had intended.

This gratuitous protestation will, I know, appear suspicious in the eyes of some. But those who are so ready to suspect are just the persons who will not read this book. They have enough to do at home and at their friends’, plenty of other business to attend to. And good, honest folk will believe me.

Still, I freely admit that I should have preferred another season for my journey, and that I should have chosen for its execution Lent rather than the Carnival. The philosophical reflections, however, that have come to me from above have greatly aided me in supporting the loss of those pleasures which Turin offers at this noisy and exciting time.

It is certain, I have thought to myself, that the walls of my chamber are not so magnificently decorated as those of a ballroom. The silence of my cottage is far less agreeable than the pleasing sounds of music and dancing. But among the brilliant personages one meets in those festive scenes, there are certainly some who are more sick at heart than I am.

And why should I picture to myself those who are more happily circumstanced than it is my lot to be, while the world swarms with those who are worse off? Instead of transporting myself in fancy to that sumptuous dancing-hall, where so many beauties are eclipsed by the young Eugénie, I need only pause a moment in one of the streets, that lead thither, if I would learn how happy is my fate.

For, under the porticos of those magnificent apartments, lie a crowd of wretched people, half-naked, and ready to die from cold and misery. What a spectacle is here! Would that this page of my book were known throughout the universe! Would that everyone knew that in this opulent city a host of wretched beings sleep, without covering, in the coldest winter nights, and with no pillow but the cornerstone of a street, or the steps of a palace.

Here, again, is a group of children, crouching together for protection from the deadly cold; and here a trembling woman, who has no voice left to complain with. The passersby come and go without being touched by a spectacle with which they are so familiar. The noise of carriages, the shouts of intemperance, the ravishing sounds of music, mingle not unfrequently with the wails of those unhappy creatures, and fill the ear with doleful discord.

XXX

Were anyone to pass a hasty judgment upon a city, taking my last chapter as a criterion, he would err greatly. I have spoken of the poor we meet with, of their pitiful lamentations, and of the indifference with which many regard them. But I have said nothing of the multitude of charitable persons who sleep while others seek amusement, and who rise at dawn, unobserved and unostentatiously, to succor the unfortunate.

This aspect of city life must not be passed by in silence. I will write it on the reverse of the page I was anxious everybody should read.

After having divided their good things with their brethren, after having poured balm into hearts chafed by sorrow, you may see them enter the churches, while wearied vice sleeps upon eiderdown, to offer up their prayers to God, and to thank Him for his mercies. The light of a solitary lamp still struggles in the sanctuary with the daylight; but they are already prostrate before the altar. And the Almighty, angered by the hardhearted selfishness of men, witholds his threatening hand.

XXXI

I could not help saying a word in my journey about those poor creatures, for the thought of them has often come across me on my way, and turned the current of my reflections. Sometimes, struck with the difference between their case and my own, I have suddenly stopped my travelling-carriage, and thought my chamber extravagantly embellished! What superfluous luxury! Six chairs, two tables, a bureau, and a looking-glass! What vain display! My bed above all things, my rose and white bed, with its two mattresses, seemed to rival the magnificence and effeminacy of Asiatic monarchs.

These meditations made me indifferent to the pleasures that had been forbidden me. And, as I went on from one reflection to another, my fit of philosophy became so serious that I could have seen a ball going on in the next room, and heard the sound of violins and flutes without stirring. I could have heard Marchesini’s melodious voice, that voice which has so often transported me, yes, I could have listened to it without being moved. Nay, more, I could have gazed upon the most beauteous woman in Turin, upon Eugénie herself, adorned from head to foot by the hands of Mademoiselle Rapoux,4 without emotion. But, of this last, I must confess myself not quite sure.

XXXII

But, gentlemen, allow me to ask a question. Do you enjoy balls and plays as much as you used to do? As for me, I avow that for some time past crowded assemblies have inspired me with a kind of terror. When in their midst, I am assailed by an ominous dream. In vain I try to shake it off; like the dream of Athalie, it constantly returns. Perhaps this is because the soul, overwhelmed at the present moment by dark fancies and painful pictures, sees nothing but sadness around it, just as a disordered stomach turns the most wholesome food into poison. However this may be, my dream is as follows. When I am at one of these fêtes, among a crowd of kind, good-natured men, who dance and sing, who weep at tragedies, and are full of frankness and cordiality, I say to myself:⁠—

“If suddenly a white bear, a philosopher, a tiger, or some other animal of this kind were to enter, and ascending to the orchestra, were to shout out furiously: ‘Wretched beings! Listen to the truth that comes from my lips! You are oppressed! You are the slaves of tyrants! You are wretched and heartsick! Awake from your lethargy!

“ ‘Musicians, break your instruments about your heads, and let each one of you arm himself with a poniard. Think no more about holidays and rejoicings. Climb into the boxes, and stab their occupants, one and all. And let the women steep their timid hands in blood.

“ ‘Quit this room, for you are free! Tear your king from his throne, and your God from his sanctuary.’

“Well, and how many of these charming men will obey this tiger’s voice? How many of them thought, perhaps, of such deeds before they entered? Who can tell? Was there no dancing in Paris five years ago?”

Joannetti! shut the door and windows! I do not wish to see the light! Let no one enter my room. Put my sword within reach. Go out yourself, and keep away from me.

XXXIII

No, no! Stay, Joannetti, my good fellow! And you too, Rose, you who guess what are my sorrows, and soften them by your caresses, come!

V forms the resting-place.

XXXIV

The upset of my post-chaise has rendered the reader the service of shortening my journey by a good dozen chapters, for, upon getting up, I found myself close to my bureau, and saw that I had no time left for any observations upon a number of engravings and pictures which had yet to be surveyed, and which might have lengthened my excursions into the realm of painting.

Leaving to the right the portraits of Raphael and his mistress, the Chevalier d’Assas and the Shepherdess of the Alps, and taking the left, the side on which the window is situated, my bureau comes into view. It is the first and the most prominent object the traveller’s eyes light upon, taking the route I have indicated.

It is surmounted by a few shelves that serve as a bookcase, and the whole is terminated by a bust which completes the pyramid, and contributes more than any other object to the adornment of this region.

Upon opening the first drawer to the left, we find an inkstand, paper of all kinds, pens ready mended, and sealing-wax; all which set the most indolent person longing to write.

I am sure, dear Jenny, that if you chanced to open this drawer, you would reply to the letter I wrote you a year ago.

In the opposite drawer lies a confused heap of materials for a touching history of the prisoner of Pignerol,5 which, my dear friends, you will ere long read.

Between these two drawers is a recess into which I throw whatever letters I receive. All that have reached me during the last ten years are there. The oldest of them are arranged according to date in several packets; the new ones lie pell-mell. Besides these, I have several dating from my early boyhood.

How great a pleasure it is to behold again through the medium of these letters the interesting scenes of our early years, to be once again transported into those happy days that we shall see no more!

How full is my heart, and how deeply tinged with sadness is its joy, as my eyes wander over those words traced by one who is gone forever! That handwriting is his, and it was his heart that guided his hand. It was to me that he addressed this letter, and this letter is all that is left of him!

When I put my hand into this recess, I seldom leave the spot for the whole day. In like manner, a traveller will pass rapidly through whole provinces of Italy, making a few hurried and trivial observations on the way, and upon reaching Rome will take up his abode there for months.

This is the richest vein in the mine I am exploring. How changed I find my ideas and sentiments, and how altered do my friends appear when I examine them as they were in days gone by, and as they are now! In these mirrors of the past I see them in mortal agitation about plans which no longer disturb them.

Here I find an event announced which we evidently looked upon as a great misfortune; but the end of the letter is wanting, and the circumstance is so entirely forgotten that I cannot now make out what the matter was which so concerned us. We were possessed by a thousand prejudices. We knew nothing of the world, and of men. But then, how warm was our intercourse! How intimate our friendship! How unbounded our confidence!

In our ignorance there was bliss. But now⁠—ah! all is now changed. We have been compelled, as others, to read the human heart; and truth, falling like a bomb into the midst of us, has forever destroyed the enchanted palace of illusion.

XXXV

If the subject were worth the trouble, I could readily write a chapter upon that dry rose. It is a flower of last year’s carnival. I gathered it myself in the Valentino.6 And in the evening, an hour before the ball was to begin, I bore it, full of hope, and agreeably excited, to Madame Hautcastel, for her acceptance. She took it, and without looking at it or me, placed it upon her toilette-table. And how could she have given me any of her attention? She was engaged in looking at herself. There she stood before a large mirror; her hair was ornamented for a fête, and the decorations of her dress were undergoing their final arrangement. She was so fully occupied, her attention was so totally absorbed by the ribbons, gauzes, and all sorts of finery that lay in heaps before her, that I did not get a look or any sign of recognition. There was nothing for me but resignation. I held out humbly in my hand a number of pins arranged in order. But her pincushion being more within reach, she took them from her pincushion, and when I brought my hand nearer, she took them from my hand, quite indifferently, and in taking them up she would feel about for them with the tips of her fingers, without taking her eyes from the glass, lest she should lose sight of herself.

For some time I held behind her a second mirror that she might judge the better how her dress became her, and as her face reflected itself from one glass to another, I saw a prospective of coquettes, no one of whom paid me the least attention. In a word, I must confess that my rose and I cut a very poor figure.

At last I lost all patience, and unable longer to control the vexation that preyed upon me, I put down the looking-glass I had been holding, and went out angrily without taking leave.

“O! you are going?” she said, turning so as to see her figure in profile. I made no answer, but I listened some time at the door to see what effect my abrupt departure would have.

“Do you not see,” she said to her maid, after a moment’s silence, “that this caraco, particularly the lower part, is much too large at the waist, and will want pinning?”

Why and wherefore that rose is upon my shelf, I shall certainly not explain, for, as I said before, a withered rose does not deserve a chapter.

And pray observe, ladies, that I make no reflection upon the adventure with the rose. I do not say whether Madame de Hautcastel did well or otherwise in preferring her dress to me, or whether I had any right to a better reception.

I take special care to deduce therefrom no general conclusions about the reality, the strength, and the duration of the affection of ladies for their friends. I am content to cast this chapter (since it is one) into the world with the rest of my journey, without addressing it to anyone, and without recommending it to anyone.

I will only add, gentlemen, a word of counsel. Impress well upon your minds this fact, that your mistress is no longer yours on the day of a ball.

As soon as dressing begins, a lover is no more thought of than a husband would be; and the ball takes the place of a lover.

Everyone knows how little a husband gains by enforcing his love. Take your trouble, then, patiently, cheerfully.

And, my dear sir, do not deceive yourself; if a lady welcome you at a ball, it is not as a lover that you are received, for you are a husband⁠—but as a part of the ball; and you are therefore but a fraction of her new conquest. You are the decimal of a lover. Or, it may be, you dance well, and so give éclat to her graces. After all, perhaps, the most flattering way in which you can regard her kind welcome is to consider that she hopes by treating as her cavalier a man of parts like yourself, to excite the jealousy of her companions. Were it not for that she would not notice you at all.

It amounts then to this. You must resign yourself to your fate, and wait until the husband’s role is played. I know those who would be glad to get off at so cheap a rate.

XXXVI

I promised to give a dialogue between my soul and the other. But there are some chapters which elude me, as it were, or rather, there are others which flow from my pen nolens volens, and derange my plans. Among these is one about my library; and I will make it as short as I can. Our forty-two days will soon be ended; and even were it not so, a similar period would not suffice to complete the description of the rich country in which I travel so pleasantly.

My library, then, is composed of novels, if I must make the confession; of novels and a few choice poets.

As if I had not troubles enough of my own, I share those of a thousand imaginary personages, and I feel them as acutely as my own. How many tears have I shed for that poor Clarissa,7 and for Charlotte’s8 lover!

But if I go out of my way in search of unreal afflictions, I find in return, such virtue, kindness, and disinterestedness in this imaginary world as I have never yet found united in the real world around me. I meet with a woman after my heart’s desire, free from whim, lightness, and affectation. I say nothing about beauty; this I can leave to my imagination, and picture her faultlessly beautiful. And then, closing the book, which no longer keeps pace with my ideas, I take the fair one by the hand, and we travel together over a country a thousand times more delightful than Eden itself. What painter could represent the fairy land in which I have placed the goddess of my heart? What poet could ever describe the lively and manifold sensations I experience in those enchanted regions?

How often have I cursed that Cleveland,9 who is always embarking upon new troubles which he might very well avoid! I cannot endure that book with its long list of calamities. But if I open it by way of distraction, I cannot help devouring it to the end.

For how could I leave that poor man among the Abaquis? What would become of him in the hands of those savages? Still less dare I leave him in his attempt to escape from captivity.

Indeed, I so enter into his sorrows, I am so interested in him and in his unfortunate family, that the sudden appearance of the ferocious Ruintons makes my hair stand on end. When I read that passage a cold perspiration covers me, and my fright is as lively and real as if I was going to be roasted and eaten by the monsters myself.

When I have had enough of tears and love, I turn to some poet, and set out again for a new world.

XXXVII

From the Argonautic expedition to the Assembly of Notables; from the bottom of the nethermost pit to the furthest fixed star beyond the Milky Way; to the confines of the Universe; to the gates of chaos; thus far extends the vast field over the length and breadth of which I leisurely roam. I lack nor time nor space. Thither, conducted by Homer, by Milton, by Virgil, by Ossian, I transport my existence.

All the events that have taken place between these two epochs; all the countries, all the worlds, all the beings that have existed between these two boundaries⁠—all are mine, all as lawfully belong to me as the ships that entered the Piræus belonged to a certain Athenian.

Above all the rest do I love the poets who carry me back to the remotest antiquity. The death of the ambitious Agamemnon, the madness of Orestes, and the tragical history of the heaven-persecuted family of the Atrides, inspire me with a terror that all the events of modern times could not excite in my breast.

Behold the fatal urn which contains the ashes of Orestes! Who would not shudder at the sight? Electra, unhappy sister! be comforted, for it is Orestes himself who bears the urn, and the ashes are those of his enemies.

No longer are their banks like those of Xanthus or the Scamander. No longer do we visit plains such as those of Hesperia or Arcadia. Where are now the isles of Lemnos and Crete? Where the famous labyrinth? Where is the rock that forlorn Ariadne washed with her tears? Theseus is seen no more; Hercules is gone forever. The men, aye, and the heroes of our day are but pygmies.

When I would visit a scene full of enthusiasm, and put forth all the strength of my imagination, I cling boldly to the flowing robe of the sublime blind poet of Albion at the moment when he soars heavenward, and dares approach the throne of the Eternal. What muse was able to sustain him in a flight so lofty that no man before him ever ventured to raise his eyes so high? From heaven’s dazzling pavement which avaricious Mammon looked down upon with envious eyes, I pass, horror-stricken, to the vast caverns of Satan’s sojourn. I take my place at the infernal council, mingle with the host of rebellious spirits, and listen to their discourse.

But here I must confess a weakness for which I have often reproached myself.

I cannot help taking a certain interest in Satan, thus hurled headlong from heaven. (I am speaking, of course, of Milton’s Satan.) While I blame the obstinacy of the rebel angel, the firmness he shows in the midst of his exceeding great misery, and the grandness of his courage, inspire me, against my will, with admiration. Although not ignorant of the woe resulting from the direful enterprise that led him to force the gate of hell and to trouble the home of our first parents, I cannot for a moment, do what I will, wish he may perish in the confusion of chaos on his way. I even think I could willingly help him, did not shame withhold me. I follow his every movement, and take as much pleasure in travelling with him as if I were in very good company. In vain I consider that after all he is a devil on his way to the ruin of the human race, that he is a thorough democrat not after the manner of those of Athens, but of Paris. All this does not cure me of my prejudice in his favor.

How vast was his project! How great the boldness displayed in its execution!

When the thrice-threefold gates of hell fly open before him, and the dark, boundless ocean discloses itself in all its horror at his feet, with undaunted eye he surveys the realm of chaos, and then, opening his sail-broad wings, precipitates himself into the abyss.10

To me this passage is one of the noblest efforts of imagination, and one of the most splendid journeys ever made, next to the journey round my room.

XXXVIII

I should never end if I tried to describe a thousandth part of the strange events I meet with when I travel in my library. The voyages of Cook and the observations of his fellow-travellers Banks and Solander are nothing compared with my adventures in this one district. Indeed, I think I could spend my life there in a kind of rapture, were it not for the bust I have already mentioned, upon which my eyes and thoughts always fix themselves at last, whatever may be the position of my soul. And when my soul is violently agitated, or a prey to despair, a glance at this bust suffices to restore the troubled being to its natural state. It sounds the chord upon which I keep in tune the harmonies, and correct the discords of the sensations and perceptions of which my being is made up. How striking the likeness! Those are the features nature gave to the best of men. O, that the sculptor had been able to bring to view his noble soul, his genius, his character! But what am I attempting! Is it here that his praise should be recorded? Do I address myself to the men that surround me? Ah! what concern is it of theirs?

I am contented to bend before thy image, O best of fathers! Alas, that this should be all that is left me of thee and of my fatherland! Thou quittedst the earth when crime was about to invade it; and so heavy are the ills that oppress thy family, that we are constrained to regard thy loss as a blessing. Many would have been the evils a longer life would have brought upon thee! And dost thou, O my father, dost thou, in thine abode of bliss, know the lot of thy family! Knowest thou that thy children are exiled from the country thou hast served with so much zeal and integrity for sixty years?

Dost thou know that they are forbidden to visit thy grave? But tyranny has not been able to deprive them of the most precious part of thy heritage, the record of thy virtues, and the force of thine example. In the midst of the torrent of crime which has borne their fatherland and their patrimony to ruin, they have steadfastly remained united in the path marked out for them by thee. And when it shall be given them to prostrate themselves once more beside thy tomb, thou shalt see in them thine obedient children.

XXXIX

I promised a dialogue, and I will keep my word.

It was daybreak. The rays of the sun were gilding the summit of Mount Viso, and the tops of the highest hills on the island beneath our feet. My soul was already awake. This early awakening may have been the effect of those night visions which often excite in her a fatiguing and useless agitation: or perhaps the carnival, then drawing to a close, was the secret cause; for this season of pleasure and folly influences the human organization much as do the phases of the moon and the conjunction of certain planets. However this may be, my soul was awake, and wide awake, when she shook off the bands of sleep.

For some time she had shared, though confusedly, the sensations of the other: but she was still encumbered by the swathes of night and sleep; and these swathes seemed to her transformed into gauze and fine linen and Indian lawn. My poor soul was, as it were, enwrapped in all this paraphernalia, and the god of sleep, that he might hold her still more firmly under his sway, added to these bonds disheveled tresses of flaxen hair, ribbon bows, and pearl necklaces. Really it was pitiful to see her struggle in these toils.

The agitation of the nobler part of myself communicated itself to the other; and the latter, in its turn, reacted powerfully upon my soul.

I worked myself, at last, into a state which it would be hard to describe, while my soul, either sagaciously or by chance, hit upon a way of escaping from the gauzes by which it was being suffocated. I know not whether she discovered an outlet, or whether, which is a more natural conclusion, it occurred to her to raise them: at all events, she found a means of egress from the labyrinth. The tresses of disheveled hair were still there; but they were now rather help than hindrance; my soul seized them, as a drowning man clutches the sedge on a river’s bank, but the pearl necklace broke in the act, and the unstrung pearls rolled on the sofa, and from the sofa to Madame Hautcastel’s floor (for my soul, by an eccentricity for which it would be difficult to give a reason, fancied she was at that lady’s house); then a great bunch of violets fell to the ground, and my soul, which then awoke, returned home, bringing with her common sense and reality. She strongly disapproved, as you will readily imagine, of all that had passed in her absence; and here it is that the dialogue begins which forms the subject of this chapter.

Never had my soul been so ungraciously received. The complaints she thought fit to make at this critical moment fully sufficed to stir up domestic strife; a revolt, a formal insurrection followed.

“What!” said my soul, “is it thus that during my absence, instead of restoring your strength by quiet sleep that you may be better able to do my bidding, you have the insolence (the expressing was rather strong) to give yourself up to transports which my authority has not sanctioned!”

Little accustomed to this haughty tone, the other angrily answered:⁠—

“Really, madame” (this madame was meant to remove from the discussion anything like familiarity), “really, this affectation of virtuous decorum is highly becoming to you! Is it not to the sallies of your imagination, and to your extravagant ideas, that I owe what in me displeases you? What right have you to go on those pleasant excursions so often, without taking me with you? Have I ever complained about your attending the meetings in the Empyrean or in the Elysian fields, your conversations with the celestial intelligences, your profound speculations (a little raillery here, you see), your castles in the air, and your transcendental systems? And have I not a right, when you leave me in this way, to enjoy the blessings bestowed upon me by Nature, and the pleasures she places before me?”

My soul, surprised at so much vivacity and eloquence, did not know how to reply. In order to settle the dispute amicably, she endeavored to veil with the semblance of good-nature the reproaches that had escaped her. But, that she might not seem to take the first steps towards reconciliation, she affected a formal tone. “Madame,” she said, with assumed cordiality.⁠ ⁠… If the reader thought the word misplaced when addressed to my soul, what will he say of it now, if he call to mind the cause of the quarrel? But my soul did not feel the extreme absurdity of this mode of expression, so much does passion obscure the intellect! “Madame,” she said, “nothing, be assured, would give me so much pleasure as to see you enjoy those pleasures of which your nature is susceptible, if even I did not participate in them, were it not that such pleasures are harmful to you, injuriously affecting the harmony which.⁠ ⁠…” Here my soul was rudely interrupted, “No, no, I am not the dupe of your pretended kindness. The sojourn we are compelled to make together in this room in which we travel; the wound which I received, which still bleeds, and which nearly destroyed me⁠—is not all this the fruit of your overweening conceit and your barbarous prejudices? My comfort, my very existence, is counted as nothing when your passions sway you: and then, forsooth, you pretend that you take an interest in my welfare, and that your insults spring from friendship.”

My soul saw very well that the part she was playing on this occasion was no flattering one. She began, too, to perceive that the warmth of the dispute had put the cause of it out of sight. Profiting from this circumstance, she caused a further distraction by saying to Joannetti, who at that moment entered the room, “Make some coffee!” The noise of the cups attracted all the rebel’s attention, who forthwith forgot everything else. In like manner we show children a toy to make them forget the unwholesome fruit for which they beg and stamp.

While the water was being heated, I insensibly fell asleep. I enjoyed that delightful sensation about which I have already entertained my readers, and which you experience when you feel yourself to be dozing. The agreeable rattling Joannetti made with the coffeepot reechoed in my brain, and set all my sensitive nerves vibrating, just as a single harp-string when struck will make the octaves resound.

At last I saw as it were, a shadow pass before me. I opened my eyes, and there stood Joannetti. Ah, what an aroma! How agreeable a surprise! Coffee! Cream! A pyramid of dry toast! Good reader, come, breakfast with me!

XL

What a wealth of delights has kind Nature given to those who can enjoy them. Who can count the innumerable phases they assume in different individuals, and at different periods of life! The confused remembrance of the pleasures of my boyhood sends a thrill through my heart. Shall I attempt to paint the joys of the youth whose soul glows with all the warmth of love, at an age when interest, ambition, hatred, and all the base passions that degrade and torment humanity are unknown to him, even by name?

During this age, too short, alas! the sun shines with a brightness it never displays in afterlife; the air is then purer, the streams clearer and fresher, and nature has aspects, and the woods have paths, which in our riper age we never find again. O, what perfumes those flowers breathe! How delicious are those fruits! With what colors is the morning sky adorned! Men are all good, generous, kindhearted; and women all lovely and faithful. On all sides we meet with cordiality, frankness, and unselfishness. Nature presents to us nothing but flowers, virtues, and pleasures.

The excitement of love, and the anticipation of happiness, do they not fill our hearts to the brim with emotions no less lively and various?

The sight of nature and its contemplation, whether we regard it as a whole, or examine its details, opens to our reason an immense field of enjoyments. Soon the imagination, brooding over this sea of pleasures, increases their number and intensity. The various sensations so unite and blend as to form new ones. Dreams of glory mingle with the palpitations of love. Benevolence moves hand in hand with self-esteem. Melancholy, from time to time, throws over us her solemn livery, and changes our tears to joy. Thus the perceptions of the mind, the feelings of the heart, the very remembrance of sensations, are inexhaustible sources of pleasure and comfort to man. No wonder, then, that the noise Joannetti made with the coffeepot, and the unexpected appearance of a cup of cream, should have impressed me so vividly and so agreeably.

XLI

I put on my travelling-coat, after having examined it with a complacent eye; and forthwith resolved to write a chapter ad hoc, that I might make it known to the reader.

The form and usefulness of these garments being pretty generally known, I will treat specially of their influence upon the minds of travellers.

My winter travelling-coat is made of the warmest and softest stuff I could meet with. It envelops me entirely from head to foot, and when I am in my armchair, with my hands in my pockets, I am very like the statue of Vishnu one sees in the pagodas of India.

You may, if you will, tax me with prejudice when I assert the influence a traveller’s costume exercises upon its wearer. At any rate I can confidently affirm with regard to this matter, that it would appear to me as ridiculous to take a single step of my journey round my room in uniform, with my sword at my side, as it would to go forth into the world in my dressing-gown. Were I to find myself in full military dress, not only should I be unable to proceed with my journey, but I really believe I should not be able to read what I have written about my travels, still less to understand it.

Does this surprise you? Do we not every day meet with people who fancy they are ill because they are unshaven, or because someone has thought they have looked poorly, and told them so? Dress has such influence upon men’s minds that there are valetudinarians who think themselves in better health than usual when they have on a new coat and well-powdered wig. They deceive the public and themselves by their nicety about dress, until one finds some fine morning they have died in full fig, and their death startles everybody.

And in the class of men among whom I live, how many there are who, finding themselves clothed in uniform, firmly believe they are officers, until the unexpected appearance of the enemy shows them their mistake. And more than this, if it be the king’s good pleasure to allow one of them to add to his coat a certain trimming, he straightway believes himself to be a general, and the whole army gives him the title without any notion of making fun of him! So great an influence has a coat upon the human imagination!

The following illustration will show still further the truth of my assertion.

It sometimes happened that they forgot to inform the Count de ⸻ some days beforehand of the approach of his turn to mount guard. Early one morning, on the very day on which this duty fell to the Count, a corporal awoke him, and announced the disagreeable news. But the idea of getting up there and then, putting on his gaiters, and turning out without having thought about it the evening before, so disturbed him that he preferred reporting himself sick and staying at home all day. So he put on his dressing-gown, and sent away his barber. This made him look pale and ill, and frightened his wife and family. He really did feel a little poorly.

He told everyone he was not very well, partly for the sake of appearances, and partly because he positively believed himself to be indisposed. Gradually the influence of the dressing-gown began to work. The slops he was obliged to take upset his stomach. His relations and friends sent to ask after him. He was soon quite ill enough to take to his bed.

In the evening Dr. Ranson11 found his pulse hard and feverish, and ordered him to be bled next day.

If the campaign had lasted a month longer, the sick man’s case would have been past cure.

Now, who can doubt about the influence of travelling-coats upon travellers, if he reflect that poor Count de ⸻ thought more than once that he was about to perform a journey to the other world for having inopportunely donned his dressing-gown in this?

XLII

I was sitting near my fire after dinner, enveloped in my habit de voyage, and freely abandoning myself to its influence: the hour for starting was, I knew, drawing nigh; but the fumes generated by digestion rose to my brain, and so obstructed the channels along which thoughts glide on their way from the senses, that all communication between them was intercepted. And as my senses no longer transmitted any idea to my brain, the latter, in its turn, could no longer emit any of that electric fluid with which the ingenious Doctor Valli resuscitates dead frogs.

After reading this preamble, you will easily understand why my head fell on my chest, and why the muscles of the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, being no longer excited by the electric fluid, became so relaxed that a volume of the works of the Marquis Caraccioli, which I was holding tightly between these two fingers, imperceptibly eluded my grasp, and fell upon the hearth.

I had just had some callers, and my conversation with the persons who had left the room had turned upon the death of Dr. Cigna, an eminent physician then lately deceased. He was a learned and hardworking man, a good naturalist, and a famous botanist. My thoughts were occupied with the merits of this skillful man. “And yet,” I said to myself, “were it possible for me to evoke the spirits of those whom he has, perhaps, dismissed to the other world, who knows but that his reputation might suffer some diminution?”

I travelled insensibly to a dissertation on medicine and the progress it has made since the time of Hippocrates. I asked myself whether the famous personages of antiquity who died in their beds, as Pericles, Plato, the celebrated Aspasia, and Hippocrates, died, after the manner of ordinary mortals, of some putrid or inflammatory fever; and whether they were bled, and crammed with specifics.

To say why these four personages came into my mind rather than any others, is out of my power; for who can give reasons for what he dreams? All that I can say is that my soul summoned the doctor of Cos, the doctor of Turin, and the famous statesman who did such great things, and committed such grave faults.

But as to his graceful friend, I humbly own that it was the other who beckoned her to come. Still, however, when I think of the interview, I am tempted to feel some little pride, for it is evident that in this dream the balance in favor of reason was as four to one. Pretty fair this, methinks, for a lieutenant.

However this may be, whilst giving myself up to the reflections I have described, my eyes closed, and I fell fast asleep. But upon shutting my eyes, the image of the personages of whom I had been thinking, remained painted upon that delicate canvas we call memory; and these images, mingling in my brain with the idea of the evocation of the dead, it was not long before I saw advancing in procession Hippocrates, Plato, Pericles, Aspasia, and Doctor Cigna in his bob-wig.

I saw them all seat themselves in chairs ranged around the fire. Pericles alone remained standing to read the newspapers.

“If the discoveries of which you speak were true,” said Hippocrates to the doctor, “and had they been as useful to the healing art as you affirm, I should have seen the number of those who daily descend to the gloomy realm of Pluto decrease; but the ratio of its inhabitants, according to the registers of Minos which I have myself verified, remains still the same as formerly.”

Doctor Cigna turned to me and said: “You have without doubt heard these discoveries spoken of. You know that Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood; that the immortal Spallanzani explained the process of digestion, the mechanism of which is now well understood;” and he entered upon a long detail of all the discoveries connected with physic, and of the host of remedies for which we are indebted to chemistry: in short, he delivered an academical discourse in favor of modern medicine.

“But am I to believe,” I replied, “that these great men were ignorant of all you have been telling them, and that their souls, having shuffled off this mortal coil, still meet with any obscurities in nature?”

“Ah! how great is your error!” exclaimed the proto-physician12 of the Peloponnesus. The mysteries of nature are as closely hidden from the dead as from the living. Of one thing we who linger on the banks of the Styx are certain, that He who created all things alone knows the great secret which men vainly strive to solve. “And,” added he, turning to the doctor, “do be persuaded by me to divest yourself of what still clings to you of the party-spirit you have brought with you from the sojourn of mortals. And since, seeing that Charon daily ferries over in his boat as many shades as heretofore, the labors of a thousand generations and all the discoveries men have made have not been able to prolong their existence, let us not uselessly weary ourselves in defending an art which, among the dead, cannot even profit its practitioners.”

Thus, to my great amazement, spoke the famous Hippocrates.

Doctor Cigna smiled; and as spirits can neither withstand evidence, nor silence truth, he not only agreed with Hippocrates, but, blushing after the manner of disembodied intelligences, he protested that he had himself always had his doubts.

Pericles, who had drawn near the window, heaved a deep sigh, the cause of which I divined. He was reading a number of the Moniteur, which announced the decadence of the arts and sciences. He saw illustrious scholars desert their sublime conceptions to invent new crimes, and shuddered at hearing a rabble herd compare themselves with the heroes of generous Greece; and this, forsooth, because they put to death, without shame or remorse, venerable old men, women, and children, and coolly perpetrated the blackest and most useless crimes.

Plato, who had listened to our conversation without joining in it, and seeing it brought to a sudden and unexpected close, thus spoke: “I can readily understand that the discoveries great men have made in the various branches of natural science do not forward the art of medicine, which can never change the course of nature, except at the cost of life. But this will certainly not be so with the researches that have been made in the study of politics. Locke’s inquiries into the nature of the human understanding, the invention of printing, the accumulated observations drawn from history, the number of excellent books which have spread sound information even among the lower orders⁠—so many wonders must have contributed to make men better, and the happy republic I conceived, which the age in which I lived caused me to regard as an impracticable dream, no doubt now exists upon the earth?” At this question the honest doctor cast down his eyes, and only answered by tears. In wiping them with his pocket-handkerchief, he involuntarily moved his wig on one side, so that a part of his face was hidden by it. “Ye gods!” exclaimed Aspasia, with a scream, “how strange a sight! And is it a discovery of one of your great men that has led you to the idea of turning another man’s skull into a headdress?”

Aspasia, from whom our philosophical dissertations had elicited nothing but gapes, had taken up a magazine of fashions which lay on the chimneypiece, the leaves of which she had been turning over for some time when the doctor’s wig made her utter this exclamation. Finding the narrow, rickety seat upon which she was sitting uncomfortable, she had, without the least ceremony, placed her two bare legs, which were adorned with bandelets, on the straw-bottomed chair between her and me, and rested her elbow upon the broad shoulders of Plato.

“It is no skull,” said the doctor, addressing her, and taking off his wig, which he threw on the fire, “it is a wig, madam; and I know not why I did not cast this ridiculous ornament into the flames of Tartarus when first I came among you. But absurdities and prejudices adhere so closely to our miserable nature that they even follow us sometimes beyond the grave.” I took singular pleasure in seeing the doctor thus abjure his physic and his wig at the same moment.

“I assure you,” said Aspasia, “that most of the headdresses represented in the pages I have been turning over deserve the same fate as yours, so very extravagant are they.”

The fair Athenian amused herself vastly in looking over the engravings, and was very reasonably surprised by the variety and oddity of modern contrivances. One figure, especially struck her. It was that of a young lady with a really elegant headdress which Aspasia only thought somewhat too high. But the piece of gauze that covered the neck was so very full you could scarcely see half her face. Aspasia, not knowing that these extraordinary developments were produced by starch, could not help showing a surprise which would have been redoubled (but inversely), had the gauze been transparent.

“But do explain,” she said, “why women of the present day seem to wear dresses to hide rather than to clothe them. They scarcely allow their faces to be seen, those faces by which alone their sex is to be guessed, so strangely are their bodies disfigured by the eccentric folds of their garments. Among all the figures represented in these pages, I do not find one with the neck, arms, and legs bare. How is it your young warriors are not tempted to put an end to such a fashion? It would appear,” she added, “that the virtue of the women of this age, which they parade in all their articles of dress, greatly surpasses that of my contemporaries.”

As she ended these words, Aspasia turned her eyes on me as if to ask a reply. I pretended not to notice this, and in order to give myself an absent air, took up the tongs and pushed away among the embers the shreds of the doctor’s wig which had escaped the flames. Observing presently afterwards that one of the bandelets which clasped Aspasia’s buskin had come undone, “Permit me,” said I, “charming lady,”⁠—and eagerly stooping, stretched out my hands towards the chair on which I had fancied I saw those legs about which even great philosophers went into ecstacies.

I am persuaded that at this moment I was very near genuine somnambulism, so real was the movement of which I speak. But Rose, who happened to be sleeping in the chair, thought the movement was meant for her, and jumping nimbly into my arms, she drove back into Hades the famous shades my travelling-coat had summoned.

XLIII

Delightful realm of Imagination, which the benevolent Being has bestowed upon man to console him for the disappointments he meets with in real life.

This day, certain persons on whom I am dependent affect to restore me to liberty. As if they had ever deprived me of it! As if it were in their power to snatch it from me for a single moment, and to hinder me from traversing, at my own good pleasure, the vast space that ever lies open before me! They have forbidden me to go at large in a city, a mere speck, and have left open to me the whole universe, in which immensity and eternity obey me.

I am now free, then; or rather, I must enter again into bondage. The yoke of office is again to weigh me down, and every step I take must conform with the exigencies of politeness and duty. Fortunate shall I be if some capricious goddess do not again make me forget both, and if I escape from this new and dangerous captivity.

O why did they not allow me to finish my captivity! Was it as a punishment that I was exiled to my chamber, to that delightful country in which abound all the riches and enjoyments of the world? As well might they consign a mouse to a granary.

Still, never did I more clearly perceive that I am double than I do now. Whilst I regret my imaginary joys, I feel myself consoled. I am borne along by an unseen power which tells me I need the pure air, and the light of heaven, and that solitude is like death. Once more I don my customary garb; my door opens; I wander under the spacious porticos of the Strada della Po; a thousand agreeable visions float before my eyes. Yes, there is that mansion, that door, that staircase! I thrill with expectation.

In like manner the act of slicing a lemon gives you a foretaste that makes your mouth water.

Poor animal! Take care!

A Night Journey Round My Room

I

In order to invest the room in which I made my Night Journey with some interest, I must acquaint the inquisitive reader how it came into my possession. Being continually interrupted in my work, in the noisy house where I lived, I had intended for some time past to look out for a more solitary retreat, when one day turning over a life of M. de Baffon, I read, that that celebrated man had selected an isolated summerhouse in his garden, which contained no other furniture except an armchair, the bureau on which he wrote, and no other work except the one on which he happened to be then engaged. The trifles about which I busy myself are so far removed from the immortal works of M. de Baffon, that the idea of imitating him, even so far, would certainly never have crossed my mind, if an accident had not compelled me to do so. While dusting the furniture, my servant fancied he saw a good deal of dust on a sketch in pastel which I had just finished, and he cleaned it so effectually that he completely removed all the dust which I had been arranging with so much care. After venting my anger against the fellow during his absence, but saying nothing about it on his return, according to my custom, I at once set out on an expedition and returned home with the key of a little room which I had hired on the fourth floor in the Rue de la Providence. That very day, I moved thither the materials necessary for carrying on my favourite occupation, and thenceforth passed the best part of my time, secure from domestic chatter and picture cleaners. In that retired abode the hours fled like minutes, and more than once, while there, my meditations caused me to forget the dinner hour.

Oh, sweet solitude! How well I know the charms with which you captivate your lovers! Alas for him who cannot be alone for a single day without being bored to death, and who would rather talk with fools, if he must, than hold communion with himself! I must confess that I like the solitude of a large town, but, unless constrained thereto by some serious business, such as a journey round my room, I should prefer to be a hermit in the morning only; in the evening I love to see humanity again. Thus I play off against one another the disadvantages of society and solitude, and the contrast also enhances their comparative delights.

But there is such an uncertainty and fatality about the things of this earth, that the very keenness of the pleasure I found in my new abode ought to have forewarned me that it would be but of short duration. The French Revolution, like a flood, swept over every land, crossed the Alps and precipitated itself upon Italy. The first wave swept me far as Bolognia; I shut up my hermitage, whither I had transported all my effects, till happier times. For some years I had been without a Fatherland; one fine morning I discovered that I was without employment. After an entire year spent in seeing people and things I thoroughly detested, and longing to see those whom I should see no more, I returned to Turin. It was necessary to make up my mind to some course of action. I left the hotel La Bonne Femme, where I had put up, with the intention of restoring the little room to its owner and removing my furniture.

The sensations I experienced on entering my hermitage are difficult to describe: everything was there in the exact order, or rather disorder, in which I had left it⁠—the furniture, piled against the walls, had been sheltered from the dust by the elevation of its resting place, my pens were still in the dried up inkstand, and I found an unfinished letter on the table.

I congratulated myself on being once more among my household goods. Each object recalled some event of my life, and my room was crammed full of souvenirs. Instead of returning to the inn, I determined to spend the night in the midst of my effects. I sent out to fetch my bag, and, at the same time, made up my mind to start next day and, without taking leave or advice of anybody to abandon myself entirely to Providence.

II

Whilst making these reflections and congratulating myself on my well-laid plans, time slipped away, and my servant did not return. Necessity had compelled me to take this fellow into my service some weeks before, and I had some suspicions as to his honesty. Suddenly it occurred to me that he might perhaps have walked off with my bag, and, without losing a moment, I hurried off to the hotel: it was time I did so. On turning the corner of the street in which the Hotel de la Bonne Femme is situated, I saw him hastily come out of the door, preceded by a porter, who carried my portmanteau. He, himself, had charge of my handbag, and, instead of turning my way, he set off to the left, in the opposite direction to that he ought to have taken. His intention was plain. I joined him leisurely and, without speaking to him, walked for some time at his side before he saw me. If one had wished to paint the expression on the human countenance of the height of astonishment and fear, there could have been no better model than my man, just at the moment when he became aware of my presence.

I had plenty of time to make a study of it, for he was so disconcerted by my sudden appearance and by the grave air with which I looked at him, that he kept on walking for some time beside me without saying a word, as if we had been taking a walk together. At last, he mumbled an excuse about some business in the Rue Grand Doire, but I put him into the right road and we reached home, where I discharged him. It was only then that I determined to make a fresh tour of my room during the last night I should pass there, and I at once busied myself about the preparations.

III

For a long time I had desired to revisit the country in which I had made such enjoyable excursions; moreover, I did not feel at all satisfied with my own description of it. Some friends, who had dipped into my former journey, had begged me to continue it, and, without doubt, I should have decided to do so sooner, if I had not been separated from my travelling companions. It was with sadness that I resumed my undertaking. Alas! I resumed it alone! I was about to travel without my dear Joanetti and my charming Rose.13 My first room itself showed signs of a most disastrous change. Nay! It no longer existed. Its site was then part of a horrible ruin blackened by flames, and all the murderous inventions of war had combined to destroy it utterly. The wall on which the portrait of Mme. Hautcastle used to hang, had been pierced by a shell. Indeed, if, happily, I had not made my journey before that catastrophe, the literary world would never have known of that wonderful room. In like manner, but for the observations of Hipparcus, they would today be ignorant of the former existence of one more star among the Plëiades, which has disappeared since the time of that gifted astronomer.

However, compelled by circumstances, I had, some time before, abandoned my room and carried my Penates elsewhere. “No great loss after all,” you will say; “but how will you replace Joanetti and Rose?” Ah! that is impossible, Joanetti had become so indispensible to me that I can never replace him. Besides, who can flatter himself that he will always live with those he loves. Just like those gnats we see dancing in the air during the beautiful summer evenings, men meet quite by chance, and but for a brief space of time. They must count themselves fortunate if, in the rapidity of their movements, in which they seem to rival the gnats themselves, they do not break each others heads.

I was lying down one evening, Joanetti was waiting upon me with his usual care and appeared more than ordinarily attentive. When he took away the light, I saw a marked alteration in his countenance. But could I have guessed that poor Joanetti was waiting upon me for the last time? I will not keep the reader in a suspense more cruel than the truth. I prefer to tell him straight off that Joanetti was married the same night and left me next day.

But let no one tax him with ingratitude for leaving his Master so summarily. I had known of his intention some time back and had wrongfully opposed it. Some officious friend came to my house the first thing one morning to tell me the news, and I had time, before seeing Joanetti, to lose my temper and cool down again, and this spared him the reproaches he was expecting. Before entering my chamber, he pretended to speak in a loud tone to someone on the staircase, so as to make me believe that he was not afraid; and, arming himself with all the defiance that such a good fellow could assume, he entered with a determined air. In an instant I saw in his face all that was passing in his soul, and I did not think any the worse of him for it. The wits of our day have so terrified good folks about the dangers of matrimony, that a bridegroom often resembles a man who has just had a bad fall without being hurt, and whose troubled look of mingled fright and contentment gives him a ridiculous expression. It was not astonishing then that the actions of my faithful servant were in keeping with the oddity of his situation. “Ah, then! you are married, my dear Joanetti,” said I to him, laughing. He had only fortified himself against my anger, so that all his preparations were useless. He fell at once into his ordinary manner, and even a little lower, for he began to weep.

“What would you have me do, sir?” said he, in a flattering tone, “I had given my word.”

“Quite right, my friend, and may you be satisfied with your wife and, above all, with yourself, and may you have children who resemble you. But I suppose we must part!”

“Yes, sir, we intend to settle down at Asti.”

“And when do you want to leave me?”

Here Joanetti cast down his eyes with an embarrassed air, and answered in a lower voice, “My wife has found a carter from her part of the country who is returning with his empty wagon, and he sets out today. This would be a fine opportunity, but, however, that shall be as you please, sir, although a like opportunity may be difficult to find again.”

“What, so soon,” said I to him⁠—a sentiment of regret and affection, strongly mixed with vexation, made me remain silent for a moment. “I will certainly not detain you,” said I, rather coolly. “Go at once, if that suits you best.” Joanetti grew pale. “Yes, go my friend, go and find your wife, and be always as good and honest as you have been with me.” We settled our accounts and I bid him goodbye sadly⁠—he went out.

This man had served me for fifteen years; a moment separated us. I have never seen him since.

While walking in my chamber, I was thinking of this sudden separation. Rose had followed Joanetti without his perceiving her. A quarter of an hour afterwards, the door opened and Rose entered. I saw Joanetti’s hand as he pushed her into the room; the door closed again and I felt a pang at my heart⁠—already there is such a gulf between us, that he is afraid to enter my room. In the course of a few moments, two men, who have been comrades for fifteen years, have become perfect strangers! ’Tis pitiable indeed that one can never find a secure and stable resting place for the smallest part of one’s affections.

IV

Then Rose also went to live far away from me. My dear Marie, you will be surprised to hear that, at the age of fifteen, she still was a most loveable animal; that the same superior intelligence, which distinguished her formerly from the rest of her kind, enabled her to bear up against the burden of age. My desire was never to part with her; but when the happiness of one’s friends is concerned, one ought not to consult one’s own pleasure or interest. Rose was to quit the wandering life that she had passed with me, and to enjoy at last, in her old age, the repose for which her master could never hope. Her great age compelled me to have her carried. I felt I must allow her an invalid’s privileges, and a kind nun agreed to take care of her for the remainder of her days, and I know that, in that retreat, she has enjoyed all the advantages that her qualities, her age, and her good name had so well deserved.

Man’s nature is such, that happiness appears to be a thing unattainable; unconsciously and unintentionally friend offends friend, and even lovers inevitably fall out and quarrel at times. And since all legislators, from Lycurgus down to those of today, in their attempts to bestow happiness on mankind have failed miserably, I can at least comfort myself greatly with the thought of having made even one dog happy.

V

Now that I have told the reader the last of the story of Joanetti and Rose, it only remains for me to say a few words more about the soul and the animal. These two persons, especially the last, will never more play such an interesting part in my journey. A gentle traveller, who has followed in my footsteps, declares that they must be tired. Alas! it is but too true! for although my soul shows no perceptible falling off in vivacity, still her relations with the other14 have changed: the latter has not the same readiness in repartee, she has no longer⁠—how can I explain it? I was going to say the same presence of mind, as if an animal could have any! but, be that as it may, and without going into an embarrassing explanation, I will only say, that drawn on by the close confidence which the young Alexandrine appeared to place in me, I had written her a very tender letter, to which I received a polite but cold reply, which ended up in the most proper way as follows:⁠—“Be assured, Sir, that I shall always feel towards you the most profound esteem.” “Heavens!” cried I, “it is all over.” Since that fatal day I resolved never again to put forward my theory of soul and animal. So without making any distinctions between these two beings, and without separating them, I shall palm them off jointly as some merchants do their goods; and in order to avoid all inconveniences in future I shall travel en bloc.

VI

It would be useless to dwell on the dimensions of my new room. It resembles my former one so closely that, at first sight, it might be mistaken for it, if the architect had not carefully made the ceiling slope downwards on the side towards the road, and thus given that angle to the roof which hydraulics require in order to carry off the rain. It lets in the light by a single window, two feet and a half wide and four feet high, raised from six to seven feet above the floor, which one reaches by a little ladder. The elevation of my window above the floor is one of those happy circumstances which may be ascribed either to chance or to the genius of the architect. The almost perpendicular rays of light which shone through it gave an air of mystery to my chamber. The ancient temple of the Pantheon is lighted in nearly the same way. Besides, no outside object could distract my attention. Just as sailors lost in a vast ocean see only sky and sea, I also beheld only the sky and my room, and the nearest outside objects which could claim my attention were the moon and the morning star; and this placed me in close relation with the sky and gave my thoughts a lofty fight, which they would never have had if I had fixed my abode on the ground floor. The window which I have just described was raised above the roof and made the most admirable lookout. Its height was so great above the horizon, that when the first rays of the sun struck it, it was still dark in the street. Thus I enjoyed one of the most delightful views you can imagine. But the most beautiful view fatigues us when we see it too often, the eye accustoms itself to it and then beholds it with indifference. Now the situation of my window preserved me from such a disaster, since I could never see the magnificent spectacle of the plain of Turin without climbing four or five steps, and, my delights being doled out to me, retained their original freshness and attraction. When I was tired and wished to give myself a pleasant recreation I used to finish my day by climbing up to my window.

On the first step, the sky was still all that I could see; but soon the colossal church of the Superga came in view. Then the hill of Turin, on which it rests rises little by little before me, covered with forests and fruitful vineyards, proudly displaying to the setting sun its broad expanse of gardens and palaces, while some simple and modest houses appeared half hidden in its valleys to afford a retreat for the philosopher and to aid his meditations.

Delightful hill, how often have I sought your solitudes and preferred your narrow paths to the brilliant streets of the Capital; how often have I lost myself in your leafy glades, while listening to the morning song of the lark, my heart full of vague unrest, with eager longing to dwell in your enchanting glades for evermore. I greet you, charming hill! you are imprinted on my heart. May the dew of heaven make your fields even more fertile and your woods more leafy! May your dwellers possess their happiness undisturbed, sheltered by the kindly and beneficent shades of your woods, and may your happy confines be always the sweet refuge of true philosophy and modest science, and of the real friendship and hospitality I have experienced there.

VII

I began my journey precisely at eight o’clock in the evening. The weather was calm and there was promise of a fine night. I had taken precautions not to be disturbed by visitors, who are somewhat rare at the height at which I was lodging, and especially in the circumstances in which I then was, as I wished to be alone until midnight. Four hours would be amply sufficient for the execution of my undertaking, as, on this occasion, I only desired to make a short journey round my room. If the first journey lasted forty-two days, it was because I was not in a position to make it shorter. I did not wish to tie myself down to much carriage travelling as in my former journey, being quite convinced that a traveller on foot sees many things which escape the notice of him who travels post. I determined, therefore, to travel on foot or on horseback according to circumstances: a novel method which I have never yet made known, but its advantages will soon become apparent. Besides, I also proposed to take notes by the way, and to write down my observations at the moment they were made, so that I might forget nothing. In order to infuse some method into my undertaking, and to give it a better chance of success, I deemed it well to commence by composing a dedication, and to write it in verse, in order to make it more attractive. But two difficulties arose and all but compelled me to give up the idea, despite all its advantages. In the first place, I did not know to whom to address the dedication, and, secondly, how was I to set about writing it?

After having turned the matter over carefully in my mind, I came to the conclusion that it was more advisable to write the dedication first as well as I could, and then to find someone whom it would suit. I set to work at once and toiled for more than an hour without being able to find a rhyme to the first line I had composed and which I was anxious to keep, as it seemed to me a very happy one. I then recollected, very apropos, that I had read somewhere that the celebrated Pope could never compose anything good, unless he first aroused his inspiration by declaiming aloud in his study for a long time, and by exciting himself in every possible manner.

I tried immediately to follow his example. I took down the poems of Ossian and recited some in a loud voice, striding about at the same time, so as to work myself up to the proper pitch of enthusiasm.

I discovered that this plan did, indeed, insensibly excite my imagination and gave me a secret feeling of poetic power, of which I should have certainly taken advantage by dashing off my dedication, had I not, unfortunately, forgotten the slanting ceiling of my chamber, whose sudden slope prevented my forehead from following the direction of my feet. So violently did I strike my head against this cursed partition, that it shook the roof of the house, the sparrows asleep in the tiles took to their wings in alarm, and the shock of the recoil sent me three paces backwards.

VIII

While I was thus walking about to excite my literary genius, a pretty young lady, who lived in the rooms below, astonished at the racket I was making, and perhaps thinking I was giving a ball, sent her husband to find out the cause of the disturbance. I was still giddy from the blow I had received, when the door opened a little, and an elderly man, with a melancholy face, put his head in and cast an inquiring glance round the room.

Having recovered his surprise at finding me alone, he said, with an angry air, “Sir, my wife has a bad headache, allow me to point out to you⁠—”

I immediately interrupted him, and my speech reflected the loftiness of my thoughts.

“Worthy messenger of my beautiful neighbour,” said I, in the language of the bards, “Wherefore gleam your eyes beneath their shaggy brows, like two meteors in the dark forest of Cromba? Thy lovely companion is a ray of light, and I would rather undergo a thousand deaths than disturb her rest; but thy aspect, oh worthy messenger! thy aspect is as dark as the deepest grotto in the caverns of Camora, when the gathering thunderclouds obscure the face of night, and lie heavy on the silent fields of Morven.”

My neighbour, who had probably never read the poems of Ossian, most unfortunately mistook the enthusiastic strain which animated me for a fit of madness and appeared much embarrassed. As it was not my intention to offend him, I offered him a chair and begged him to be seated, but I beheld him retiring, quietly crossing himself, and saying in a low voice, “Mad, by Bacchus, quite mad!”

IX

I permitted him to go out, as I did not wish to enquire what foundation there might be for his observation, and, as is my wont, I sat down at my bureau to make a note of these events. But scarcely had I opened a drawer, in which I hoped to find some paper, than I shut it again abruptly, disturbed by one of the most unpleasant thoughts one can experience, the loss of one’s self esteem. The kind of surprise with which I was seized on this occasion, resembles that which a thirsty traveller experiences when he applies his lips to the brink of a limpid fountain and sees a frog gazing at him from the bottom of the water. It was, however, only the mechanism and carcase of an artificial dove, which, following the example of Archytas, I had once intended to make fly. I had worked untiringly at this model for more than three months. The day of trial came. I placed it on the edge of a table. But first I carefully closed the door, so that my secret might not be discovered, and so as to give a pleasant surprise to my friends. A single thread held back the mechanism. Who can imagine the beating of my heart and the anxiety of my self-esteem when I seized the scissors and cut the fatal bond. Bah! the machinery inside the dove started off, and whizzed round and round. I looked up to see it fly, but, after having turned a few somersaults, it fell down and was lost to sight under the table. Rose, who lay there asleep, rose mournfully and got out of its way. Rose, who never saw a chicken, or a pigeon, or even the smallest bird, without attacking and pursuing it, did not even deign to cast a glance at my dove, which was fluttering on the floor⁠ ⁠… that was the last straw to my self-esteem, and I went out for a stroll on the ramparts.

X

Such was the fate of my artificial dove. Whilst mechanical science intended it to follow the eagle in the sky, destiny bestowed on it the instincts of a mole. I was walking about sadly discouraged, as one always is after the failure of a great hope, when I perceived a flock of cranes flying over my head. I stopped to look at them. They advanced in a triangular order, like the English at the battle of Fontenoy. I saw them crossing the sky from cloud to cloud. “Ah! how well they fly,” said I to myself, “with what confidence they seem to glide along the unseen path they wish to pursue.” Alas! May God forgive me! but for one moment, only one, a horrible feeling of envy entered my soul⁠—it was on account of the cranes. With envious looks I followed them to the extreme limit of the horizon. For a long time, standing motionless in the midst of the passing crowd, I watched the movements of some swallows, and I was astonished to see them suspended in the air, as if I had never before beheld that phenomenon. A feeling of profound admiration, till then unknown to me, flashed across my soul. I thought that I saw nature for the first time. I heard with wonder the buzzing of flies, the song of birds, and that mysterious and confused murmur of a living creation, which involuntarily proclaims its author. Ineffable concert in which man alone has the sublime privilege of being able to join with hymns of intelligent thanksgiving! “Who is the Author of this wonderful mechanism?” I exclaimed. “What manner of Being is He who opened His creative Hand and launched the first swallow on the wind? At Whose command the trees sprang from the earth and flung their branches towards heaven? And thou, entrancing creature, who walkest majestically beneath their shades, whose looks compel respect and love, Who placed thee on the surface of the earth to embellish it? What mind was it that designed thy divine form, and was able to create the glance and smile of innocent beauty?

“And I, who feel my heart beating, what is the object of my existence? What am I and whence did I come? I, the maker of the ‘artificial dove?’ ” Scarcely had I pronounced this outlandish word, when, suddenly coming to my senses like a sleeping man, over whom someone has emptied a bucket of water, I perceived that I was surrounded by several persons, who were critically examining me, while I was engaged in my enthusiastic soliloquy. At that moment I saw the lovely Georgine, who was walking some paces in front. Half of her left cheek, which was highly rouged and which I saw between the curls of her yellow hair, brought me back completely to everyday thoughts and ideas, from which I had strayed for a few moments.

XI

When I had recovered a little from the disturbing thoughts the sight of my artificial dove had caused, the pain of the blow I had received made itself keenly felt. I passed my hand over my forehead and discovered a new protuberance, exactly on that part of the head where Dr. Gall has located the bump of poetry. But I did not at that time give it a thought; experience alone was to demonstrate to me the truth of that celebrated man’s theories. After some moments, pulling myself together to make a last effort to write my dedication, I seized a pencil and set to work. To my great astonishment the verses flowed of their own accord from my pen, and I filled two pages with them in less than an hour, and I conclude from this fact that, if motion was necessary to enable Pope’s head to compose verses, nothing less than a concussion would suffice to drag them out of mine. However, I shall not show the reader the verses I made at that time, for the tremendous rapidity with which the adventures of my journey succeeded one another, prevented me from giving them the finishing touches. In spite of this reticence, we must, doubtless, consider the accident which had befallen me in the light of a most valuable discovery, one of which poets could not do better than take frequent advantage.

In reality I am so convinced of the infallibility of this new method, that in a poem of twenty-four cantos which I have since composed, and which will be published with “La Prisonière de Pignerol,” I have not thought it necessary up to the present to begin writing the verses, but have written out clearly five hundred pages of notes, which contain, as we know, all the merit, and most of the bulk of our modern poetry.

As I was walking about my room, thinking over my profound discoveries, I came across my bed, and sitting down on it, my hand, by chance, falling on my night cap, it occurred to me to put it on, and I lay down.

XII

I had been in bed a quarter of an hour and, contrary to my usual habit, was still awake. The saddest reflections had succeeded the idea of my dedication; my candle, which was nearly finished, threw only an unsteady and doleful light from the bottom of the candlestick, and my room looked as funereal as a tomb. Suddenly a gust of wind blew open the window and put out the candle and banged the door to violently. The gloomy cast of my thoughts deepened in the darkness.

All my past pleasures, all my present troubles, rushed at once to my breast and filled it with bitter sorrow.

Although I make continued efforts to forget my troubles and drive them away, it sometimes happens, when I am not on my guard, that they rush suddenly into my recollection as if a floodgate had been opened. Then I have no alternative but to abandon myself to the torrent on which I am borne; my thoughts then become so gloomy, and everything seems so mournful, that I generally end by laughing at my own folly, so that the remedy proceeds from the very extremity of the disease.

I was still in the midst of one of these melancholy attacks, when part of the gust of wind, which had blown open my window and banged the door to as it went by, after taking several turns round my room, scattering the leaves of my books, and causing a leaf of “The Voyage” to flutter to the ground, finally got into my curtains and died away on my face. I felt the sweet coolness of the night, and, taking this as an invitation, I immediately got up and ascended my staircase to enjoy the repose of nature.

XIII

The weather was calm and still; the Milky Way, like a light cloud, divided the heavens, a kindly light came to me from every star, and, when I gazed at one attentively, its companions seemed to twinkle all the more brilliantly in order to attract my attention.

Each time that I gaze at the starlit sky I experience new pleasures and fresh delights, and I cannot reproach myself with ever having taken a nocturnal walk, without having paid my tribute of admiration to the wonders of the heavens. Although I feel keenly the utter feebleness of my mind in these lofty meditations, still I find in them an inexpressible pleasure. I love to think that it is not mere chance which has brought to my eyes these emanations from distant worlds; and every star sheds with its beams a ray of hope into my heart. May there not be some other relations between me and these wonderful objects besides this⁠—that they glitter before my eyes? My mind raises itself to their level, my heart is moved at the sight of them; then are not they connected in some way? Man, the ephemeral spectator of an eternal spectacle, raises for a moment his eyes to heaven and then closes them forever, but, during that short moment which is his, from every point of heaven and from the ends of the universe, a ray of consolation starts from every world and falls on his vision, to tell him that there is a relation between immensity and himself, and that he is a part of Eternity.

XIV

A melancholy thought, however, diminished the pleasure I experienced in indulging in these meditations. “How few there are,” said I, “who enjoy with me this sublime spectacle which heaven spreads out in vain for a sleepy world;” but, without taking into consideration those who are asleep, it would cost a very slight effort to those who are out walking, or to those who crowd out of the theatre to look up for a moment and admire the brilliant constellations which everywhere are blazing over their heads? No, the attentive spectators of Scapin or Jocrisse deign not to raise their eyes; they go doggedly home or elsewhere without dreaming that there is a sky. How strange! because they can see it often and for nothing they do not care about it. If the firmament were always veiled from us, and if the sight depended on a showman, the first boxes on the roof would be priceless, and the ladies of Turin would scramble for my garret window.

“Oh! if I were a King,” said I, seized with just indignation, “every night I would have a bell sounded, and compel my subjects of every age, sex, and condition, to place themselves at their windows and look at the stars.” At this point, reason, which, in my kingdom, has only a disputed right of remonstrance, was more than usually successful in the representations that she made to me on the subject of the arbitrary edict, which I desired to proclaim to my subjects. “Sire,” said she, “will not your Majesty deign to make an exception in favour of rainy nights, for then the heavens being clouded over⁠—”

“Very good,” answered I, “I did not think of that; you will make an exception on rainy nights.”

“Sire,” she added, “I think it would be well to except also those fine nights when the cold is excessive and when the north wind blows, since the rigorous execution of the edict would afflict your fortunate subjects with colds and coughs.”

I began to see very clearly the difficulties there were in executing my project, but I would not retract. “You must write to the Medical Council and the Academy of Sciences to fix the height of the thermometer at which my subjects can be excused from looking out of their windows; but I decree, I absolutely decree, that the order be carried out to the letter.”

“And the sick people, Sire?”

“Of course let them be excepted; above all things we must be humane.”

“If I did not fear that I wearied your Majesty, I should still further venture to suggest (that is if you considered it suitable and not inconvenient) an exception in favour of the blind, since, being deprived of the organs of vision⁠—”

“Well, is that all?” said I, somewhat angrily.

“Pardon me, Sire, but the lovers; will your Majesty’s kind heart oblige them also to look at the stars?”

“Well, well,” said the King, “we ill consider about that at our leisure. You will draw me up a detailed report on this point.” Good Heavens! how one must reflect before one issues such a sweeping arbitrary edict!

XV

The most brilliant stars have never been those at which I look with most pleasure. My favourite stars have always been those which look like the minutest and faintest dots in the depths of the sky. And this is easily accounted for: by compelling my imagination to travel as far beyond their sphere as my vision does from this to reach them, I can, with very little effort, transport myself to distant regions, to which few travellers before me have ever attained, and then I marvel that I am still only on the threshold of this immense universe. For it would be absurd to think that there is anywhere a barrier beyond which void commences; as if it were easier to imagine nonexistence than existence!

After the last star I can still imagine another one, which itself cannot be the last. In assigning bounds to creation, be they ever so extended, the universe appears to me but as a point of light compared with the immensity of empty space which surrounds it⁠—the dreadful and sombre void, in the middle of which it would seem to be suspended like a solitary lamp. Here I covered my eyes with both my hands to remove every kind of distraction and to give my ideas the depth which such a subject demands, and, making a supreme mental effort, I constructed the most complete system of the universe that has yet been propounded. Behold it in all its details; it is the result of my lifelong meditations! I believe that space being⁠ ⁠… But this deserves a chapter to itself, and, considering the importance of the matter, it shall be the only one in my journey which shall have a heading.

XVI

System of the Universe

I believe that space being infinite, creation is infinite also, and that God has created in his Eternity an infinity of worlds in an immensity of space.

XVII

In good faith, however, I will confess that I scarcely understand my System better than any of those other systems which have been evolved, up to the present time, from the imaginations of philosophers ancient and modern; but mine has the advantage of being contained in four lines, comprehensive as it is. The indulgent reader will please also note that it was entirely composed at the top of a ladder. I should, however, have embellished it with commentaries and notes, if, at the very moment when I was entirely engrossed with my subject, I had not been distracted by some enchanting sounds which struck agreeably on my ear. A voice, the most melodious that I have ever heard, not even excepting that of Zénéide, one of those voices which always beat in unison with the fibres of my heart, was singing, quite close to me, a song, of which I did not lose a word and which I shall never forget. Listening attentively, I discovered that the voice came from a window rather lower than mine; unfortunately I could not see the singer, as the edge of the roof, above which rose my garret window, hid her from my eyes. However, the desire of seeing the siren, who so charmed me by her music, increased in proportion to the attractiveness of the song, the touching words of which would have drawn tears from the most soulless individual. Unable to suppress my curiosity any longer, I climbed up to the topmost step of my ladder, and put my foot on the edge of the roof, and holding on by one hand, hung suspended over the street at the risk of falling headlong.

I then perceived in a balcony to my left, a little below me, a young lady in white deshabille: her hand supported her charming head, which was sufficiently inclined to allow me to see by the light of the stars a most interesting profile, and her pose seemed by design to reveal, to an aerial traveller like myself, a slim and graceful figure; one of her bare feet, thrown negligently behind her, was so turned that I was able, despite the darkness, to make a guess at its admirable proportions, whilst one pretty little slipper, which was lying beside it, revealed it more definitely to my eager gaze. I leave you to imagine, my dear Sophie, the extreme awkwardness of my position. I dared not utter the slightest exclamation for fear of startling my beautiful neighbour, nor make the least movement for fear of falling into the street. A sigh, however, escaped me, in spite of myself, but I recovered myself sufficiently to stop in the middle; the remainder was wafted away by a passing breeze, and I had plenty of leisure to examine the pensive lady, and was sustained in this perilous position by the hope of hearing her sing again.

But, alas! her song was ended, and so ill-fated was I that she maintained the most obdurate silence. At length, after having waited a long time, I thought I might venture to speak to her; my only difficulty was to find a compliment worthy of her and of the sentiments which she had inspired. Oh! how I regretted that I had not finished my dedication in verse! how suitable it would have been on this occasion! My presence of mind did not forsake me in this hour of need: inspired by the sweet influence of the stars and by the still more powerful desire of winning a fair lady’s favour, after having coughed lightly, in order to warn her and to render the sounds of my voice more pleasing, “What a fine night it is!” said I to her in my most tender tone.

XVIII

I fancy that I can hear Mme. Hautcastle, whom nothing escapes, even here, demanding some account of the song that I have mentioned in the preceding chapter. For the first time in my life I find myself under the painful necessity of refusing her anything. If I were to insert those verses in the account of my journey, without a doubt I should be taken for their author, and that would make me the butt of many a joke on the necessity of contusions which I would rather be excused. I will, therefore, continue the account of my adventure with my amiable neighbour, for its unexpected termination, as well as the delicacy with which I conducted it, must interest all classes of readers. But before announcing what she replied, and how she received the ingenious compliment I had paid her, I must anticipate an objection of certain people, who fancy themselves more eloquent than I am, and who will ruthlessly condemn me for having commenced the conversation in so trivial a manner, according to their ideas. I will prove to them that, if I had tried to be witty on this important occasion, I should have been acting glaringly in opposition to the rules of prudence and good taste. Every man who begins a conversation with a fine lady with a bon mot, or a compliment, however well he may flatter, permits pretensions to be seen, which should only appear when they are better acquainted. Besides, if he makes a joke, it is clear that he desires to shine, and consequently thinks less of the lady than of himself. Now, ladies wish us to have them ever in our minds; and although they do not always make reflections such as I have described, still they have an exquisite natural taste which tells them that a trivial phrase, uttered only with the idea of beginning the conversation, and to make their better acquaintance, is a thousand times more suitable than a flash of wit, inspired by vanity, and (what is really quite astonishing) is worth more than a poetical dedication.

Further, I maintain (however paradoxical it may seem) that wit and brilliant conversation are not even necessary in the longest lovemaking, where the heart is really engaged; and, in spite of all that people who love but lightly may say about the long pauses which ensue between their ardent professions of love and friendship, the day is always short that is spent with one’s sweetheart, and silence is as interesting as conversation. But, be this as it may, it is quite certain that I thought of nothing better to say on the edge of the roof where I was than the words in question. I had no sooner uttered them than my soul rushed to the drums of my ears to catch the faintest of those tones I was longing to hear. The fair one raised her head to look at me. Her long hair fell down like a veil, and formed a background for her charming face, which reflected the mysterious light of the stars. Already her mouth opened, and the dulcet words were on her lips. But, oh heavens! what was my surprise and terror! A sinister noise was heard. “What are you doing there, Madame, at this hour? Come in,” exclaimed a deep masculine voice from the interior of the room. I was petrified.

XIX

Such must be the sounds which alarm the guilty, when, suddenly, the blazing gates of Hell open before them; such must be the roar of the seven cataracts of the river Styx in the infernal regions, of which the poets have forgotten to make mention.

XX

A bright meteor flashed across the sky at that moment, and was immediately lost to sight. On turning my eyes, which had been dazzled for the moment by the splendour of the meteor, again towards the balcony, a small shoe was all that I could see. My neighbour had forgotten it in her hasty retreat. For a long time I looked at that pretty mould of a foot, worthy the chisel of Praxiteles, with an emotion, the entire force of which I dare not avow; but it will perhaps appear very strange (and indeed I cannot explain it myself to my own satisfaction) that an irresistible fascination kept my eyes fixed on it, in spite of all my efforts to look in another direction.

They say, that when a serpent looks at a nightingale, the unfortunate bird, victim of an irresistible fascination, moves mechanically nearer to the fierce reptile. Its rapid wings bear it on to its doom, and every effort it makes to get further away only brings it nearer to its foe, which pursues it with a glance that it cannot avoid. Such was the effect of this slipper on me, but I am not at all sure whether I or the slipper was the serpent, since, by the laws of physics, attraction is reciprocal. Certainly this deadly attraction was not a freak of my imagination. I was really so strongly attracted that I was twice on the point of losing my hold and letting myself fall. However, as the balcony which I wished to get to was not exactly under my window, but a little on one side, I saw quite clearly that by the force of gravitation as discovered by Newton, in combination with the oblique attraction of the slipper, I should have followed a diagonal course in my descent, and should have fallen on a sentry box, which looked no bigger than an egg from the height at which I was, so that I should have missed my mark. I therefore grasped the window still more tightly, and, making a determined effort, managed to raise my eyes and look at the sky.

XXI

I should find it extremely difficult to explain and define exactly the kind of pleasure I felt on this occasion. All I can say is that it had nothing in common with that which I had experienced a few moments before while I looked at the Milky Way and the starry sky.

However, since, even in the most embarrassing situations of my life, I have always sought to account for all the emotions of my soul, on this occasion also, I wished to understand quite clearly the sort of pleasure an honourable man can feel when contemplating a lady’s slipper, as compared with that which he experiences in gazing at the stars. For this purpose I chose the most striking constellation in the sky; it was, if I am not mistaken, the Chair of Cassiopoea, which was overhead, and I looked alternately at the constellation and the slipper, the slipper and the constellation. I then perceived that these two sensations were entirely different: one was seated in my mind, while the other appeared to me to have its abode in my heart. But I must confess, not without shame, that the attraction of the enchanted slipper absorbed all my faculties. The rapture, which I felt some time before in contemplating the starry sky, had now waxed most feeble, and shortly after, when I heard the door of the balcony reopen, and a little foot, whiter than alabaster, issued noiselessly and slipped on the little shoe, it died away altogether. I wished to speak; but not having had time to prepare myself, as on the former occasion, I did not recover my usual presence of mind, and I heard the door of the balcony shut again, before I could think of anything suitable to say.

XXII

The preceding chapters will be sufficient defence to a charge of Mme. de Hautcastel, who ventured to complain of my first voyage, because there was no lovemaking in it. She will not be able to make a similar complaint against this new voyage; and although my adventure with my lovely neighbour had not been carried very far, I assure you that I derived more satisfaction from it than from many others which had made me feel extremely happy on account of there being no rival attraction.

Everyone enjoys life in his own way; but I should think myself wanting in what is due to the reader’s kindness, if I left him in ignorance of a discovery which, more than anything else, has contributed to my happiness. But it must be understood that this is in the strictest confidence, for it is nothing less than a new mode of making love, with greater advantages than the preceding one, and with none of its numerous drawbacks.

This invention being specially intended for those people who desire to adopt my new method of travelling, it is my duty to devote a few chapters to instructing them in it.

XXIII

In the course of my life I have observed that when I was in love in the usual way, my feelings never came up to my expectations, and that my imagination was always disappointed.

On considering this matter carefully, I came to the conclusion that, if I could only manage to extend my devotion from the individual, to the whole sex in general, I should thereby obtain fresh pleasure without in any way compromising myself. Who could reproach a man because his heart was large enough to embrace all the loveable women in the world? Yes, Madame, I love them all, and not only those I hope to meet personally, but all on the face of the earth. More than that I love all the women who have ever lived, as well as those yet unborn, without counting the far greater number that my imagination creates out of nothing: in fact every possible woman is included in the vast circle of my affections.

Would it not be an unjust and odd caprice on my part to confine a heart like mine to the narrow bounds of a society? Nay! why should I circumscribe its flight by the boundaries of a kingdom, or even a republic?

Seated at the foot of a tempest-stricken oak, a young Indian widow mingles her sighs with the roar of the storm. The arms of her warrior husband hang over her head, and the mournful noise they make, as they clash together, recalls to her heart the memory of her happiness. Meanwhile, the thunder rends the clouds, and the vivid flashes of lightning are reflected in her fixed eyes. And whilst the funeral pile, on which she must be burnt, is being raised, in the depth of despair, she awaits a horrible death, which a dire prejudice bids her prefer to life itself.

What sweet, yet melancholy pleasure would not a man of feeling experience in drawing near to console this wretched woman? While I am seated on the grass beside her, trying to dissuade her from the horrible sacrifice; while I am mingling my sighs and tears with her own, and endeavouring to dispel her grief, all the town is rushing to the house of Mme. A⁠⸺, whose husband has recently died from a stroke of apoplexy. Equally resolved not to survive her loss, insensible to the tears and prayers of her friends, she lets herself die of hunger; and from the day they imprudently told her the news, the wretched creature has only eaten a biscuit and drunk a small glass of Malaga wine. I can only bestow on this bereaved woman such slight attention as is necessary, while not infringing the laws of my universal system. Meanwhile I leave her side as soon as possible, for I am by nature of a jealous disposition, and I wish to avoid compromising myself before a crowd of consolers, as well as with those who are too easily consoled.

Beauty in distress has a particular claim on my heart, but the tribute of sympathy I owe to it, does not diminish the interest I take in those who are free from sorrow. This taste gives infinite variety to my pleasures, and enables me to pass, in turn, from the melancholy to the gay, and from sentimental meditation to hilarity.

And while reading ancient history I often fancy myself the hero of its amorous intrigues, and I thereby efface whole pages in those old chronicles of fate. Many a time have I stayed the murderous hand of Virginius, and saved the life of his unhappy daughter, a victim alike to extremes of crime and virtue. This event fills me with horror when I think of it; and I am not surprised that it was the cause of a revolution.

I hope that intelligent people, as well as compassionate souls, will give me heartfelt thanks for having arranged this matter amicably; and everyone, who knows a little of the world, will think as I do, that, if they had let the decemvir alone, that infatuated man would not have failed to do justice to the virtue of Virginia; the parents would have interfered; further, Virginius, in the end, would have been appeased; and, the marriage would have been celebrated with all legal ceremonies.

But what would have become of the unfortunate deserted lover? Well, what did he gain by this murder? but, since you insist on bemoaning his fate, I must inform you, my dear Marie, that six months after the death of Virginia, he was not only consoled, but most happily married; after having had several children he lost his wife, and six months after, he was married again to a tribune’s widow. These facts, hitherto unknown, have been discovered and deciphered from a palimpsest MS. in the Ambrosian library by a learned Italian antiquary. Unfortunately, they will add another page to the hateful, and already too lengthy history of the Roman Republic.

XXIV

After rescuing the engaging Virginia, I modestly slipped away to escape her thanks; and always anxious to render assistance to the fair, I took advantage of the darkness of a rainy night, and set off secretly to open the tomb of a young vestal virgin, whom the Roman Senate had barbarously caused to be buried alive for having permitted the sacred fire of Vesta to go out, or, perhaps, because she had slightly burnt herself thereat. I walked silently through the winding streets of Rome with the inward pleasure which precedes good actions, especially when they are not without danger. I carefully avoided the Capitol for fear of awakening the geese, and, slipping by the guards at the Colline gate, I arrived safely at the tomb without being discovered.

At the noise I made in raising the stone which covered it, the wretched girl raised her dishevelled head from the damp soil of the vault; by the light of the sepulchral lamp I saw her look wildly round; in her delirium the wretched victim believed she was already on the banks of Cocytus.

“Oh, Minos!” she cried, “Oh, inexorable judge! I loved on earth, it is true, contrary to the severe laws of Vesta. If the Gods be as cruel as men, open at once for me the abyss of Tartarus! I loved, and I still love.”

“No, no you are not yet in the kingdom of the dead, come unfortunate young lady, come back to earth, to life, and love.” I seized her hand, already icy cold; I raised her in my arms, I pressed her to my heart, and snatched her from that horrible place all trembling with fear and gratitude.

Above all, Madam, do not imagine that any personal motive was the cause of that good action. The hope of kindling some tender feelings towards myself in the beautiful ex-vestal did not influence me in the least in what I did for her; for, in that case, I should be employing my old method of lovemaking. I assure you, on the honour of a traveller, that during the whole of our walk from the Colline Gate to the place where the tomb of the Scipios is situated, in spite of the inky darkness, and even at the moment when her weakness compelled me to hold her in my arms, I never ceased to treat her with the regard and respect which were due to her misfortunes, and I conscientiously handed her over to her lover, who was waiting for her on the road.

XXV

On another occasion, led by my imagination, I was present at the carrying off of the Sabine women, and I saw, with much surprise, that the Sabines took the affair in quite a different manner to that recorded in history. Totally misunderstanding the true nature of the tumult, I offered my protection to a woman who was escaping, and, as I accompanied her, could not help laughing when I heard a furious Sabine exclaim, in accents of despair, “Ye Immortal Gods! would that I also had brought my wife to this fête!”

XXVI

Besides that, half of the human race, for whom I have such a lively affection, you will, perhaps, hardly believe me when I tell you that my heart is endowed with such a capacity for tenderness, that all things, animate and inanimate, have a goodly share of it. I love the trees, which afford me shade, and the birds, which warble in the foliage, the nocturnal cry of the screech-owl, and the roar of torrents. I love them all⁠—I even love the moon! You laugh, Mademoiselle, but it is easy to ridicule the feelings one cannot experience, and these hearts which beat with mine will not fail to understand.

Yes, I have a veritable love for everything around me. I love the roads I walk on, the fountain at which I drink, and I can scarcely part with a stick I have plucked by chance from a hedge. I look after it still when I have thrown it away, for we had already begun to know one another. I regret the falling leaves, and even the passing breeze. Where now is that breeze which stirred your dark locks, Eliza, when, seated beside me on the banks of the Doire, on the eve of our eternal separation, you gazed at me in sad silence? Where is that glove? Where is that sorrowful but precious moment? Oh, Time! oh, terrible Divinity! Thy cruel scythe hath no terrors for me; but I dread thy hideous children, Indifference and Oblivion, which turn three parts of our existence into a lingering death.

Alas! that breeze, that glance, that smile, are now as far away as the adventures of Ariadne. In the depths of my soul there remain nought but regrets and vain remembrances, on which sad medley the bark of my existence still floats, just as a vessel, wrecked by the storm, floats for some time on the troubled waters!

XXVII

Until, the sea trickling in, little by little, between the broken planks, the unfortunate vessel disappears in the abyss⁠—the waves close over it⁠—the tempest lulls⁠—and the sea-swallow skims over the lonely and tranquil ocean.

XXVIII

Here I find myself obliged to finish my dissertation on my new method of lovemaking; it seems to me that it is becoming rather obscure, and so a little more explanation of the nature of this discovery will not be out of place, seeing that it does not become everybody at all times of life.

For instance, I would not recommend it to anybody under twenty. The inventor himself did not practice it at that period of his life. To make full use of the invention one must have experienced all the sorrows of life without being disheartened, and all its pleasures without being surfeited. The difficulty lies in this, that it is especially useful at that period of life when reason counsels us to abandon the habits of youth, and it can then transition or intermediary step between the age of pleasure and the age of wisdom⁠—a step (as all moralists have observed) fraught with immense difficulties. Few, indeed, have the courage to take the leap boldly; and often, after having taken it, they feel bored to death on the other side; and, shamefaced, and with snowy locks, they are compelled to re-cross the ditch. And this is exactly what they will be spared by adopting my new method of lovemaking. The greatest number of our pleasures in reality being nothing but the play of the imagination, it is essential to offer it an innocent field, in order to divert it from the objects we ought to renounce, almost in the same way as one offers playthings to children when one refuses them sweetmeats.

In this way we gain time to obtain a firm footing on the threshold of wisdom, without being too forcibly reminded that we have reached this stage of life; and, moreover, the circumstance that one attains to it by the path of folly, will greatly facilitate its access to most people.

I really believe that I was not deceived in the hope of being useful, when I seized my pen, and it only remains for me to defend myself against the promptings of self-esteem, which I might lawfully feel at having revealed truths like these to mankind.

XXIX

Amidst all these confidences, my dear Sophie, I hope that you have not forgotten the uncomfortable position in which I was left at my window. The emotion that the sight of my neighbour’s pretty foot had inspired still remained, and I was more than ever in the thrall of the dangerous influence of that slipper, when an unforeseen event rescued me frorn the danger I was in, of precipitating myself from the fifth story into the street below. A bat, which was flitting round and round the house, seeing me motionless for such a length of time, mistook me, apparently, for a chimney, and suddenly bore right down upon me, and laid hold of my ear. I felt on my cheek the horrible coldness of its damp wings. The loud cry I uttered, in spite of myself, awoke all the echoes of Turin. The sentinel shouted, “Who goes there?” and I heard the hurried march of the patrol in the street. The balcony having no further attraction for me, I turned from it without much difficulty. The chill night air had seized me, a slight shudder ran over me from head to foot, and as I wrapped myself closely in my dressing gown to get warm, I perceived, to my great regret, that, that sensation of cold, added to the insult of the bat, had been sufficient to divert anew the course of my thoughts. At that moment the magical slipper would have had no more influence over me than the hair of Berenice, or any other constellation. I at once considered how unreasonable it was to pass the night exposed to the chilly air instead of following the ordinary course of nature, which ordains sleep for us. At this moment, reason, which alone influenced me, made me see that as clearly as one of Euclid’s propositions. In a word, I was suddenly deprived of all imagination and enthusiasm, and hopelessly abandoned to painful reality. What a deplorable existence! One might just as well be a withered tree in a forest, or even an obelisk in the middle of a square. “What extraordinary machines are the head and the heart of man!” I exclaimed, “carried away, in turn, in contrary directions by these two regulators of his actions, the last one that he has obeyed always seems the best!” “O folly of enthusiasm and sentiment!” says cold reason. “O weakness and uncertainty of reason!” exclaims sentiment. Who would dare to decide between their rival claims?

I thought it would be well to settle this point and then and there to decide once for all to which of these two guides I ought to entrust myself for the remainder of my life.

In future, shall I follow my head or my heart? Let us consider the question.

XXX

Whilst speaking thus I felt a dull pain in that foot, which was resting on the step. I was, moreover, very tired with the uncomfortable attitude which I had maintained up to this time. I carefully bent down a little, in order to sit down, and, letting my legs dangle on either side of the window, I began my travels on horseback.

I have always preferred this mode of travelling to any other, and I am passionately fond of horses; but of all those I have ever seen or heard of, the one I should most eagerly have desired to possess is the wooden horse mentioned in the Arabian Nights, on which one could ride through the air, and which went like a flash of lightning, if you only turned a little peg, which was fixed between his ears.

Now you will probably say that my mount very much resembled this horse of the Arabian Nights. On the one side, the rider on his windowsill is in direct communication with the sky, and he enjoys the imposing spectacle of Nature; the meteors and stars lie before him; on the other side, the sight of his dwelling and of the objects it contains, brings him back to this world and compels him to think of himself. A mere turn of the head acts in the same way as the magic peg; it can produce a change in the soul of the traveller, as rapid as it is wonderful. Dwelling on the earth and in the sky by turns, his mind and soul run through all the delights which man can experience. I had a foretaste of all the benefits I could derive from my mount. When I felt myself firm in the saddle and quite comfortable, free from all fear of robbers, or from my horse stumbling, I felt that this was a most favourable opportunity to go thoroughly into the problem I had before me as to the preeminence of the heart over the head. But the very first reflection I made on this subject brought me to a standstill. “Is it for me to set myself up as a judge in such a matter as this?” said I, in an undertone. “Has not my conscience already decided in favour of the heart?” But, on the other hand, if I exclude those whose hearts are stronger than their heads, whom am I to consult⁠—the geometricians? Bah! those folks are bond-slaves to reason. In order to decide this point, we must find a man who has received from nature an equal portion of reason and sentiment, and in whom, at the very moment of decision, these two faculties are in perfect equilibrium. Impossible! It would be an easier task to place a republic in equilibrium!

The only competent judge, then, will be he who has nothing in common with either the one or the other; in short, a man without head or heart.

My reason shrank back in disgust from this strange conclusion, and, as for my heart, it protested that it had had no voice in the matter. But, it seemed to me that I had reasoned quite correctly, and I should inevitably have thought very ill of my intellectual faculties, if I had not remembered, that in abstruse metaphysical speculations, like the one before me, some of the first philosophers had often been led by logical deductions to most shocking conclusions, which sometimes overwhelmed the happiness of human society.

I consoled myself then by thinking that, at all events, my speculations would harm nobody. I left the question undecided, and resolved, for the future, to follow alternately my head and my heart, just as each of these two should have the upper hand, and, after all, I think, this is the best plan. I must, in truth, confess it has not done much for me hitherto. What matter? I descend the steep decline of life without fear, without aims, laughing and weeping by turns, and often at the same time, or even whistling some old tune to drive away dull care as I journey on. At other times I pluck a daisy from the hedgerow and pull the petals off one after another, saying, “She loves me a little⁠—very much⁠—passionately⁠—not at all!” The last petal generally is “not at all,”⁠—in truth, Eliza loves me no more.

While I am thus engaged, an entire generation of living creatures passes by: like an immense wave, it advances rapidly, taking me with it, to break on the shore of Eternity; and, as if the storm of life was not sufficiently fierce, as if it impelled us too slowly towards the limits of our lives, the nations everywhere cut each other’s throats and anticipate the day of doom ordained by nature. Even Great Conquerors, dragged along by the rapid whirlwind of the time, amuse themselves by forming thousands of soldiers into squares. What think you of this? But stay, after all, these fine fellows would very shortly have died in the ordinary course of nature. Don’t you see the advancing wave, whose crest is already foaming on the shore? Wait but another moment and you, your enemies, myself, and the daisies will all have vanished! Then how can we marvel enough at such madness? For my part I have resolved in future not to pull to pieces any more daisies!

XXXI

But having fixed on a prudent line of conduct for the future, by means of the clear chain of logic, which has been evolved in the last few chapters, the very important point remained of deciding on the course of the journey I was about to undertake. It is by no means sufficient to get into a carriage or to mount a horse, we must also know where we want to go.

I was so tired out by the metaphysical enquiries which had lately engaged me, that, before deciding on any particular quarter of the globe, I wished to rest for some time and think of nothing. This manner of living is also of my own invention, and I have often benefitted greatly from it; but it is not given to everybody to use it to advantage, for though it is easy to think profoundly by concentrating one’s mind on any given subject, it is not easy to cut short the train of one’s thoughts just as we stop the pendulum of a clock. Molière has most wrongly ridiculed a man who amused himself by making circles on a pond. For my part, I am very much inclined to believe that that man was a philosopher who had the power to stay the working of his mind in order to rest it, one of the most difficult feats the human mind can perform.

I know that some people who have received this faculty without any effort on their own part, and who generally think of nothing at all, will call me a plagiarist and claim priority of invention; but the state of intellectual immobility, which I am now considering, is totally different from that they enjoy, and for which M. Necker15 has already written an apology. Mine is always produced by an effort of the will and can only be momentary. To enjoy it in full perfection, I shut my eyes and placed my two hands on the windowsill, like a tired horseman leaning on the pommel of his saddle, and immediately the recollection of the past, the feeling of the present, and the anticipation of the future, all vanished from my soul.

As this method is very conducive to sleep, after a few short moments of delight, I felt my head fall forward on my chest: immediately I opened my eyes and my thoughts resumed their course. This circumstance clearly proves that this kind of voluntary lethargy is very different from sleep, since the very act of sleep brings me back to consciousness⁠—an accident which has certainly never happened to anyone before.

On raising my eyes to the sky, I saw the pole star right over the top of the house, and that seemed to me a very good omen at the very time I was about to set out on a long journey. During the short period of repose I had just enjoyed, my imagination had recovered all its power, and my heart was again ready to receive the most gentle impressions; to such a degree is its energy increased by a transient annihilation of thought. The gloomy despondency, which usually haunts me on account of our precarious tenure of life, was succeeded by a lively sentiment of hope and courage, and I felt myself able to face life and all the changes of misfortune, or of happiness, she brings in her train.

“Brilliant star,” I exclaimed in my ecstatic rapture, “incomprehensible creation of the Eternal mind. Thou, who, alone constant in the heavens, watchest since the dawn of Creation over one half of the earth. Thou, who guidest the sailor on desert seas, and whose rays have oft times restored life and hope to the tempest-tossed mariner. Whenever the riven clouds have shown me the face of the heavens, have not I always sought thee out from among thy peers? Aid me, Celestial Star! Earth abandons me, but be Thou today my counseller and guide, tell me to what quarter of the globe I should wend my way.”

During this invocation the star appeared to twinkle more brightly than ever, and to rejoice in the Heavens, and thus to invite me to place myself under its protection. I do not believe in presentiments, but I believe in a divine Providence, which leads men by unknown paths. Each moment of our life is a new creation, an act of the all-powerful will. The ever-changing order, which is always producing the new shapes and the unaccountable phenomena of the clouds, is regulated every moment, even in the smallest drop of water, of which they are composed. The events of our life can have no other origin, and to attribute them to chance would be the height of folly. I can even declare that sometimes I have been able to see the imperceptible threads by which Providence sets the greatest men in motion, just like marionettes, whilst they themselves think they are managing the affairs of the universe. A slight wave of pride, with which Providence agitates their breast, is sufficient to cause the destruction of whole armies, and to cast a whole nation into complete disorder.

Be that as it may, I believed so strongly in the invocation I had received from the pole star that I made up my mind to go northward, and although I had no particular place in view, and no object at all in going to those far off lands, still, when I set out the following day from Turin, I left by the Palace gate, which is in the north of the City, firmly convinced that the pole star would not forsake me.

XXXII

I had got thus far on my journey when I was obliged to dismount hastily. I should not have drawn attention to this incident if I were not conscientiously bound to inform those people who might like to adopt this mode of travelling, of the little inconveniences connected with it, after having dilated so much on its immense advantages.

Most windows not having been originally invented for the novel purpose to which I have put them, architects fail to give to them the comfortable shape and turn of an English saddle. No furthur explanation will, I hope, be needed to enable the intelligent reader to understand the painful reason which compelled me to dismount. I got off my horse somewhat painfully, and walked round my room several times in order to restore the circulation, and in the meanwhile I reflected on the strange medley of pains and pleasures which strew the path of life, and on the fatality which makes man the slave of the most trivial circumstances.

I hastened to remount my horse, having first provided myself with a cushion of eiderdown. I should not have dared to have done such a thing a few days before for fear of being hooted at by the horse soldiers, but, the night before, having met at the gates of Turin a party of Cossacks, who came in from the borders of Lake Méotides and the Caspian Sea mounted on similar cushions, I thought I might safely adopt the custom without offending against the laws of horsemanship, for which I have the greatest regard. Freed from the painful sensation which I have left to the reader’s imagination, I was able to abandon myself entirely, and without fear of disturbance, to the thoughts of my journey.

One of the difficulties which worried me most, because it touched my conscience, was to decide whether I should be doing right or wrong in leaving my Fatherland, half of which had itself already abandoned me.16 This step appeared to me to be too important to be decided hastily. While reflecting on that word “Fatherland,” I perceived that I had no very clear idea as to its meaning⁠—of what does my Fatherland consist? Is it a collection of houses, of fields, and rivers? I can hardly believe this! Perhaps my family or my friends constitute my Fatherland; but they on the other hand have already left it. I have it! It is the government⁠—but that also is changed. Good Heavens! where then is my Fatherland?

I passed my hand over my brow, in a state of inexplicable perturbation of mind, so ardent is the love of one’s country within us! The regret I felt at the bare thought of leaving mine, brought home its reality to me so strongly that I would have remained on horseback all my life sooner than have given up, before having got to the bottom of the difficulty.

I soon perceived that love of one’s country is made up of various combined factors, such as the attachment from childhood to persons, locality, and forms of government. It only now remains to consider how these three elements, each in its own way, make up the idea of a Fatherland.

The love of our fellow-countrymen generally depends on the government, and is simply the feeling of the power and happiness which it gives us in common; for real affection is limited to the family, and to the small number of individuals by whom we are immediately surrounded. Everything which interferes with custom or facility of intercourse turns men into enemies. The dwellers on either side of a mountain range cherish unfriendly thoughts towards each other; the inhabitants on the right bank of a river fancy themselves much superior to those on the left bank, and the latter, in their turn, feel contempt for their neighbours. We see this disposition even in large towns intersected by rivers, in spite of the bridges which join their banks. Difference of language further widens the breach between men under the same government: the very family in which our tenderest affections are centred is often scattered over the Fatherland, and continually suffers change in its constitution and number, and it may even seek a home in foreign lands. And thus we may conclude that the love of Fatherland dwells exclusively neither amongst our fellow-countrymen nor in our family.

Locality also contributes its full share to the attachment we feel for our native land. Here we come across a very interesting point. It has been always noticed that of all peoples, those who dwell in mountainous countries are most attached to their homes, and that wandering nations generally live in large plains. What is the reason of this difference in the attachment of these peoples to their homes? If I mistake not, it lies in this: that mountainous scenery possesses strongly marked features, which are totally absent in a level country. The latter resembles a plain woman, whom we cannot love in spite of all her good qualities. What remains, indeed, of his countryside to an inhabitant of a village in a forest, when, after the passage of an enemy, the village is burnt and the trees cut down? In vain the wretched man scans the long straight line of the horizon for some well-known landmark as a souvenir⁠—there is none. Every point of the compass offers the same uniform aspect, the same features. That man is of necessity a wanderer, unless the government restrains him; but his dwelling place has a restraining influence over him; his country will be anywhere where the power of government extends, and he can never have more than half a Fatherland. The dweller in the mountains is attached to the objects which he has beheld from infancy, and which have palpable and indestructible forms: from all points in the valley he sees and recognises his field on the mountain side. The noise of the torrent, as it rushes seething among the rocks, never ceases; the footpath, which leads to the village, winds round a block of changeless granite. In his dreams he beholds the outlines of the mountains which are imprinted on his heart, just as, after looking for some time at a window, one still sees it when one’s eyes are shut; the picture engraved on his memory becomes part of himself and is never effaced. In short, remembrance attaches itself to locality, but it must have an object of prehistoric origin and of apparently infinite durability. Old buildings and bridges, everything that bears the appearance of grandeur and antiquity can in a measure take the place of mountains in one’s affection for locality; but, nevertheless, the heart is most deeply moved by the monuments of nature. In order to give Rome a name worthy of her, did not the Romans call her the City on the Seven Hills? Habits once formed can never be destroyed. The aged mountaineer has no affection for the streets and squares of a large town, and the inhabitant of a town can never become a mountaineer. This accounts for one of the greatest authors of our time, who had most cleverly described the deserts of America, finding the Alps insignificant and Mt. Blanc much too small.

The share of the government is clear⁠—it is the basis of our Fatherland, and produces reciprocal attachment among men and strengthens the love of locality. Government alone by the recollection of good fortune or past glory can attach men to their native land. If the government is good, then the Fatherland is strong; if it becomes unjust, the Fatherland sickens; if it changes, the Fatherland dies. Then we have a new Fatherland, and each is free to adopt it or to choose another.

When all the population of Athens left that city trusting to the word of Themistocles, did the Athenians abandon their country? did they not rather carry it with them to their ships?

When Coriolanus⁠ ⁠… Good Heavens! what a discussion I am engaged in; I forget that I am on horseback at my window.

XXXIII

I had had an elderly relative of great wit and readiness of speech whose conversation was most interesting, but her memory, fertile and uncertain at the same time, led her from one episode to another, and from digression to digression to such an extent, that she was often obliged to apply to her hearers for help. “What was I going to say?” she would ask, and often her hearers had also totally forgotten, and then everybody was in a most awkward position.

Now it may well be said that a similar accident often happens to me in the course of my narratives, and in truth I must confess that the plan and order of my tour are traced exactly like my aunt’s conversation; but I ask no assistance from anyone, because I have found that my subject returns of its own accord and at the very moment when I least expect it.

XXXIV

I ought to warn those people who may not like my dissertation on the Fatherland that sleep was gradually overcoming me, in spite of all my efforts to shake it off; but I am not very sure now whether I actually fell into a sound sleep, and whether the extraordinary matters I am about to relate were the creation of a dream or of a supernatural vision.

I saw a bright cloud fall from the sky and gradually come nearer to me, and it formed a sort of transparent veil over a young girl of some twenty-two or twenty-three years age. Vainly should I seek for suitable words to describe the feelings with which her appearance inspired me. Her countenance, radiant with goodness and kindness, had the charming illusion of youth, and was sweet as a dream of the future; her expression, her quiet smile, in a word, all her features, appeared to me to be the realization of that ideal being my heart had so long sought for, and whom I had despaired of ever meeting.

Whilst I was gazing at her in a delicious ecstasy, I saw the pole star shining between her dark curls, through which the north wind was playing, and at the same moment I heard these comforting words, nay they were not words, it was the mysterious expression of heavenly thought revealing the future to my soul, whilst my senses were wrapped in slumber; it was a prophetic message from that friendly star which I had lately invoked, and the meaning of which I shall now essay to embody in human language.

“Your confidence in me is not misplaced,” exclaimed a voice in tones like those of an Aolian Harp. “Behold the country I have kept for you; behold the blessings for which those aspire in vain who imagine happiness to be a matter of calculation, and who ask on Earth for things only attainable in Heaven.” At these words the meteor melted away in the darkness of the heavens, and the fair divinity was lost to sight in the mists of the far distance; but as she departed she gave me a look which filled my heart with confidence and hope.

Immediately, burning to follow her, I dug both heels into my horse, and as I had forgotten to put on my spurs, I struck my right heel against the corner of a tile with such violence that the pain woke me up with a start.

XXXV

This accident was after all a great benefit to the geological department of my journey, because it taught me the exact height of my room above the alluvial deposits on which the City of Turin is built. My heart beat violently, and I counted quite three beats and a half from the moment when I spurred my horse till I heard the noise made by my slipper, which had fallen into the street, and having calculated the time which heavy bodies take to fall, and that which the waves of sound required in coming from the street to my ear, I fixed the height of my window at eighty-four feet three inches and nine-tenths of an inch above the pavement of Turin, on the supposition that my heart, excited by the dream, beat 120 times in a minute, which cannot be far out. It is only as a pure matter of science, after having dilated so much on my fair neighbour’s interesting slipper, that I could venture to speak of my own also, and I foresee that this chapter will after all please none but philosophers.

XXXVI

The splendid vision I had just enjoyed made me feel all the more acutely on awaking, all the horror of my isolated situation. I looked all round and saw nothing but the roofs and the chimneys. Alas! suspended on the fifth story, between heaven and earth, surrounded by a sea of troubles, aspirations, and anxieties, I was attached to life solely by a faint glimmer of hope, a treacherous support, whose fragility I had often experienced. Doubt soon returned to my desolate heart, in which the wounds caused by the troubles of life were still far from healed, and I quite believed that the pole star had been mocking me. Unjust and wicked suspicion! for which she has punished me with ten years of waiting. Oh! if I could then have foreseen that all these promises would be fulfilled, and that one day I should find on earth the adorable being whose image I had seen in the heavens.

Dear Sophie, if I had known that my good fortunes would even surpass all my hopes! But I must not anticipate events. I return to my subject, unwilling to depart from the severe and methodical order to which I have bound myself in the compilation of my travels.

XXXVII

The clock of St. Philip’s Church slowly struck twelve. I counted, one after another, every stroke of the bell, and at the last one I heaved a sigh. “There,” said I, “is another day of my life gone, and while the dying tones of the brazen bell are still vibrating in my ears, that part of my journey which preceded midnight is already quite as far from me as the voyages of Ulysses or Jason. In that abyss of the past, moments and ages are of the same duration, and even the future is no less unreal and inconceivable.” Between these two states of nonexistence I stand in equilibrium, as it were, on the edge of a blade.

In truth, Time seems to me something so inconceivable that I should be inclined to believe that it has no existence at all, and that what we call Time is nought but a fiction which we have invented to punish us. I was rejoicing at having found this definition of Time, though obscure as even Time itself, when another clock struck twelve, and this caused me an unpleasant sensation.

I am always rather irritable when engaged in an insoluble problem, and this second warning of the clock was very discomposing to a philosopher like myself, but I was plunged into the depths of despair a few seconds afterwards, when I heard, far away, a third clock, that of the Convent of the Capuchins, on the other side of the river, also strike twelve, as if to spite me.

When my aunt used, somewhat roughly, to summon an ancient retainer, of whom, however, she was very fond, in her impatience she was not content with ringing once, but kept on pulling the bell without stopping till the servant came. “Come at once, Mlle. Branchet,” and the latter, annoyed at being thus hurried, used to come very leisurely, and answer very sarcastically, before she got into the room, “Coming, Madame, coming.” Such also was my frame of mind when I heard that inane clock of the Capuchins strike twelve, for the third time. “I am quite aware of it,” I exclaimed, stretching out my hands in the direction of the clock, “Yes, I know it⁠—I know it is midnight⁠—I know it only too well.” Doubtless it was at the insidious prompting of an evil spirit that man made the division of the days at this hour. Shut up at home, they sleep or amuse themselves whilst this hour cuts off a thread of their existence, and next morning they get up gaily, in the foolish conceit that they have gained another day of life. Vainly does the prophetic voice of the bell warn them of the approach of Eternity. In vain it sadly reminds them of each passing hour, they hear not, or if they do, they do not heed. Oh terrible hour of midnight! I am not superstitious, but that hour always inspires me with a sort of fear, and I have a presentiment that if ever I do die it will be at midnight. Must I die, someday? I die⁠—I, who speak, think, and feel, shall I really die? I have some difficulty in believing it. Nothing is more natural than that other folks should die; it is our daily experience, they pass away, we are used to it; but to die oneself⁠ ⁠… oneself⁠ ⁠… one can hardly believe that. And you sir who think that these reflections are nonsense, learn that all the world thinks in this way, and so do you yourself. No one thinks that he must die. If there were a race of immortal men, the idea of death could not alarm them less than it does us.

There is something in this that I cannot understand. How is it that men, disturbed eternally by hopes and dreams of the future, trouble themselves so little about that which the future presents to them with absolute certainty? May it not be that beneficent nature herself has given us this happy unconsciousness, so that we can fulfil our destiny in peace? In truth, I believe that one may still be a very good man without adding to the real evils of life, that turn of mind which broods on melancholy thoughts, or without troubling one’s imagination with gloomy apprehensions, so I think we may venture to laugh, or at least to smile, whenever there is an innocent provocation for so doing.

Thus ended the meditation which the clock of St. Philip’s had inspired. I should have pursued it further if I had not felt some scruples as to the correctness of the code of morality which I had set up; but being unwilling to search deeper into this doubtful question, I whistled the air of the “Follies of Spain,” which has the property of being able to change the current of my ideas when they take a gloomy turn. The effect was so instantaneous that, on the spot, I put an end to my ride on horseback.

XXXVIII

Before re-entering my room I cast a glance on the dark city and the country round Turin, which I was about to quit, perhaps forever, and I bade them my last farewell. Never had night seemed to me beautiful, or the spectacle beneath my gaze so intensely fascinating. After saluting the mountain and church of the Superga, I took leave of the towers, the steeples, and of all the well-known objects, at leaving which I felt so great but so unexpected a regret; also of the air, the sky, and the river, whose dull murmur seemed to answer responsive to my farewells.

Oh! could I but describe the feelings, tender and cruel at the same time, which filled my heart, and all the memories of the sweetest half of my past life, which, like hobgoblins, thronged round me, to keep me in Turin. But, alas! the recollections of past pleasures are the wrinkles on the face of the soul. When we are unhappy we ought to drive them from our thoughts like mocking phantoms which come to triumph over our present situation. It is better then, a thousand times, to give oneself up to the illusions of hope, and above all to put a good face on it when the game is going against us, and to be very careful not to let anyone into the secret of our misfortunes. I have observed, in my experience of the world and mankind, that those who are always complaining of their woes are, in the end, held up to ridicule.

In these terrible moments, a very good course to adopt is to try the new mode of travelling I have just described. For myself I gave it a decisive trial, and not only did I succeed in forgetting the past, but was enabled to face the present troubles with a brave heart. “Time will bear them away,” I said to myself by way of consolation, “it takes everything and overlooks nothing as it goes by, and even if we wished to stop it or urge it on, our efforts would be all in vain, for nothing can alter its inevitable course.”

Although usually I take no thought about the rapidity of its flight, there are certain circumstances and chains of thought which bring it most strikingly before me. When men are silent and the demon of noise is at rest in the midst of his temple, in a sleeping town wrapped in slumber, then it is that Time lifts up his voice and makes himself heard in my soul. Silence and darkness become his interpreters and reveal to me his mysterious progress, then he ceases to be a being which my mind can barely grasp, and he becomes perceptible even to the senses themselves. I behold Time in the heavens driving before him the stars towards the West; there he is urging on the rivers to the ocean, and rolling the mist along the mountains! I hear the wind moaning beneath the stroke of his rapid wings, and the distant clock quivers at his lightning flight.

“Let us take advantage,” I exclaim, “of his rapid fight; let me not waste the moments I shall so shortly lose forever.” Wishing to make the most of this good resolve, at that instant I leaned forward so as to throw myself courageously into the breach, and I made that clacking noise, which has been used from time immemorial to urge on horses, but which it is quite impossible to describe in writing according to the rules of orthography.

gh! gh! gh!

and so I finished my ride with a gallop.

XXXIX

I was lifting my right foot, in order to get off, when I felt myself rather roughly struck on the shoulder. It would be untrue to say that I was not frightened by this accident, and this is a good opportunity to explain and prove to the reader, without incurring the reproach of vanity, how very difficult it would be for anybody but myself to undertake a journey like mine. Even if another traveller had a thousand times the means and power of observation that I have, could he reasonably expect to meet with adventures as striking and as numerous as those which happened to me in the space of four hours, and in which the finger of destiny was so clearly visible? If anyone doubts this, let him try and guess who it was that struck me.

In my first distress, not reflecting on my real position, I fancied that my horse had kicked me or crushed me against a tree. Heaven knows how many dismal thoughts passed through my mind in the short space of time occupied in turning my head so as to look into my room. As often happens when things seem most extraordinary the cause of my alarm was a very natural one. The same gust of wind which at the beginning of my journey had blown open my window and banged too my door as it passed, and part of which rustled amongst the curtains of my bed, had just re-entered my room, making a mighty bustle. It rudely flung open the door and rushed out of the window, pushing the casement against my shoulder, and that it was which gave me the alarm of which I have just spoken.

You will remember that it was that same gust of wind which invited me to leave my bed. The blow I now received was clearly an invitation to return thither, and I found myself at once compelled to accede to it.

How grand it is to be on a familiar footing with the night, the heavens, and the meteors, and to be in a position to benefit by their influence! Alas, the relations we are compelled to hold with men are much more dangerous.

How often have I been duped by my trust in them? Here I was about to say something on this point, in a note which I have suppressed, because it was longer than all the text put together, and would have ruined the just proportions of my journey, whose brevity is its greatest merit.

The Leper of the City of Aosta

The southern part of the city of Aosta is well-nigh forsaken, and appears to have been at no time very thickly inhabited. The tilled fields and green meadows are bounded on one side by the old ramparts thrown up by the Romans to shelter the city, and on the other by a few garden walls. This lonely spot is not, however, quite without interest to the traveller. Near the city gate are to be seen the ruins of an ancient castle, in which, according to popular tradition, in the fifteenth century, Count René of Chalans, goaded by the fury of jealousy, starved Marie of Braganza, his wife; and hence the name of Bramafan, “Hunger Cry,” which the people of the neighbourhood have conferred upon it. This tale, the authenticity of which is very questionable, inspires credulous and sensitive people with an interest in what is left of the building. Some hundred steps further on is a square tower, which leans against a part of the ancient walls, and is built of the marble with which they were formerly encased. This is called the “Tower of Terror,” it having long been believed to be haunted. The old women of Aosta remember very well how that, on dark nights, a tall woman in white came from it, holding a lamp in her hand.

About fifteen years ago, this tower was repaired, and enclosed by government authority as a retreat for a leper, who, while thus separated from society, might enjoy such solace as was compatible with his sad condition. The hospital of Saint Maurice was to supply him with food and clothing; and he was provided with a few articles of furniture, and such tools as he might require for the cultivation of his garden. There he had lived for some time, shut up in himself, and seeing no one except the priest, who came from time to time to minister to his spiritual wants, and the messenger, who brought his weekly provisions from the hospital. During the war of the Alps, in the year 1797, a military man, who chanced to be at Aosta, happened to pass by the leper’s garden, and had the curiosity to enter it through the half-open gate. He found there a man, simply clad, leaning against a tree, and buried in deep thought. On hearing the sound made by the officer in entering, he said in a sad tone, but without looking round:⁠—

Who is there?⁠—what do you want of me?

“Pardon a stranger,” replied the officer, “who has been tempted, by its pleasing appearance, to intrude himself into your garden, but who has no wish to disturb you.”

Come no further,” answered the occupant of the tower, making a motion with his hand, “come no further; you are in the presence of an unfortunate man suffering from leprosy.

“Whatever your misfortune may be,” answered the traveller, “I will not withdraw on that account. I have never fled from those in distress; still, if my presence troubles you, I will retire.”

Stay in welcome,” said the leper, turning quickly round, “if you do not fear to do so after looking at me.

The officer stood for some moments motionless with surprise and terror at the sight of this unfortunate being, whom leprosy had completely disfigured.

“I will gladly stay,” he said, “if you will accept the visit of a man whom sheer chance has led hither, but whom a lively interest in your case detains.”

The Leper

Interest?⁠ ⁠… I have never moved aught but pity.

The Officer

I should indeed be happy if I could offer you any consolation.

The Leper

It is a great consolation to me but to see a human being, and to hear one of those human voices which generally seem to shun me.

The Officer

Allow me, then, to spend a little time in conversing with you, and in seeing your dwelling.

The Leper

By all means, if agreeable to you. (As he spoke, the leper covered his head with a large felt hat, the falling brim of which hid his face.) Come, (he added,) this way, to the south side. I tend a little flowerbed that may please you; you will find there some rather rare specimens. I procured the seed of all the flowers that grow wild in the Alps, and have tried to get them to double, and to beautify them by cultivation.

The Officer

Some of these flowers do indeed seem quite new to me.

The Leper

Look at that little rosebush. It is the thornless rose, which grows on the high Alps. But it is already losing its peculiarity, and throws out more and more thorns under cultivation.

The Officer

It should be the emblem of ingratitude!

The Leper

If any of these flowers please you, you may gather them without fear, and you will run no risk in carrying them about you. I planted them, and I have the gratification of watering them, and seeing them; but I never handle them.

The Officer

Why so?

The Leper

I should fear to sully them⁠ ⁠… and I could not then venture to offer them for acceptance.

The Officer

And what will you do with them?

The Leper

The people who bring my food from the hospital do not hesitate to make them into nosegays. Sometimes, too, the children from the town come to my garden-gate, when I go at once to my tower, lest I should frighten or harm them. From my window I see them skip about and pick a flower here and there. When they go away they look up at me, and say, “Good day, Leper;” and that cheers me a little.

The Officer

You have managed to get together here a great variety of plants. I see you have vines and several kinds of fruit-trees.

The Leper

The trees are still young. I planted them myself; and so I did that vine, which I trained along the old wall, whose broad top makes me a little walk. It is my favourite spot. Mount those stones; they are a flight of steps of my own handiwork. Keep along by the wall.

The Officer

What a delightful retreat! And how well suited for the meditations of a recluse.

The Leper

I am very fond of it. I look from here upon the country and the labourers in the fields. I see what is going on in the meadow, but am seen by no one.

The Officer

The quietness and retirement of this spot are wonderful. We are in a town, and yet might fancy ourselves in a desert.

The Leper

Solitude is not always to be found in the midst of forests and rocks. The unhappy are alone everywhere.

The Officer

What were the circumstances that brought you here? Is this your native place?

The Leper

I was born by the seaside, in the principality of Oneille, and have only lived here for fifteen years. As to my history, it is but one long unbroken misery.

The Officer

Have you always lived alone?

The Leper

I lost my parents in my infancy. I never knew them. The one sister who was left to me has been dead two years. I never had a friend.

The Officer

Poor man!

The Leper

Such is God’s will.

The Officer

And may I ask your name?

The Leper

Alas! mine is a terrible name. I am known as the Leper. My family name and that which religion conferred upon me on the day of my birth, have remained undivulged. I am the Leper. No other title have I to the kindness of men; and I trust they may never know who I am.

The Officer

And the sister you lost⁠—did she live with you?

The Leper

She lived for five years with me in this dwelling. She was in the same unhappy case as myself; she shared my sorrows, and I did my best to relieve hers.

The Officer

And how do you now occupy yourself in this profound solitude?

The Leper

An account of the occupations of such a solitary being as I am could not but be very monotonous to a man of the world, whose happiness is derived from the activity of social life.

The Officer

Ah! little do you know the life of which you speak⁠—a life in which I have never found happiness. I am often alone from choice; and, perhaps, there is more likeness between our thoughts than you suppose. But, still, I admit that unbroken solitude seems very awful to me. I can hardly picture it to myself.

The Leper

The Imitation of Jesus Christ teaches us that he who loves his cell will find in it peace. I am beginning to feel the truth of these consoling words. The sense of loneliness is relieved by labour. The man who works is never altogether wretched. Of this I am a proof. In fine weather, the cultivation of my garden and flowerbed gives me enough employment; and during winter I make baskets and mats. I also make my own clothes. Every day I prepare my food from the provisions brought me from the hospital; and prayer fills up the time my labours leave me. And so the year glides by, and when it is passed, it seems to me to have been but short.

The Officer

One would think it would seem an age to you.

The Leper

Troubles and vexations make the hours seem long; but the years always roll on with the same speed. And then, somehow, however unhappy one is, there is an enjoyment most men never experience, and which will seem a very singular one to you; I mean the bare fact of existing and breathing. In fine weather I spend whole days motionless on this rampart enjoying the fresh air, and the beauty of nature. At such times all my ideas are vague and indefinite; sadness rests in my heart without oppressing it; my eyes wander over that open country and the rocks that lie around us. These different aspects are so impressed upon my memory that they form, as it were, a part of my self, and each spot is a friend that I see every day with pleasure.

The Officer

I have often felt something of the same kind. When oppressed by trouble, and I fail to find in others’ hearts what my own seeks, the sight of nature and inanimate things consoles me. I devote my affection to the rocks and trees, and I feel as if all created things were friends that God has sent me.

The Leper

You encourage me in my turn to explain what passes in my own mind. I love sincerely the objects which are, as it were, my companions for life, and which I see daily. In the evening, before I retire to my tower, I bid farewell to the glaciers of Ruitorts, the dark woods of mount Saint Bernard, and the strange peaks that rise above the valley of Rhème. True though it is that the power of God is as manifest in the creation of an ant as in that of the whole universe, the grand spectacle of the mountains takes a greater hold upon my senses. I cannot look out upon those huge masses covered with eternal ice without a feeling of religious wonder. But in the vast panorama that surrounds me, there are spots of which I am especially fond; among these is the hermitage you see yonder on the summit of Charvensod. Alone, in the midst of the woods, and skirted by an untilled field, it is bathed by the last rays of the setting sun. Although I have never visited the spot, I experience a singular pleasure in seeing it. At nightfall, as I sit in my garden, I gaze upon that lonely hermitage, and my imagination finds rest there. The place has become to me sort of property. A hazy reminiscence seems to tell me that I once lived there in happier times whose memory has faded from me. Above all, I love to watch the distant mountains mingle on the horizon with the sky. Distance, like futurity, excites hope in my breast. My heavy heart beats with the faith in a far-off land, where, on some future day, I may, perhaps, taste that happiness for which I sigh, and which a secret instinct presents incessantly to my mind as possible.

The Officer

With such an ardent nature as yours, you must have had many a struggle before you could resign yourself to your destiny, and free yourself from despair.

The Leper

I should deceive you were I to leave you to suppose I have always been resigned to my fate. I have not, by any means, reached that abnegation of self which some anchorites have attained. Such an entire sacrifice of all human affections has not yet been accomplished. My life is passed in a constant struggle, and the strong aid of religion does not always suffice to restrain the flight of imagination, which often carries me, in spite of myself, into a sea of strange wishes, all of which lead me towards that world of which I know nothing, but whose fantastic image is always tormenting me.

The Officer

Could I so open my mind to you that you could read my impression of the world, all these wishes and regrets would soon vanish.

The Leper

In vain have books told me of the perversity of man, and the ills that attend humanity. My heart refuses them credence. I always picture to myself gatherings of sincere and virtuous friends; and well-matched couples whom health, youth, and prosperity crown with happiness. I see them, in my mind’s eye, treading together woods fresher and greener than those which shade my path; a more brilliant sun shines upon them than illumines my dwelling; and their lot seems the more worthy of envy when compared with my own wretchedness. In the early spring, when the wind from Piedmont whispers in our valley, I feel its life-giving breath instil itself into my heart, and I quiver with irresistible emotion. A strange yearning possesses me, and I have a confused sense of a boundless delight, which I might enjoy, but which is refused. Then I flee from my cell, and wander in the open fields that I may breathe more freely. I shun the eyes of those very men whom my heart burns to meet; and from the hilltop, hidden among the bushes like a wild animal, I look towards the town. I see from afar with envious eyes its happy inhabitants, who hardly know me. I stretch forth my hands towards them, and with deep sighs crave my share of happiness. In my transports⁠—shall I confess it?⁠—I have more than once clasped the trees of the forest in my arms, and asked God to animate them for me, and give me a friend. But the trees are mute. Their cold bark, which has nothing in common with my palpitating, burning heart, repels me. Overcome with fatigue, and weary of life, I drag myself once more to my retreat, I lay my agonies before God, and prayer brings to my soul something of its wonted peace.

The Officer

And thus, poor sufferer, you have to endure at the same time mental and bodily torments!

The Leper

And my bodily sufferings are not the hardest to bear.

The Officer

Are they mitigated then at times?

The Leper

Every month they increase and diminish with the course of the moon. At the new moon I generally suffer most; the malady then diminishes, and its character seems to change. My skin grows dry and white, and I scarcely feel anything more of my affliction; indeed it would always be tolerable were it not for the dreadful, sleepless nights it causes.

The Officer

What! Does sleep even forsake you?

The Leper

Ah, sir! those nights! those sleepless nights! You cannot imagine how long and sad is a whole night which a wretched man passes without even closing his eyes, and with a mind intent upon a position which has no hopeful future before it. No, no one can conceive what this is. As the night wears on my restlessness increases; and at its close my agitation is such that I do not know what to do with myself. My thoughts become disordered, and I am the prey of an extraordinary sensation that I never experience except at these sad times. At one moment an irresistible power drags me into a bottomless abyss; at another I see black spots before my eyes; but while I watch them they dart aside as quick as lightning, and then, growing bigger and bigger as they approach me, become mountains which crush me beneath their weight. At other times I see clouds rise out of the earth like swelling waves, which gather around me, threatening to overwhelm me. When I try to rise, and so turn the current of my thoughts, I feel held down by invisible chains, which render me quite helpless⁠ ⁠… You think that these are mere dreams. But no; I am wide awake at such moments. I see the same objects repeatedly; and the sense of horror they cause exceeds all the other evils I suffer.

The Officer

Possibly you are feverish during these cruel hours of unrest, which would be quite sufficient to explain this sort of delirium.

The Leper

You think that may be enough to cause it? Would that it might be so! I have always feared that the visions were a sign of madness, and I confess that the thought troubled me much. Would to God it were indeed the effect of fever!

The Officer

You interest me greatly. I could never have conceived such a position as yours. But it must, I should think, have been less sad when your sister was alive.

The Leper

God only knows what I lost by my sister’s death. But do you not fear being so near me? Sit here, on this stone, and I will place myself behind the branches; and then we can converse without seeing one another.

The Officer

Why move? No, do not stir from my side. Sit here by me. (As he spoke, the traveller made an involuntary attempt to take the Leper by the hand, who quickly withdrew it.)

The Leper

How could you be so imprudent! You were about to grasp my hand.

The Officer

Yes, and I should have pressed it heartily.

The Leper

It would have been the first time such a kindness had been shown me. No one has ever pressed my hand.

The Officer

What! with the exception of the sister of whom you have spoken, you have formed no acquaintance, you have never been beloved by any fellow creature?

The Leper

Fortunately for humanity, there is no one whom I can regard as my fellow.

The Officer

Your words shock me!

The Leper

Pardon me, compassionate stranger! The wretched, as you know, love to talk of their misfortunes.

The Officer

Go on, go on; you interest me much! You were telling me that a sister once lived with you, who helped you to endure your sufferings.

The Leper

This was the sole tie that still bound me to the rest of humanity. It pleased God to break it, and to leave me all alone in the world. Her soul was worthy of the heaven it inhabits, and her example bore me up against the despair which, since her death, so often overwhelms me. Ours was not, however, that delightful intimacy which I picture to myself, and which should unite friends in affliction. The nature of our misfortunes deprived us of that consolation. Even when we drew together to offer up our prayers to God, we mutually avoided looking one another in the face, lest the spectacle of our calamity should disturb our meditations⁠ ⁠… After our prayers, my sister generally withdrew to her cell, or to the shelter of the hazel trees at the end of the garden. We lived almost always apart from one another.

The Officer

But why did you subject yourselves to this hard constraint?

The Leper

When my sister was attacked by the contagious disease to which all the members of our family have been victims, and she came to share my retreat, we had never seen one another. The shock was great when she saw me for the first time; and the fear of distressing her, and the still greater fear of increasing her malady through my presence, compelled me to adopt this sad arrangement. The leprosy had attacked her chest only; and I had some hope of her recovery. You see what is left of the trellis which I have allowed to fall into neglect. It was a hedge of hops that I trained with care, and which divided the garden into two parts. I had shaped on each side a narrow path, along which we could walk and talk together, without seeing one another, or approaching one another too nearly.

The Officer

It would seem as if Heaven had delighted in poisoning what sad solace it left you.

The Leper

But at least I was not then alone. My sister’s presence gave life to this retreat. I heard her footsteps in my solitude; and when, at daybreak, I came beneath these trees to pray to God, the door of the tower opened gently, and the voice of my sister mingled insensibly with my own. In the evening, when I was watering my garden, she sometimes took her sunset walk here, at this very spot where I am speaking, and I used to see her shadow pass again and again over my flowers. Even when I did not see her, I found traces of her presence everywhere. But now I never chance to meet on my path with the leaves of a flower or the twigs of a shrub that have fallen from her hand. I am alone. There is no longer any movement or life around me, and the path that led to her favourite clump of shrubs is already disappearing under the grass. Without seeming to busy herself about me, she sought constantly to give me pleasure. When I entered my room I was often surprised to find there vases of fresh flowers, or some fine fruit that she had herself tended. I did not venture to return such services, and I even entreated her never to enter my chamber. But who can limit a sister’s affection? A single instance will give you an idea of her tender kindness to me. One night I was walking up and down my cell in an agony of pain. In the middle of the night, having sat down for a moment to rest myself, I heard a light step near the door of my room. I went towards it, and listened. Imagine my surprise! My sister was at the threshold engaged in prayer. She had heard my moans, and in her tenderness feared to trouble me, but had come within reach in case I might need her aid. I heard her saying the Miserere in a low tone. I knelt down near the door, and, without interrupting her, mentally followed her words. My eyes filled with tears: and who would not have been moved by such affection? When I thought her prayer was ended, “Adieu, my sister,” I said softly, “stay no longer; I feel a little better; may God bless and reward you for your goodness.” She withdrew in silence; and without doubt her prayer was answered, for I at last got a few hours of tranquil sleep.

The Officer

How mournful the days must have seemed to you that followed the death of this dear sister!

The Leper

For a long time a sort of stupor took from me the sense of the full extent of my misfortune. When at length I came to myself and I was able to understand my position, I nearly lost my reason. This epoch of my life will always be doubly sad to me; it reminds me of my deepest sorrow, and of the crime which nearly resulted from it.

The Officer

A crime! I cannot think you could be capable of one.

The Leper

Nevertheless, it is but too true. And when I relate to you this episode of my history, I know too well I shall lose much of your esteem. But I do not wish to paint myself as better than I am; and while you condemn me, you will perhaps pity me. In some of my fits of melancholy, the idea had already presented itself of voluntarily escaping from this life; but the fear of God had made me drive the thought away. A circumstance, however, arose which, simple as it was in itself and in all appearance not at all calculated to trouble me, nearly wrought my ruin. I had just had a fresh vexation. Some years before, a little dog had made its home with us; my sister had been fond of him, and I assure you that after her death the poor animal was quite a comfort to me.

To his ugliness no doubt we owed his choice of our dwelling as a place of refuge. He had been driven off by everybody else; but he was a treasure in the home of the Leper. In recognition of the favour God had bestowed upon us in giving us this friend, my sister called him Miracle; and his name, which contrasted with his ugliness, and his constant drollery, often diverted our thoughts from our troubles. Notwithstanding the care I took of him, he sometimes got away; but I never thought this could be a source of harm to anyone. Some of the townspeople, however, took fright, thinking he might carry among them the germs of my disorder; so they determined to complain to the governor, who ordered my dog to be killed at once. Soldiers, accompanied by some of the inhabitants, came here forthwith to execute this cruel order. They put a cord round his neck in my presence, and dragged him away. When he was at the garden-gate I could not help looking at him once more. I saw him turn his eyes towards me, as if to ask for the help which I was unable to give. They intended to drown him in the Doire; but the rabble, who were waiting for him outside, stoned him to death. I heard his cries, and went into my tower more dead than alive. My trembling knees sank under me; and I threw myself upon my bed in a state no words can describe. My distress prevented my seeing in that just but harsh order aught but an atrocious and useless barbarity; and although I am now ashamed of the feelings that then possessed me, I cannot even yet think of it coolly. I spent the whole day in the greatest agitation. The only living being left me had been torn from me; and this fresh blow opened all the wounds of my heart.

Such was my condition when, on the same day, towards sunset, I sat down here, on the very stone upon which you are now sitting. I had been some time musing upon my sad lot, when, down yonder, near those two birch trees, at the end of the hedgerow, I saw appear a young newly-married couple. They came along the path across the meadow, and passed close to me. That sweet tranquillity which the conscious possession of happiness inspires, was depicted upon their beautiful countenances. They walked slowly, hand in hand. Suddenly I saw them stop. The young woman rested her head the shoulder ofher husband, who embraced her in a transport of joy. A choking sensation oppressed me. Shall I confess it? Jealousy stole for the first time into my heart. Never before had the image of happiness presented itself to me with such force. I followed them with my eyes to the end of the meadow, and the trees were just hiding them from view, when shouts of merriment fell upon my ear. Their relations had come to meet them; and soon they were surrounded by women and children and aged men. I heard a confused murmur of joy arise. I saw between the trees the gay colours of holiday clothes, and the whole group seemed to move in an atmosphere of happiness. The sight was intolerable. Hell torments entered my soul. I turned away my eyes, and rushed into my cell. “O God! how lonely, how gloomy, how terrible, it seemed to me! Am I never to know any dwelling but this?” I said. Must I drag on here my wretched existence, while I await the tardy end of my days? The Almighty has showered happiness upon every living creature, while I⁠—I alone! helpless, friend less, companionless.⁠ ⁠… O frightful destiny!

Full of these sad thoughts, I forgot the existence of any source of consolation; I forgot my own self. “Why,” I asked, “was light bestowed upon me? Why is nature unjust and harsh to me alone? Like a disinherited son, I have under my eyes the rich patrimony of the human family⁠—but Heaven grudges me my share. No, no,” at length I exclaimed, in the violence of my rage, “earth has no happiness for thee! Die, wretched creature! Long enough has the earth been defiled by thy presence; would that it might open and bury thee alive, and leave no trace of thy hateful existence!” My unreasoning fury increased, and with it the desire to destroy myself, which took possession of me and arrested all my thoughts. At last I determined upon setting fire to my dwelling, and burning myself with what ever could recall my memory. Goaded by madness, I rushed into the fields, and wandered for some time in the dark round about my habitation. Involuntary moans rose from my crushed heart, and horrified me as they disturbed the silence of the night. I re-entered, my fury undiminished, into my dwelling, crying out; “Woe on thee, Leper! Woe on thee!” And, as if everything was to contribute to my undoing, I heard the echo from the midst of the ruins of Bramafan Castle answer clearly, “Woe on thee!” I stopped, horror struck, at the door of the tower, and the echo from the mountain repeated, in feebler accents, “Woe on thee!”

I took a lamp, and determined to set my house on fire. I went into the lowest room, taking with me vine-cuttings and dry branches. This was my sister’s room, which I had not entered since her death. Her armchair was just where it stood when I lifted her from it for the last time. A shudder passed over me as my eyes fell upon her veil and other articles of clothing that lay scattered about the room. Her last words came back to my mind:⁠—“I will not forsake you when I die; remember that I shall be with you in your sufferings.” Resting the lamp on the table, I saw the string of the cross she used to wear round her neck, and which she had herself placed between two leaves of her bible. At this sight I drew back, overcome by religious awe. The depth of the abyss into which I had been on the point of hurling myself presented itself to my opened eyes. I approached, tremblingly, the sacred book. “This,” said I, “is surely the aid she promised me!” And as I drew the cross from the book, I found there a sealed paper which my dear sister had left there for me. My tears, which grief had hitherto restrained, streamed in torrents from my eyes; and all my dark projects vanished. Long did I press that precious letter to my breast before I was able to read it; and, falling on my knees to ask the divine blessing, I opened it, and read, as I sobbed, these words, which will always remain engraven on my heart: “Dear brother, I shall soon leave you, but I will never forsake you. From heaven, whither I hope to go, I will watch over you, and will pray God to give you courage to bear life with resignation, until it shall please Him to reunite us in another world, where I shall be able to show you my affection, where nothing can sever us. I leave you the little cross I have worn all my life. It has often consoled me in grief, and was the sole witness of my tears. Whenever you look at it, remember that it was my last prayer that you should live and die a good Christian.” Beloved letter! Never will I part from it. I shall carry it with me to my grave; and it will open to me those heavenly gates which my crime might have closed against me forever. When I had finished reading it, I felt my strength fail me, exhausted by all I had gone through. A cloud seemed to spread over my sight, and for some time I became unconscious of my sufferings, and even of my existence. When I came to myself, the night was far advanced. As my consciousness returned, I experienced an inexpressible feeling of peace. All that had passed during the evening appeared a dream. My first act was to raise my eyes to heaven in gratitude for my preservation from the greatest of evils. Never had the sky looked so serene and beautiful. A single star glistened before my window. I contemplated it long with indescribable pleasure, thanking God for giving me the delight of watching it; and I felt a secret consolation in thinking that one of its rays was destined to enliven the sad cell of the Leper.

I returned to my room much quieted, and spent the rest of the night in reading the book of Job. It breathed into my soul a holy enthusiasm, which dissipated what trace was left of the dark thoughts that had beset me. These terrible times were unknown to me while my sister lived: the knowledge that she was near calmed me, and the thought of her affection sufficed to console and cheer me.

Compassionate stranger! May God preserve you from the necessity of living alone! My sister, my companion, is no more; but Heaven will give me strength to endure life bravely; for this, at least, I may hope, for I pray for it with heartfelt sincerity.

The Officer

How old was your sister when you lost her?

The Leper

She was not quite twenty-five years old; but her sufferings had made her look older. In spite of the malady of which she died, and which altered the expression of her features, she would still have been beautiful had it not been for the dreadful pallor that disfigured her. She was the image of living death; I could not see her without a groan.

The Officer

You lost her very young!

The Leper

Her feeble and sensitive constitution could not resist so many trials. For some time I had seen that her end was drawing near, and her condition was so sad, that I could not but hope it might be so. As I watched her daily languishing and sinking, I saw with a sort of terrible satisfaction the close of her sufferings approach. For about a month she had been growing weaker and weaker; and frequent fainting-fits threatened her life from hour to hour. One evening, towards the beginning of August, she appeared so exhausted that I did not like to leave her. She was sitting in her armchair, not having been able to lie down in her bed for some days. I seated myself by her side, and in the profound darkness we conversed together for the last time. A cruel presentiment agitated me, and I could not restrain my tears. “Why do you weep?” she asked. “Why do you distress yourself so? I will not leave you for a moment; I shall be with you in your sufferings.”

A little while afterwards, she expressed a wish to be taken outside the tower, and to offer up her prayers in her hazel copse where she used to spend the greater part of the time in fine weather. “I should like to see the sky,” she said, “when I am dying.” But I did not think her last hour was so near. I passed my arm round her, to raise her, but she said, “Let me lean on you, I think I shall be able to walk.” I led her slowly among the nut-trees, and made a seat of the dry leaves that had been collected by her own hand; and, having covered her with a veil to keep off the damp night air, I placed myself near her. But she desired to be alone in her last meditation, and I went to a distance without quite losing sight of her. I saw that she lifted her veil from time to time, and stretched her white hands towards the sky. When after a while I approached the copse, she asked for a little water; I took her some in a cup; she moistened her lips, but could not drink. “I feel that I am dying,” she said, turning her head aside; “my thirst will soon be quenched forever. Support me, my brother; aid me to take the longed-for but awful step. Let me lean against you while you say the prayer for the dying.” These were the last words she spoke to me. I rested her head on my breast, and said the prayer for the dying. “Pass to eternity, my dear sister,” I said; “free yourself from this life; leave this earthly vestment in my arms.” For three hours I thus supported her in nature’s last struggle. The flame of life was at last quietly extinguished, and her soul was released from the earth without an effort.


The Leper, having ended his narrative, covered his face with his hands. The traveller was speechless with sorrow. After a few moments’ silence the Leper arose. “Stranger,” said he, “when grief or disappointment shall come upon you, think of the hermit of the city of Aosta, and your visit to him will not have been useless.” They walked along together towards the gate of the garden. When the officer was on the point of passing through it, he put his glove on his right hand. “You have never shaken a human being by the hand; grant me the favour of shaking hands with me, for mine is the hand of a friend who takes a lively interest in your sad lot.” The Leper drew back for a moment as if startled; then, raising his eyes and hands to heaven, “Loving Father,” he cried, “pour thy blessings upon this compassionate man!

“One other request I have to make,” continued the traveller. “I am about to leave these parts; and it will, perhaps, be very long before we meet again. Could we not write to one another sometimes, if proper precautions were taken? This might be a source of distraction to you, and would give me much pleasure.”

The Leper paused for some time. “Why,” said he at length, “should I delude myself? I am destined to have no other society than my own, no other friend than God. In Him we shall meet again. Farewell, kindhearted stranger, may you be happy⁠ ⁠… Farewell forever.

The traveller withdrew. The Leper closed and fastened the gate.

The Prisoners of the Caucasus

—Speak not now⁠—o’er thine and o’er my head
Hangs the keen sabre by a single thread;
If thou hast courage still, and would’st be free,
Receive this poniard⁠—rise⁠—and follow me.

Byron

The Mountains of Caucasus have for a long time been included within the limits of the Russian Empire, without forming a part of its jurisdiction. Their uncivilized inhabitants, divided by interest and unconnected by language, form a cluster of small tribes, who have little political connection, but are equally animated by a love of independence and a spirit of rapine.

One of the most numerous and formidable of these tribes is that of the Tchetchengs,17 who inhabit the great and little Kabarda; two provinces, the high valleys of which extend to the summits of Caucasus. They are a handsome, spirited, intelligent people, but rapacious and cruel, and in a state of continual hostility with the “troops of the Line.” Under this latter name are comprehended several military posts, occupied by the Russian troops, between the Caspian and Black Seas, from the mouth of the Terek to the entrance of the Kuban.

It is in the midst of these dangerous hordes, and in the centre of this immense range of mountains, that the Russian Government has opened a road of communication with its Asiatic possessions. Redoubts built at intervals, secure the road into Georgia; but no traveller would be daring enough to traverse alone the intermediate space; twice every week a convoy of infantry, with a few field-pieces and a strong detachment of Cossacks, affords an escort to travellers and to the messengers of government. One of these fortifications, erected at the entrance of the mountains, has insensibly assumed the appearance of a well peopled village; and, from its commanding situation, it is called Vladi-Caucasus (Vladeti signifying in the Russian language, to command, domineer); and it is the residence of the officer who commands the troops engaged in the fatiguing service, which has been briefly described.

Major Kascambo, of the Wologda regiment, a Russian nobleman, but by descent a Greek, was on his way to take the command of the post of Lars, in the defiles of Caucasus. Impatient to reach his destination, and brave even to temerity, he was imprudent enough to enter on his journey with the feeble escort of fifty Cossacks, who were under his orders; and he had even the folly to boast of his daring enterprise, before he was sure he could accomplish it.

The Tchetchengs, near the frontiers, who have also the name of the “pacific,” acknowledge the power of Russia, and have therefore free passage to Mosdok.18 Most of them, notwithstanding, maintain relations with the Mountaineers, and are partners in their robberies. These latter, having been informed of Major Kascambo’s designs and movements, set out in large numbers to intercept him, and placed themselves in ambuscade. At twenty versts from Mosdok, at the turning of a small hill, covered with briers, he found himself in presence of seven hundred horsemen. There was no possibility of retreating. The troopers alighted and sustained the attack with great firmness, in the hope of being succoured by a body of soldiers stationed at the neighbouring fortification.

The Mountaineers of Caucasus, though individually very brave, are unaccustomed to act together in large bodies, and are, therefore, little dangerous to a force capable of making a stand; but they have good arms and are good marksmen. Yet their superiority of number made the struggle too unequal. After a brisk fire, kept up for some time, more than half of the detachment of Cossacks was killed or disabled, and the rest were ranged behind their dead horses, and had nearly expended their last cartridges. The Tchetchengs, who, as they commonly do, had carried with them some Russian deserters, whom they use, on such occasions, as interpreters, summoned the troops to deliver up the Major, or they would all be cut to pieces. Kascambo, seeing no other way of saving his remaining followers, determined to give himself up for them, and having left his sword to his Cossacks, he advanced alone towards the enemy, who immediately ceased to fire. They only wished to have him alive, for the ransom they expected would be paid for his liberty. He had scarcely surrendered himself into their hands, when he discerned, at a distance, the succours he had expected; but they arrived too late, and the robbers, using great despatch, were soon out of the reach of their enemies.

The Major’s Denchick, or military servant, had remained behind with the mule that carried his luggage. Concealed in a hollow place, near the roadside, he was awaiting the issue of the conflict, when the Cossacks met him, and informed him of his master’s captivity. The honest servant immediately determined to share his fate, and rode in the direction which the Tchetchengs had taken, guided by the track of their horses: when, through the obscurity of the night, he had lost the advantage of this direction, he met with a straggler of the hostile troop, who offered to conduct him to the rendezvous of the Tchetchengs.

We leave it to our readers to imagine, with what feelings the prisoner greeted his servant, who thus volunteered to share his misfortune. The robbers divided among themselves the booty, except a guitar, which they returned to the Major with derision. Honest Ivan19 seized the instrument, and refused to obey his master, who ordered him to throw it away. “Why lose courage,” exclaimed he: “the God of the Russians is great!20 The robbers are interested in the preservation of your life, and will do you no harm.”

After a halt of some hours, the horde prepared itself for continuing its march, when one of its stragglers arrived, bringing the news that the Russians were advancing, and that probably the troops of several redoubts would unite in its pursuit. The chiefs of the clan deliberated upon what they should do, not only to conceal the place of their retreat and to secure their prisoners, but to keep the enemy from disturbing their villages and avoid retaliation: with these several views, the horde dispersed itself on several roads. Ten men were destined to conduct the two prisoners, and a hundred troopers set out together, in an opposite direction. They obliged the Major to take off his boots, lest their iron heels should lead to the discovery of their retreats, and Kascambo, as well as his servant, was obliged to march barefoot, during a part of the night.

Arrived near a rapid stream, the little escort marched about half a verst up on the bank, and descended at a place where the shore was steepest, through a thorny ravine, and with the greatest care avoided leaving any trace of their march. The Major was so exhausted, that it was necessary to hold him with straps at the steep descent. His feet being much lacerated, the robbers returned him his boots, to enable him to make the rest of the journey. Lest he should die, and they should thus lose all the benefit of their enterprise, they determined, on their arrival at the first village, to treat him with humanity. They allowed him a little rest, and put him on a horse when they broke up from the halt. From time to time, they permitted him again to gather strength, and gave him enough to eat. They traversed thus several villages and valleys, the situation of which they hoped to conceal from their prisoners, by frequently bandaging their eyes. A large river which they passed, the Major thought must be the Sonja.

When they, at last, reached the village where they intended to secure their prisoners, the Tchetchengs changed suddenly their behaviour towards the Major. They put chains and gyves upon his hands and feet, and a chain round his neck, at the end of which was fixed a thick piece of oak. They treated Ivan less roughly; the fetters with which they fastened him were not so heavy, and they permitted him to assist his master.

While in this situation, and at each instance of cruel treatment, a person who spoke the Russian language, visited the Major, and advised him to write to his friends, in order to dispose them to purchase his liberty. The ransom was fixed at ten thousand roubles. The prisoner had no means of paying so large a sum, and all his hopes rested on the Government, who had some years previous paid a large price for a colonel, who had, like him, fallen into the power of the robbers. The interpreter offered to furnish him with paper, and promised to forward his letters; but after the Major had consented, many days passed without his returning to see him; and, during this interval, the prisoner was doomed to endure even worse treatment than before. They almost starved him; they took from him the mat on which he had slept, and the saddle cushions which served him as a pillow. When the officious adviser made his reappearance, he prefaced his speech, by disclosing the important secret, that if the fixed ransom was not soon paid, the Tchetchengs would put him to death, to avoid the expense and trouble of keeping him a prisoner. At the same time, he presented to him a pen made of reed, after the Tartar manner, and Kascambo’s chains were loosened to enable him to write. When he had finished his letter, the interpreter translated it to the chiefs, who promised to forward it to the commanding officer of the Line. The increased severity with which he was treated, during the preceding days, arose from an intention of urging the prisoner to solicit his Government, in more pressing terms, for his rescue.

When he had thus complied with the wishes of his captors, his bonds were reduced to a single chain that secured his feet and hands.

His host, or rather his gaoler, was a man of about sixty years of age, of gigantic stature and a ferocious countenance, which his character was far from belying. He had lost two of his sons in an encounter with the Russians, and this was partly the reason, why the prisoners were put under his guard.

The family of this man, whose name was Ibrahim, consisted of the widow of one of his sons, thirty-five years old, and of a child between seven and eight years, called Mamet. The woman was as hardhearted as himself, and besides extremely peevish. Kascambo suffered much from her; but the sportive familiarity and caresses of her little boy beguiled many of his sorrowful hours, and really alleviated the weight of his misfortune. Mamet had become so attached to him, that his grandfather could neither by threats nor lashes, keep him from running to the Major, whenever he found an opportunity. The boy called him his Koniac, which, in the idiom of the country, signifies “friend or guest.” He often brought him fruits, and during the time that the Major was kept upon a low diet, his little friend watched the opportunity of his parent’s absence, to bring him bread and potatoes roasted in ashes.

Several months had elapsed since the letter had been forwarded, and nothing remarkable occurred. Ivan had, in this time, grown into great favour with the old man and the woman, or at least had rendered himself necessary to them. He was as skilful a cook as any soldier, who has the honour of supplying the mess of an officer commanding a detachment. Nobody excelled him in the preparation of the kislit chi, (a liquor made of flour) or of salt cucumbers; and he knew how to make palatable to his host sundry other refinements of the culinary art, as it is practised in the camps and at bivouacs.

To give more zest to these delicacies, he played the buffoon, and devised every day some new jest or trick or gambol to amuse his host. Old Ibrahim never had enough of the Cossack dance, and when any villager visited him, he loosened Ivan, to enable him to repeat his jigs and pranks, and the cunning soldier never failed to add some skips and grotesque gambols. Conversant with the Tartar language, he acquired so much the more easily the dialect of the Tchetchengs. By these means, he became so far a favourite amongst them, that he was, by unanimous consent, permitted to walk through the village, and had always at his heels a troop of little urchins, who followed the jester with shouts of applause and merriment.

The Major was often obliged to accompany on his guitar, the songs of his Denchick. When first his wild companions began to take pleasure in hearing him, they took off his handcuffs; but the termagant woman having remarked that he played sometimes for his own amusement, even when shackled, the favour which had been extended to him was again withheld; and the unfortunate prisoner repented more than once, having ever shown his musical skill. He did not foresee that his guitar would, one day, be the means of procuring him his liberty.

The prisoners devised many schemes for their escape, none of which, upon further reflection, appeared practicable. Since their arrival at the village, they had had every night, besides their gaolers, a watch from among the inhabitants, who performed that office by turns. Insensibly this additional precaution was less regularly observed; but when the appointed night-guard failed to come, Ibrahim laid himself close by the prisoners, while the woman and her boy slept in the next room; and keeping in his pocket the key of the locks attached to the shackels, he always awoke at the slightest noise.

The Major having received no reply to his solicitations, long after an answer might be expected, the Tchetchengs increased their severity towards the captives, and often added the most provoking insults and cruel menaces. Kascambo was put again upon short allowance, and was one day doomed to see poor little Mamet whipped, for having brought him a few medlars.

Strange as it may seem, it is however certain, that Kascambo had inspired these people with esteem and confidence; and while they heaped insults and injuries upon him, they consulted him on their concerns, and submitted their disputes to his arbitration. He was once thus called to settle a quarrel, the details of which will serve to throw some light on the character of these banditti.

A banknote of five roubles had been entrusted, by one of them, to an acquaintance who was departing for a neighbouring valley, with directions to deliver it to a third person. The traveller’s horse having died on the road, he pretended that he had a right to the five roubles, as an indemnity for his loss. Such an inference, though very conformable to the ideas of right and wrong among these robbers, was not very satisfactory to the party concerned, and there was a great stir, and a good deal of talk and argument about it, in the village. Both parties had friends and relations, ready to fight for their respective cause, and a bloody strife might have ensued, if the eldest of the horde, after having in vain endeavoured to procure a reconciliation, had not prevailed upon them to make the Major umpire of the quarrel. All the villagers having assembled, before Kascambo’s prison, he was placed upon the terrace of the house.

Most of the houses, in the valleys of Caucasus, are partly under ground, and rise only three or four feet above it. The horizontal roof consists of a layer of beaten potter’s earth. Men and women, but principally the latter, loiter on their terraces after sunset, and often sleep on them during the summer.

As soon as Kascambo appeared on the platform, all became silent. It was indeed a strange scene. Infuriated litigants, armed with daggers and pistols, acknowledged as an arbiter, a prisoner whom they kept in irons, and whom they had starved almost to death⁠—an arbiter from whose decisions there was, according to their usages, no appeal.

In this state of embittered feelings, the Major saw the necessity of strengthening his authority, by bringing all the villagers into better humour. He therefore sent for the defendant, and asked him the following question: “If, instead of giving thee five roubles, with a direction to deliver them to his creditor, thy friend had only told thee to make him his compliments, would thy horse have been saved?”

“Perhaps so,” replied the defendant.

“And what wouldst thou have done with the compliments?” asked again the judge: “wouldst thou not have been obliged to keep them as thy only indemnity? Well then; return the five roubles, and thy friend will present thee as many compliments as thou canst desire.”

The interpreter had scarcely finished the translation of that sentence, when the assembled multitude expressed, by peals of laughter, their approbation of the wisdom of the new Solomon. The condemned party endeavoured to speak, but was obliged to acquiesce in the Major’s decision, and the only revenge he took, was to say in a grumbling tone, while he delivered up the banknote, “I was sure of losing my cause, if that Christian dog was called to decide upon it.”

Kascambo had written three letters, without receiving a reply, and had now been detained for a year. Deprived of every comfort, and almost reduced to nakedness, his health became impaired, and his spirits sank. His servant, who had been ill for some days, was, to the astonishment of his master, freed from his irons, and permitted to enjoy his personal liberty. The Major enquiring of him the reason of this change, he replied: “Master, for a long time I have been thinking of consulting you, on an idea which has occurred to me. Would it not be well for me to become a Muhammadan?”

“Thou must have become mad,” returned the Major.

“No, no, I am not mad: but I see no other means of assisting you. The Turkish priest tells me that, if I submit to the ceremony of conversion to his religion, I shall no longer be kept in irons. When once I am declared free by these rogues, I shall be able to procure you linen and food⁠—and who knows what more? The God of the Russians is great! We might then see.⁠ ⁠…”

“But God will forsake thee, scoundrel, if thou renouncest thy religion;” yet, in scolding his servant, Kascambo found it difficult to refrain from laughing at the comic face which Ivan had put on, in mentioning his expedient: but when the Major, in a severe tone, repeated his reproof, the servant impatiently cried out, “Master, it is too late; I have been a Muhammadan from the day that you thought I was sick, and that my chains were taken from me. My name now is Houssein. Is there any harm in it? Can I not become a Christian again, whenever I wish⁠—and you recover your liberty? You see how I have recovered mine: on the first occasion I shall secure yours, and I hope it will soon occur.”

The promise which had been given to him was indeed so far respected, that he was no longer kept in chains, and could freely move about; but that boon was near proving fatal to him. The principal contrivers of the expedition for the capture of the Major, soon began to fear the escape of the new Mussulman. He had now remained with them long enough, and had acquired a sufficient knowledge of their affairs, to enable him to give the names and a description of them all, and of everything connected with them, to the commander of the Line, should he return thither; by which they would be individually exposed to the retaliation of the Russian authorities. They deemed therefore the zeal of their priest very ill-timed. On the other hand, the pious Mussulmans, who had evinced kindness towards him, in consideration of his conversion, were greatly scandalized to see him sometimes, when engaged in prayers on the terrace, (a public display of piety which the Mullah had confidentially assured him would gain him the good will of his new brethren,) either from long habit or inattention, cross himself while he made his prostrations in the direction of Mecca, and even turn his back to that holy city.

A few months after his feigned apostacy, he became still more certain of the altered feelings of the Tchetchengs, whose sentiments towards him had now assumed the character of decided hatred. He had sought in vain for the reason of this change, when unexpectedly some of the young men, with whom he was intimately acquainted, came to propose to him to accompany them in an expedition which they were preparing. They were to pass the Terec, for the purpose of robbing a company of merchants, who were on their way to Mosdok. Ivan accepted without hesitation the proposal, which was accompanied with an offer of a share in the booty. For a long time he had been desirous to procure arms; and he thought that all suspicions of his intention to escape would vanish, if he complied with their wishes on the present occasion. The Major having blamed him for his pliability, Ivan seemed to yield to his master’s will; but awaking one morning, Kascambo found the mat on which his servant slept rolled against the wall, and, on inquiring, heard that he had departed during the night.

The sudden confidence of the Tchetchengs, ought to have seemed suspicious to the ready soldier. It was not natural that such cunning people, who were besides suspicious and fearful of the Russians, should permit their prisoner to accompany them in an expedition against his own countrymen. In fact, their design was to kill him. His conversion obliging them to proceed with some caution and affected regard, they determined to have an eye upon him, during their march, and to kill him in the midst of the onset, in order that his death might be attributed to the merchants. The ringleaders alone knew of this plot against Ivan, and nothing but a mere accident saved him. The gang had placed themselves in ambuscade, when they were suddenly surrounded by a regiment of Cossacks, who charged them so vigorously that they had much ado to escape to the opposite side of the river, and in their confusion they almost forgot Ivan, and wholly their design against his life.

In passing the Terec in disorder, the horse of one of the band pranced and plunged, and was at last carried away by the impetuosity of the stream. Ivan, who was near the rider, threw himself with his horse into the current, at the risk of his own life, and was fortunate enough to seize the young Tchetcheng, at the moment when he was drowning, and to bring him to the shore. Some among the Cossacks recognizing him, in the dawn, by his uniform and foraging-cap, aimed at him, crying, “a deserter, whoop! halloo! a deserter; stop him!” and at the same moment his coat was pierced by several balls. At last, after having fought like a desperado, and spent the whole of his ammunition, he returned to the village, with the glory of having saved a companion, and rendered some service to the whole band.

If his conduct, on that occasion, did not gain him the affection of all his new connections, it procured him, at least, one friend. The young man whom he had saved from certain death, adopted him for his Koniac, a word which is an inviolable talisman among the mountaineers of Caucasus; and pledged himself to defend him, in every event, against whomsoever should attack him. But this connection was insufficient to secure him from the hatred of the principal inhabitants. The courage he had displayed, made his attachment to his master the more to be dreaded. They could no longer regard him as a buffoon; and the more they reflected on the unhappy issue of their expedition, the more they marvelled at the appearance of the Russian troops at so great a distance from their ordinary excursions; and they soon entertained suspicion of some secret intelligence, between the prisoners and their countrymen on the frontier. Though there was little probability of the existence of such an understanding, they watched Ivan and his master more strictly than before. Old Ibrahim, dreading some plot for the deliverance of the captives, no longer permitted them to converse together, and the faithful servant was sometimes whipped for his disobedience to that order.

Reduced to this lamentable situation, they contrived to outwit their gaoler, in a way that might make him instrumental in their success. Their habit of singing together, enabled the Major to recur to his guitar, whenever he had something important to impart to his servant. They had thus, as it were, musical conversations; and as they had long sung together, and employed their stratagem but rarely, they hoped that they should not be detected.

Upwards of three months had now elapsed, since the unsuccessful expedition, when Ivan discovered an unusual stir among the villagers. Mules carrying gunpowder had arrived from the lowlands; the inhabitants were busy in cleaning their arms, and preparing their cartridges; and he had heard that they were making themselves ready for a great expedition. The whole tribe was to unite in an attack against a neighbouring clan, that enjoyed the protection of the Russian troops, and had permitted them to construct a redoubt on their territory. Their design did not stop short of the utter extermination of the whole colony, and of the Russian battalion appointed to watch over the construction of the fortification.

A few days afterwards, Ivan, leaving his cabin early in the morning, found the village almost deserted, all the men capable of bearing arms having set out during the night. In seeking through the village for information, he acquired new proofs of the evil designs that were formed against him. Old people avoided entering into conversation with him, and a boy told him plainly that his father would soon kill him; and, while he was pensively walking towards his master’s prison, he observed on the terrace of a house a young woman, who tremblingly lifted her veil and made him signs to run away, pointing to the Russian frontier. The adviser was the sister of the young Tchetcheng whose life he had saved.

On entering his house, he found the gaoler intent on inspecting the chains of the Major. He found besides a man in the room, whom an intermittent fever had prevented from following his comrades in their expedition, and who had been sent to Ibrahim’s to watch the prisoners. Ivan affected to feel no surprise at this new precaution. He thought that the moment was come to execute his long conceived project: but the increased watchfulness of the gaoler, and the new guard, rendered the success rather uncertain. On the other hand, he had just fears of losing his life, as soon as the villagers should have returned from their excursion; for he foresaw that they would be unsuccessful, and therefore so much the more incensed against him, whom they at once hated and suspected. He had in this conjuncture, no other choice than to fly and abandon his master, or to hazard his life for their common deliverance: and he would rather a thousand times risk his existence, than aggravate the misfortune of his officer.

Kascambo had lately sunk into deep and silent despondency. But Ivan, on the day of which we speak, seemed more animated and even gayer than he had been for some time; he was uncommonly officious in the preparations for dinner, and, from time to time, with seeming negligence, began some of his usual Russian songs.

“The time is come,” said he, in a singing tone, and accompanying his words with the burden of a popular ballad; “hai luli! hai luli! the time is come to put an end to our misery, or we lose our lives. Tomorrow, hai luli! we could be on our way to a town, hai luli! a pretty town, hai luli! which I dare not to name: courage, master, hai luli! lose not your courage: the God of the Russians is great!”

Kascambo, to whom life and death had become equally indifferent, and who was not informed of the plans conceived by his servant, replied only: “Do what thou wishest, and hold thy tongue.” Towards evening, the guard who, notwithstanding his fever, had greatly enjoyed the sweets of the dinner, and done honour to the pieces of mutton which the cook had roasted on a stick, to make him taste a Russian chislick or carbonado, was, on a sudden, seized by so violent an attack of his distemper, that he was obliged to think more of his own health, than of the safekeeping of the captives. The old gaoler, whom Ivan’s gaiety had completely tranquillized, did not urge his sick comrade to remain; and Ivan, to remove still more his suspicion, had retired early in the evening into the back part of the room, and had stretched himself out on a bench near the wall, waiting, with painful impatience, for the moment that Ibrahim should also lie down to sleep. But the old gaoler had determined to watch the whole night, instead of laying himself down as usual, on the mat near the fire; and indeed, seated on a block opposite Kascambo’s resting place, he prepared himself in this way to pass the night, and dismissed his daughter-in-law, who retired to the room close by, ere her boy slept; and as soon as she entered it she bolted the door.

From the dusky corner where he was lying, Ivan examined eagerly the scene before him. The glimmer of the fire, which blazed from time to time, shone on an axe deposited in a hole in the wall. The old man, at length, over come by sleep, let his head at intervals decline on his breast. Ivan rose. The suspicious gaoler asked him immediately, in a rough tone, “What is the matter?” Instead of replying, Ivan came near the fire, yawning aloud, as a person who was just awaking from a profound sleep. Ibrahim, who was endeavouring to keep himself awake, called on Kascambo to play on his guitar. The Major refusing to comply, Ivan reached him the instrument, whispering, “Take it, I have something to tell you.” Kascambo immediately tuned the guitar, and after a short prelude sang with his servant the following duet; introducing at each question and reply, the couplets of a Russian air.

Kascambo

“Hai luli! hai luli! What hast thou to tell me?⁠—take care.

“I’m weary and sad, but in truth
No wonder my spirits have flown,
For here I expected the youth,
And now I’m forlorn and alone.
Hai luli! hai luli!
What can the matter be?⁠—
It grieves one to be thus alone.”

Ivan

“See the hatchet, but do not stare at it. Hai luli! hai luli! I shall split that rascal’s head.

“As oft as I sit at my wheel,
The thread is e’er snapping in twain.
Tomorrow I’ll spin⁠—for I feel
That today I am too much in pain.
Hai luli! hai luli!
What can the matter be,
That today I am so much in pain?”

Kascambo

“Gratuitous murder! hai luli! How could I rid myself of my irons?

“As the kid its mother attends,
As the shepherd e’er follows his sheep,
As the doe to the valley descends
When the herbage is first seen to peep
Hai luli! hai luli!
What can the matter be?
Thus fondly I watch till I weep.”

Ivan

“The key of your chains is probably in the brigand’s pocket.

“I set off at dawn with my pail;
But, ere to the fountain I come,
Unconscious I take without fail
The pathway that leads to his home.
Hailuli! hai luli!
What can the matter be?
The pathway that leads to his home.”

Kascambo

“The woman will give the alarm⁠—hai luli!

“While thus at his absence I grieve,
Ungrateful he’s free from all care;
Nay, trying perhaps to deceive
Some other too credulous fair.
Hai luli! hai luli!
What will become of me?
Some other too fortunate fair.”

Ivan

“Happen what may! would it be better to die of misery and hunger? hai luli! hai luli!

“If, forgetting the oaths he has sworn,
He leave me another to woo,
The village I’d freely see burn,
And see myself burn with it too.
Hai luli! hai luli!
Who would not pity me?⁠—
And see myself burn with it too.”

The old man becoming attentive, they repeated oftener the burden “hai luli!” and accompanied it with some loud irregular notes. “Play, master,” said the soldier, “play the Cossack song, and I will dance round the room to catch the axe: play with courage.”

Kascambo

“I will play, but methinks our last hour is at hand.”

In saying this, he turned away his head, and played with all the strength he could master.

Ivan began the steps and the grotesque attitudes of the dance, which had generally most amused the old gaoler, but now added many new jumps and gambols and screams, the more to withdraw his attention. When Kascambo supposed that Ivan was near the place where the axe was hanging, his heart beat with violence. The instrument of his deliverance was deposited in a little closet made in the wall, without a door, at a height which Ivan could with difficulty reach. Yet by a fortunate effort he seized it, and, with the same self-possession with which he had acted all this time, he laid it within the shadow of Ibrahim’s figure. The old man raised his eyes to him, when he was already again capering and whirling around the room. This awful scene had lasted already a long while, and Kascambo wanted strength and spirits to continue, the more so as he believed that his servant had lost courage, or despaired of success. He glanced thus at him, at the moment when, having seized the axe, he advanced with a firm step towards the gaoler, to discharge a deadening blow on his head. The Major’s emotion was too strong to permit him to continue playing. His guitar fell at his feet. Ibrahim had stooped down to push some brambles into the fire, the dry leaves of which immediately threw a bright blaze, and the old man adjusted himself to take his seat again.

Had Ivan proceeded, at that moment, in his design, a struggle would have ensued, and the noise probably have given the alarm; but his presence of mind obviated these dangers. As soon as he remarked the Major’s perplexity, and saw Ibrahim rise, he laid the hatchet behind the block on which the latter was sitting, and again began his dance: “Zounds! play,” said he to his master, “what are you thinking of?” The Major took his guitar. But the gaoler, without the least suspicion of his impending fate, ordered them to cease their music, and to go to sleep. Ivan went with perfect composure for the guitar case, and laid it on the hearth; but instead of taking the instrument which his master held out to him, with a sudden effort he seized the axe, and let it fall with so terrible a weight upon the head of the gaoler, that his victim fell lifeless and without a groan into the fire, and his long grizzled beard rose into a blaze. Ivan drew out the corpse by the feet, and covered it with the mat.

He and his master were now in agonizing doubts, to know whether the woman in the next room was awake; but this uncertainty did not last long; for, probably astonished of the silence which had so suddenly followed the noise of song, music and dance, she opened the door, and advancing towards the prisoner, asked “What are you doing? whence comes this smell of burnt feathers?” The little flame was almost entirely extinguished. Ivan seized the hatchet to put her to death: but she turned her head at that moment, and received the blow on her breast, uttering a piercing scream; a second stroke, more rapid than lightning, caught her in her fall, and stretched her dead at Kascambo’s feet. Struck with horror at this second murder, for which he was not prepared, and seeing his servant advance towards the room where young Mamet was sleeping, he threw himself in his way, crying aloud: “Wretch, where art thou going? couldst thou be so barbarous as to kill this innocent child also, who has evinced so much affection for me? If thou thinkest to secure my liberty at such a price, neither thy attachment, nor thy services, shall save thee from thy deserved punishment, as soon as we shall arrive at the camp.”

“At the camp,” replied Ivan, “you will do what you please, but we must first finish our business here.”

Kascambo, gathering all his strength, seized Ivan by his neck, while he was striving to force his way: “Villain, if thou darest to murder him; if thou darest to hurt a hair of his head, I swear that I will throw myself into the hands of the Tchetchengs. What would then be the result of thy cruelty?”

“Into the hands of the Tchetchengs!” repeated the soldier, in raising the bloody hatchet over his master’s head: “no, they shall never again have you alive. I would rather kill them, you, and myself, than that such a misfortune should befall us. That child would ruin us by a single cry. In the state in which I see you, women would be strong enough to put you into irons.”

“Stop, stop,” exclaimed Kascambo, endeavouring to disengage himself from his servant’s grasp. “Stop, monster! thou shalt slay me before thou shalt commit this crime.” But, embarrassed by his chains, he could not arrest the infuriated soldier, who repelled him with so much force that he fell on the floor, overcome by mental agony and the horror of the scene he had witnessed. All besmeared with the gore of the butchered victims, he rose with difficulty, and faintly said: “Ivan, Ivan, I pray thee, do not kill him; for all that is dear to thee, kill not that innocent boy.”

Feeling then, as he thought, more strength, he ran after his servant; but in gaining the door, he struck against him, in the dark, as he was coming from the room, and wildly said to him, “master, it is done. Let us lose no time, and take care not to make much noise.”⁠—“Make no noise,” continued he, instead of replying to the reproaches of his incensed master, “make no noise; what is done cannot be recalled. It is too late to shift the ground; as long as we are not perfectly free, every human being we meet, must die, or must kill me. Man, woman, child, foe, or friend, whosoever enters, must perish at my hands.” Having lighted a piece of larch-wood, he proceeded to search Ibrahim’s cartouche box and pockets, but he could not find the key to unlock his master’s chains. He looked also in vain among the woman’s furniture, into a chest, and wherever he imagined that it could be found. While he was engaged in this search, the Major abandoned himself wholly to his present emotions, Ivan endeavouring to console him as well as he could. “You would do better,” said he to him, “to lament the loss of the key. Why do you commiserate these kidnappers, who have tormented you for more than fifteen months? They intended to put us to death. Well! our life was set upon a cast, and our fortune has turned the die for us. A curse on them!”

But the bloody deed was of no avail to the prisoners, so long as Kascambo’s chains were not loosened. Ivan had, with a corner of the axe, burst the gyve by which master’s hand was fettered, but the ring round the feet resist ed his efforts. He was unable besides to act with all his strength, for fear of injuring his master. The night was advanced, and the danger was pressing. Leave the house they must. Ivan determined to bind the chain round the Major’s waist, so that he might move with his assistance, and without clattering with his irons. He put into his knapsack a leg of mutton, which yet remained from the preceding day, and some other provisions, and armed himself with the dagger and pistols of the slain, while Kascambo flung his fourka21 over his shoulders. When all this was done, they stole away, and winding round the house they went towards the mountain, instead of taking the ordinary route to Mosdok, in which direction they foresaw they would be pursued. They journeyed during the rest of the night, by the sides of the heights situated on their right, and at daybreak they entered a wood of beech-trees, which clothed the summit of the mountains, and secured them from being seen from afar. It was now the month of February, and the ground at this height and principally in the forest was still covered with hard snow, during the night and a part of the morning; but towards noon, when the sun had acted upon it, the fugitives found it difficult to continue their journey. They reached at length with great difficulty the side of a deep glen, from the bottom of which the snow had already disappeared: a beaten road, that appeared to have been much travelled, wound along a meandering stream. They considered it therefore prudent to conceal themselves behind some insulated rocks, which rose above the snowy ground. Ivan cut with his axe some branches of a fir tree, to make something like a bed for his master on the cold and damp ground; and when the Major had laid himself down, he ventured again from his hiding place, to reconnoitre the field. He saw then that the valley was encircled by high mountains, between which no opening was discoverable, and that it was impossible to avoid the beaten roadway, in order to get out of this labyrinth. Towards eleven o’clock in the evening, the snow beginning to harden by the frost, the fugitives descended into the valley, after having refreshed themselves with some morsels of mutton, some handfuls of snow, and a small draught of brandy. They traversed the valley, without meeting with any person, and entered the defile where the route and the river were narrowed, by the approach of steep and over hanging mountains. They walked on at as quick a pace as they could, fully aware of the danger of encountering their enemies, in this dark passage. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they got out of it, and not until then did they discover, beyond the lowest mountains which lay extended before them, the frontier of Russia, like a distant sea. However deeply we may enter into Kascambo’s feelings at that moment, we should not venture to describe the enthusiastic joy with which he exclaimed: “Russia! oh, Russia!” the only words he was capable of uttering. He and his servant sat down, at the same instant, less to take rest, than to enjoy in their imaginations, the delights of approaching liberty. Yet this delicious anticipation was soon clouded in the Major’s mind, by his recollections of the shocking catastrophe which he had so recently witnessed, and which his gory hands and dress, and his chains, contributed to keep constantly before his eyes. Pondering, besides, on the difficulties and dangers which might yet await him, and harassed by the pains he suffered from his swollen and excoriated feet, his transports were but of very short duration, and were followed by a feverish heat which increased the raging of his thirst. Ivan, while on his way down to the river which ran a little way off, to procure water for his master, found a bridge, constructed of two trees, from which he could discern, at some distance, a hut like the summer-dwellings of the Tchetchengs, and which was obviously uninhabited. In the situation in which the fugitives found themselves, the discovery of such a shelter was hailed by them as a very fortunate event. Ivan immediately rejoined his master, to accompany him to that refuge, and when he had assured himself that there were no other inmates, he proceeded to a thorough investigation of the stores.

The inhabitants of Caucasus, who, for the most part, have the habits of a roving people, and are continually exposed to the hostile incursions of their neighbours, are obliged to conceal carefully near their dwellings their provisions and moveables, in cellars resembling narrow wells, which are covered with a plank or a large stone, and overlaid with a bed of earth. Lest the colour of the grass should lead to the discovery of these excavations, care is taken to make them only in places entirely devoid of turf. All these precautions are, however, unavailing against Russian soldiers, who have long since found out, that in order to discover the hidden treasures, they need only to beat the ground around the dwellings with the ramrods of their guns, until it reechoes the strokes. After a similar process, Ivan was so fortunate as to discover a small provision of maize, a lump of salt, some hazelnuts, and several pieces of kitchen and house furniture, all which became very useful to the weary fugitives; and while the leg of mutton and the potatoes, brought in the knapsack, were in fair progress, Ivan renewed his efforts to unlock his master’s chains, and succeeded at length in rending them in twain. From that moment, the Major recovered some buoyancy of spirit, and, after an abundant repast, was tempted to enjoy a short sleep. But he did not awake before nine o’clock in the morning; and when he endeavoured to rise, his limbs were so swollen and stiffened, that every motion occasioned him much pain. As, however, his life was at stake, he dragged himself along, supported by his servant, but expecting to sink at every moment, under the anguish of his painful and continual sufferings. Yet when he became heated by the efforts he was obliged to make, his pains insensibly diminished, and he was thus able to march the whole night. In some pauses that he made to gather strength, he once or twice yielded again to despondency; and throwing himself on the ground, begged his servant to let him wait with resignation his irremediable fate. But the hardy soldier, in stead of harkening to such entreaties, or imitating his master, gallantly assumed the tone of a leader, and, either by exhorting him to courage and fortitude, or carrying him forcibly onward, prevailed on him to continue their flight. They reached at length in the darkness a difficult and dangerous pass, which it was impossible to avoid. They could not stop until the dawn of the day, without sacrificing a time that was very precious to them; and yet they could not venture on that route, without running the risk of falling headlong over some precipice. Ivan determined not only to be in the vanguard, as usual, but to take a survey, before he should lead his master into so much peril. While he groped his way down the declivity, Kascambo remained on the edge of the crag in agonizing suspense. Amidst the awful darkness of the night, he heard the hoarse murmurs of a rapid river running through the deep valley, and the crash of fragments of rocks, that tumbled into the water, while Ivan descended the cliff, and by which he became more sensible of the dangers that surrounded him. He remembered then the sorrowful presentiments of his mother, when he last parted from her, but he remembered also her fervent blessings, and reanimated by this latter recollection, he exclaimed: “Almighty God! grant me the felicity of seeing her once more.” He had scarce finished his short but devout prayer, when Ivan was already again near him. He had found the descent far less difficult than he expected. After groping down some distance between the crags, they had to go by the side of a narrow and inclined bank of rock, covered with slippery snow, below which the mountain terminated in a precipice. Ivan having hewn the frozen ground before him, to avoid falling, set out anew, guiding his master through the dangerous passage. Both in starting crossed themselves, and the Major, impelled by his pious emotions, said: “No, if I must perish, it shall not be for a want of courage, but the result of my ill-health; I will now walk as long as God will give me strength.” They got in safety through the perilous passage, and did not stop in their journey. At length the pathway began to be more and more beaten, and the snow disappeared, except towards the north or in deep hollows. They did not meet with any human being until daybreak. Discovering then, at a distance, two travellers who advanced towards them, they hastened to stretch themselves on the ground, in the hope of escaping their observations.

In emerging from the mountains in that direction, the traveller finds himself in an uncultivated country totally without trees, except some few on the banks of the large rivers, though the soil is very fertile. When our fugitives resumed their journey, they followed for some time the course of the Sonja, which they must cross in order to reach Mosdok, and looked about for some place where they might ford the river without much peril. They were yet engaged in that search, when they saw a person on horseback advancing towards them. There was neither tree nor shrub, behind which they could have concealed themselves, and they were obliged to keep close to the bank. The traveller was approaching. They determined not to attack, but, if necessary, to stand upon the defensive. Ivan drew his poniard, and gave the pistol to the Major. But, upon discovering that the traveller was a boy of twelve or thirteen years of age, Ivan rushed upon him, seized him by his leg, and dragged him to the ground. The lad attempted to defend himself, but when the Major joined the assailant, the boy took to his heels and ran off. Master and servant then mounted the horse, and, by the depth of the channel, were made sensible how impossible it would have been for them to ford it. The pony, with his two riders, was near being carried away by the rush of the current. They, however, reached the opposite shore without accident, but found it so steep that the horse could gain no footing upon it. They therefore alighted, and Ivan strove to draw the panting and terrified animal after him, but it soon left the halter in his hands, and he saw it, after some ineffectual struggles to mount the bank, disappear under the water.

This accident would have been more distressing to them, had they not already crossed the river: after some exclamations of pity for the poor animal, they bent their way towards an eminence covered with detached rocks, behind which they hoped to find a shelter, and a place of rest. In calculating the time they had been journeying, they concluded that the district of the pacific Tchetchengs could not be very distant. They had little confidence in these pretended friends of the Russians. Kascambo, however, was too much enfeebled, to expect to reach the banks of the Terec, unless they should procure some assistance, their little stock of provisions being now exhausted.

They spent the rest of that day in mournful silence, averse to increase their sufferings by an interchange of the reflections which their situation suggested. Towards evening, the Major observed his servant striking his forehead and uttering a deep groan. Astonished at this sudden fit of despair, in his stouthearted companion, he asked him the reason of it. “Master,” replied Ivan, “I am a miserable wretch!”

“God forgive thee,” said the Major.

“Oh, I have committed a great folly. I have forgotten the musket which hung over little Mamet’s bed. Your moaning was the cause of it. Faith, sir, I see no reason to laugh. It was the best musket in the whole village: if I had it, we could hope to prevail on some traveller, whom we may chance to meet, to assist us; but, pennyless and wretched as we are, I really don’t know how we shall reach the Terec.”

To the still greater discomfiture of our travellers, the weather became very bad. A cold wind, accompanied with hail, blew directly in their faces. They, notwithstanding, jogged on heavily, without having yet made up their minds, though the night had already set in, whether it would be better for them to gain some village, or avoid the danger they might incur by so doing. But a new accident that happened to them, towards dawn of day, greatly contributed to resolve that question. In passing a swamp covered with ice, they plunged up to their knees in the water, and the Major became so wet, that in a short time, wholly overcome by this new cause of tribulation, joined to his weariness and long suffering, he again repined bitterly at his unhappy lot, and determined not to move a step farther; but solicitous to preserve his servant for a better fate than that to which he now resigned himself, he said to him: “Ivan, hear me: heaven is my witness that I have done my utmost, to bear the weight of my misfortunes. But you see that my efforts are as unavailing as thy kind assistance. Go to the Line, dear Ivan⁠—return to the regiment; I command thee to do it. Say to my friends and to the Colonel, that thou hast left me a prey for ravens and murderers. Say I wish they may never suffer such extremities as we have endured. But before departing, remember the oath thou hast made on the bleeding bodies of our enemies. Thou hast sworn that no Tchetcheng shall ever again have me alive! Comply now with that solemn engagement!” In saying this he stretched himself on the ground under his cloak.

“There remains yet one resource,” said Ivan: “what if we were to try our fortune with a Tchetcheng, and endeavour to persuade him, by promises of reward, to lend us some assistance? If he betrays us, we shall at least have done all that remained for us to do, to save ourselves. Endeavour, Master, to walk yet a little way. Or, if you prefer,” added he, observing that his master did not answer, “if you prefer, I will go alone, and, if I succeed, I shall soon be here again with someone, who will take you to his house: if I do not return, you will have this ultimate resource.” He then extended the pistol to his master, who raised his hand from under his cloak to take it.

Ivan threw over him grass and brushwood, to conceal him from those who might pass on the road, during his own absence. When he had gone some steps, his master called to him: “Ivan, hear yet a word: shouldst thou reach the redoubt and see my mother.⁠ ⁠…”

“Master,” interrupted Ivan, “we may yet see each other on the road. Should you perish, neither your mother nor my own shall see me.”

After an hour’s march, the soldier discovered from a little eminence, two villages at three or four versts distance: but these were not what he sought; he hoped to enter secretly an insulated habitation, to make a better bargain with its owner. Looking carefully about him, he thought he might venture to present himself at a lonely hut, the smoke of which scarcely rose above the ground. Thither he directed his steps, and in a few minutes found himself close by the owner of the hut, who was sitting on the ground busied in mending his boots. “I come,” said Ivan without farther preface, “I come to offer thee two hundred roubles, and to ask a favour. Thou hast doubtless heard of Major Kascambo, who was captured by the mountaineers. I have brought him off; he is a few steps from here, sick and in thy power. If thou wishest to deliver him to his enemies, they will, of course, thank thee; but thou well knowest that they will not add any reward to their empty acknowledgments. On the contrary, if thou shouldst favour his escape, by only sheltering him for three days, I will go to Mosdok, and bring thee two hundred fair roubles in silver, for his ransom. Before thou answerest, let me tell thee, that if thou darest to move from this place, or to call for the assistance of anyone to arrest me, I lay thee, with this poniard, dead at my feet. Choose therefore⁠—thy alternative is immediate death, or accepting the terms of my promise.”

The Tchetcheng, less intimidated by Ivan’s threats than seduced by his offers, laying his boot aside, replied: “Young man, I also have a dagger in my belt, and I do not fear thee. Hadst thou not spoken like a foe, I never would have betrayed a man who had entered my house: but after thy behaviour, I can neither give any promise nor encourage thy hopes. But take a seat, and tell me what thou wantest.” Ivan, knowing now the man he had to deal with, sheathed his poniard, laid himself on the ground, and repeated his proposal. “What security canst thou give,” asked the Tchetcheng, “for the fulfilment of thy promises?”

“I shall leave my master in thy hands: canst thou suppose that I would have endured such sufferings for fifteen months, only to bring him here?”

“Well, I will trust thee: but two hundred roubles are not enough; thou must give me four hundred.”

“Why dost thou not ask four thousand? If my intention were not to keep my word, I would say yea; but wouldst thou oblige me to deceive thee?”

“Thou art right. Be it then as thou hast said; two hundred roubles. But wilt thou surely be back in three days, and return alone?”

“Yes, my word for it. But, friend, thou hast not yet made the requested promise, nor recognized my master as thy guest.”

“Well! I acknowledge him as such, and thee also.” Saying this, the Tchetcheng extended his hand to Ivan, and both immediately joined the Major, whom they found perishing with cold and hunger.

Ivan, being informed that Tchervelians kaya-Staniza was nearer than Mosdok, and knowing that a considerable detachment of Cossacks was stationed at the former place, bent thither his way; and soon obtained the money he wanted for the Major’s rescue. Amongst the Cossacks, there were many who had followed Kascambo on his unfortunate expedition. Each of them and their comrades gave his little mite; and on the day appointed, Ivan departed for the place where his master was concealed. But the commanding officer of the station, apprehensive of some new act of treachery, on the part of the Tchetchengs, would not permit him to go alone, and gave him as an escort a small body of Cossacks.

This untimely precaution might have been fatal to Kascambo. His host had no sooner discerned the lances of the horsemen, than, suspicious of treason, and prompted by the fearless ferocity of his nation, he carried his captive on the platform of his house, attached him to a stake, and planted himself opposite to him, with a carbine. When Ivan was near enough to hear his voice, he cried to him: “If you advance one step I kill your master, and I have yet fifty cartouches for my enemies, and the traitor who has brought them.” While he said this, and during the short dialogue which followed, he aimed at the Major.

“Thou art not betrayed,” anxiously answered the faithful servant. “It is not my fault that I do not return alone, but, though accompanied, I am ready to give thee the stipulated ransom.”

“Command the Cossacks to retire, or I pull my trigger.”

At that critical moment, Kascambo cried to the officer of the Cossacks to retire; and they retreated to some distance, accompanied by Ivan, who, however, soon returned to his master. But the suspicious Tchetcheng would not permit him to approach. He obliged him to count the money on the road, at some distance from the house, and to retire as soon as he had done so.

The Tchetcheng went to take the ransom, and then returned to the terrace, where kneeling at the Major’s feet, he craved his pardon, and begged him to forget the ill-treatment which, for sake of his own safety, he had been obliged to make him endure. “I shall only remember,” answered Kascambo, “that I have been thy guest, and that thou hast kept thy word. But stop, thou hast not yet given me my liberty.” Ivan approaching anew, the Tchetcheng, instead of loosening the Major’s bonds, sprang from the terrace on the ground and ran off at full speed.

On the same day, honest Ivan had the glory and satisfaction to see his master surrounded by friends, who had long abandoned all hope of his deliverance.


The narrator of this anecdote happening, some months after the Major’s final rescue, to pass, in the night, before a small but neat house of Iegroviesky,22 alighted from his coach to inquire the occasion of the gay scene, which was passing within. A young Sergeant was standing near the window, apparently also an unbidden spectator of the dance.

“Who gives the ball?” inquired the traveller.

“It is our Major’s wedding.”

“What is your Major’s name?”

“Kascambo.”

The traveller, who had heard the Major’s eventful story, was glad that he had yielded to his curiosity, and desired to know which of the officers, assembled in the room, was Kascambo. The individual to whom the Sergeant pointed, did not then seem to have ever endured any suffering. — “Pray, show me also the honest soldier, who delivered him.”

The Sergeant, after a little hesitation, answered: “Sir, I am the person.” The traveller, greatly pleased with the fortunate accident which had procured him the personal acquaintance of the brave soldier, was much struck with his youthful appearance. He had not indeed attained his twentieth year, and had just been advanced to his present rank, and received a sum of money, as a reward for his courage and fidelity. When the stranger expressed his surprise at not seeing him among the guests, assembled at the Major’s wedding, and, on that account, taxed the latter with ingratitude, Ivan, without uttering a word, but frowning angrily at the censor, and whistling the burden of his favourite song, “Hai luli! hai luli!” entered the house; and when the traveller looked again into the room, he saw him proudly moving among his officers.

The Young Siberian

When they thrust me from my native land,
Didst thou stand forth, my firm and faithful guide.
And now, beloved daughter, to thy sire
What errand dost thou bear? What weighty cause
Moved thee to quit thy home?
Toil is light
When we but labour in a parent’s cause.

Oedipus at Colonos

The pious fortitude and courage of a poor girl, who, towards the end of the reign of the Emperor Paul, wandered from Siberia to St. Petersburg to obtain the liberty of her exiled parents, attracted sufficient public attention, to induce a celebrated authoress to transform her into the heroine of a novel. But those who knew her personally, are apt to regret, that adventures and ideas of a romantic nature had been ascribed to a generous but sober-minded girl, who never felt any other passion than the most exalted fondness for her parents, and who derived from that exclusive feeling, the first impulse for attempting a most adventurous undertaking, and the strength to carry it into execution.

The simple and unadorned narrative of her toils, is perhaps not fitted to produce the breathless interest, which we feel sometimes for imaginary vicissitudes, and for beings of unreal existence; but we believe that her story, though possessing only the merit of truth, will be read by many with some pleasure.

Her name was Prascovia Lopouloff. Her father belonged to a noble family of Ukraine, was born in Hungary, whither accidents conducted his parents, and served for some time in the Black-Hussars; but went early in life to Russia, married, and engaged in the military service of that country, which was in fact his own. He made several campaigns against the Turks, and was at the storming of Ismail and Otchakoff. His gallant conduct won him the esteem of his regiment. The cause of his exile to Siberia is not known, his trial, and the reexamination of it in latter times, having remained a secret. Some persons pretended to know that he had been accused of insubordination by his commanding officer, who was unfriendly to him. Whatever may have been the cause of it, he had been in Siberia fourteen years, when his daughter undertook her journey to St. Petersburgh. The place of his banishment was Ischim,23 a village on the frontiers of the government of Tobolsk: he lived there with his wife and daughter, up on the small allowance of ten kopecks a day, which is paid to the prisoners who are not condemned to hard labour.

Young Prascovia contributed by her industry to the subsistence of her parents. She lent her services to the laundresses of the village, or made herself useful, at harvest time, in the fields, and worked as hard as her strength permitted. Rye, eggs, and vegetables, were the reward of her exertions. She was a child when she arrived in Siberia; and having never known a more comfortable life, she gave herself up most cheerfully to continual labour, though it often exceeded her physical strength. Her delicate hands seemed destined for different occupations. Her mother, whose whole time was occupied in the management of her poor household, seemed to bear patiently her deplorable situation: but her father, who had been from his youth accustomed to the active life of a soldier, had never learnt to resign himself to his fate, and often yielded to a despondency and despair, which no misfortune, however great, can excuse. Although he endeavoured to conceal from Prascovia, the grief which preyed upon his mind, she had been too often, either by accident or through her attention to all that concerned him, a secret witness of his dejection, not to reflect on the cruel situation of her parents, long before they imagined that she was aware of their sufferings.

The Governor of Siberia had never replied to the supplications which Lopouloff had addressed to him from time to time: an officer, however, having passed, with despatches, through Ischim, and having promised him, not only to deliver to the Governor his letters, but to second his requests, the unfortunate exile entertained for a while, some hopes of liberty or relief. But the few travellers and messengers that arrived from Tobolsk, added only disappointments to actual and increased sufferings.

It was in one of these distressing moments that Prascovia, on her return from her labours in the fields, found her mother bathed in tears, and was alarmed by the mortal paleness and the bewildered looks of her father, “There you see,” exclaimed he, when she entered this abode of sorrow, “the object of my greatest grief: this is the child whom Providence has given me in its wrath, to increase my sufferings by hers, to make me witness of her gradual decay, when wasted by incessant toil, so that the name of father, which is a blessing to all others, is to me the strongest proof of Heaven’s malediction.” Poor Prascovia, frightened to death, clung to his knees, and, with the assistance of her mother and by their united entreaties, Lopouloff recovered gradually his self-possession: but this scene had made a strong impression upon her mind. Her parents had, for the first time, openly spoken in her presence of their hopeless situation, and for the first time she had been permitted to sympathise in their sorrows. She was then only fifteen years of age, and at that time, the idea of endeavouring to obtain her father’s pardon, entered her mind; or, according to her own account, one day when she had been praying, “it crossed her like lightning, and caused in her an unspeakable emotion.” She was persuaded that it was an inspiration of Providence, and this belief supported her under the most trying circumstances.

The hope of pardon and of liberty had never before cheered her heart. It filled her now with delight. She threw herself anew on her knees and prayed with fervour: but her imagination was so disquieted, that she knew not exactly what she should implore from the Divine mercy, all the ordinary train of her ideas being lost, in the nameless joy she experienced. Soon, however, the resolution of going to St. Petersburg, with the purpose of throwing herself at the Emperor’s feet, to obtain her father’s liberty, grew more and more distinct in her mind, and became the prevailirg subject of her thoughts.

She had long since resorted to a favourite place, on the skirts of a neighbouring wood, where she loved to pray; but now she visited it oftener than ever. Occupied exclusively with her great project, she implored Heaven with all the ardour of her soul, to favour, to protect it, and to give her sufficient fortitude and means to accomplish it. She was, therefore, often somewhat negligent in her usual occupations, and was upbraided by her parents. For a long time she did not dare to disclose to them the enterprise she meditated. Her courage failed her, whenever she attempted an explanation, in which she could discern little probability of success. But when she became convinced that she had sufficiently matured her design, she fixed a day when she should disclose it to her parents, firmly resolved to overcome, on that occasion, her natural timidity.

On that day, Prascovia went, early in the morning, to the forest, to implore from heaven that courage and eloquence which she deemed necessary to convince her parents. She returned home afterwards, with no other uncertainty, but to which of her parents she was about to reveal her project. The first she should meet, was to be her confidant: she rather hoped to meet her mother, on whose indulgence she trusted the most. But when she approached the house, she saw her father seated on a bench before the door, smoking his pipe. She addressed him with great courage, explained, in part, her views, and solicited, with all the eloquence which she could command, permission to depart for the metropolis. When she had concluded, her father, who had not interrupted her speech, took her hand with great gravity, and entering with her into the room, where his wife was preparing dinner, he exclaimed: “My wife, good news! we have a powerful protector! Prascovia is on her way to St. Petersburg, and is good enough to promise to intercede in our behalf with the Emperor!” Lopouloff repeated, in a tone of irony, his whole conversation with his daughter.

“She would do better,” said her mother, “to mind her business, instead of dreaming of such follies.” The poor girl had mustered courage against the anger of her parents, but she was unprepared to see her hopes brought to the test of ridicule and irony. She wept bitterly. The gay humour which her father had indulged for a moment, gave way to his usual austerity; but, while he reproved her for weeping, her mother caught her to her bosom, smiled, and, reaching a towel, said to her, in a coaxing tone: “Come, come, child, clean the table for dinner, and thou canst afterwards think more at leisure, of thy journey to St. Petersburg.”

Such treatment was more apt to dissuade Prascovia from her projects, than the severest upbraiding, and the worst usage. The humiliation of seeing herself treated like a child, did not, however, long oppress her, or prevail, for a moment, over her natural consistency. The difficulty of the first step was surmounted: she touched afterwards, repeatedly, on the subject, and her entreaties were so frequent and urgent, that her father became angry, reproved her most seriously, and commanded her never more to speak of her plans of deliverance. Her mother proceeded with somewhat more gentleness to convince her, that she was yet too young to meddle with such serious business.

This result of her first endeavours prevented Prascovia for three years from renewing her entreaties with her parents. In that interval of time, she was obliged to attend her mother in an obstinate illness, which alone would have obliged her to postpone her journey; but never did she permit a day to pass, without including in her ordinary prayers, a fervent petition, that she might obtain from her father the desired permission; and the more she prayed, the more she became persuaded that God would grant her request.

Such a religious disposition and confidence, in a girl of her age, is so much the more surprising, as they were not the fruit of her education. Though her father was not irreligious, but, on the contrary, read the Bible every day, he did not set her an example of fervent and real piety; and even her mother, who was more attentive to these higher duties, was too little informed, to awaken piety in hearts that were unprepared for religious culture. But Prascovia needed neither encouragement nor advice. To an exquisite sensibility, she united an excellent judgment, which, in the last three years, had acquired so much strength, that her parents began to listen, in their debates and domestic concerns, to her remarks, and she obtained insensibly a sufficient ascendency over them, to propose again, and to support with less hesitation, her great project. Yet her parents, in losing the advantage they had over her, in laughing at her presumption, did not render their resistance and objections less painful to her, by representing how much her absence would increase their difficulties. With tears, and a thousand endearments, they told her that they had neither friends, nor resources of any kind in Russia, and that upon her depended all their comfort, and in part their subsistence. “Could she leave her parents in a desert,” they asked her, “to under take a distant journey, which might prove fatal to herself, and embitter the rest of their lives, instead of procuring them their liberty?” Prascovia could only answer with tears such reasoning; but, far from wavering in her determination, she grew every day more resolute and confident.

The opposition of her parents was not the only nor the greatest obstacle, she had to overcome. She could not set out on her pilgrimage, nor even leave her village, without a passport. In not answering the letters of her father, the Governor of Tobolsk had given no encouragement to the hope, that he would favour her plan.

Fortunately for her, there was in the village another prisoner, born in Russia, and son of a German tailor. This man had been servant to a student at the university of Moscow, and had, on the strength of that connection, assumed the reputation of a freethinker, amongst the rude villagers and prisoners, to whom he rendered himself besides useful, by his exertions in the useful art of his father. He some times visited Lopouloff, and, we are sorry to say, was permitted to laugh at his daughter, and to nickname her “St. Prascovia.” She did not much care for it; but supposing that an unbeliever must, at least, know how to write, she hoped he would prepare for her a petition to the Governor, which she thought her father would readily consent to send, if he had no other trouble than to sign it.

It happened that one evening, when she was about to pack up the linen, which she had washed in the river, and was turning her steps homeward, Neyler (for that was the name of the freethinker) met her, while she was making the sign of the cross; an usual accompaniment to prayers in her religion. Neyler said to the poor girl, “had you made some more gesticulations of that sort, your linen, by a miracle, would have returned home, without your being at the trouble of carrying it on your back; but I will do as much for you without entreaties, and show you that infidels, whom you hate so much, are glad to help their neighbours.” He did not give her time to make any objection; but taking the parcel, he went along with her, towards the village. As they proceeded, it occurred to Prascovia, that the “philosopher” might be in a mood of extending farther his services to her, and write the petition to the Governor; but his science did not go so far. He pretended that, since he had begun his handicraft, he had bidden adieu to all literary pursuits, but he fortunately knew a man who could render her the service she desired. Prascovia felt obliged for the information he gave her, about that individual, and rejoiced in the thought that she should, not later than the next day, make a decisive step towards the execution of her great project. When she entered the habitation of her parents, she found them in company with some of their acquaintance, to whom Neyler immediately imparted the service he had rendered her, in sparing her the trouble of working miracles by her prayers. He was not a little disconcerted, when Prascovia said, in answer to this and some other silly jests of the same sort, “Why should I not put my whole confidence in the Divine goodness, when I remember that, after a short prayer, a professed infidel voluntarily rendered me his services: was not that a miracle?” The whole company laughed heartily at the discomfited tailor, who, instead of waiting for better success on a new attack, silently strutted off.

The next day, Prascovia called on the person whom Neyler had mentioned to her, and who promised to write the petition, in the requisite form, but informed her that she, and not her father, ought to sign it. After some new difficulties, her father at last yielded, and forwarded the petition, with a letter of his own, relative to his personal situation.

From that moment, Prascovia ceased to feel unhappy, her health improved rapidly, and her parents wondered and rejoiced to see her suddenly recover her former gaiety. This change had no other source than a strong conviction, that she should obtain the desired passport, and an unlimited confidence in the protection of her Creator. She often extended her walks far on the road of Tobolsk, in the hope of meeting a state messenger. For some time, she regularly called on the old soldier, who distributed the letters, at the place where the post horses were kept; but she was soon discouraged from repeating her inquiries, by the rudeness with which the man in office received her, and by the jests in which he indulged on her projected pilgrimage.

Nearly six months had already elapsed, since Lopouloff had forwarded the petition, when a person came to inform him that a messenger, just arrived at the post-house, had brought several letters. Prascovia ran in all haste, and was followed by her parents. When Lopouloff had reached the place and told his name, the messenger delivered to him a sealed packet, containing a passport for his daughter, and asked for a receipt. This was a moment of great joy for the whole family. In the entire abandonment, in which they had been left for many years, the granted passport seemed to them a great mark of protection. Yet there was no answer to the requests which Lopouloff had addressed to the Governor, on his own affairs. His daughter, being neither slave nor prisoner, could not be retained in Siberia, against her will, and the passport was therefore, in fact, but an act of strict justice. The silence of the Governor as to what might be considered a reliance on the Emperor’s mercy and forgiveness, seemed on the contrary, to prove that he did not in any way feel himself authorized to mitigate his sufferings.

Inferences and reflections of such a nature, soon damped the first joyous emotions of his heart. Lopouloff took the passport, and, in a fit of disappointment and ill-humour, protested that he had petitioned for it, in the expectation that it would be refused, like his other requests, and only to free himself from the importunities of his daughter.

Prascovia followed her parents to their habitation, without uttering a single word, but full of hope, and thanking God for having heard her prayers. Her father enveloped her passport in a handkerchief, and laid it between his clothes. Prascovia was glad to observe that he took so much care of it, for she had feared he would tear it into pieces, and she ascribed that behaviour to a particular design of Providence, who judged probably that the propitious moment for executing her plan, was not yet arrived. She hastened to her ordinary retreat in the grove, where she passed two hours in fervent devotion. Her prayers were rather thanksgivings than new petitions. Her heart beat with joyous presentiments; all her anxieties were at an end, and her piety increased her transports.

These details may at first seem too minute: but when we shall have shown how the enterprise of this poor girl was successful beyond her own hopes, against all probability, and notwithstanding the numberless difficulties which she had to encounter, our readers will be convinced, that no human agency could have lent her the necessary strength, and that she could owe it only to that “Faith which overcomes the world.” Prascovia saw the will of heaven in every event: “My confidence in God,” said she often afterwards, “has been frequently put to severe trials, but was never deceived.” An incident which occurred, a few days after the arrival of the messenger, would have strengthened her courage, if it had not been still more calculated to diminish the resistance of her parents. Her mother could not be called a superstitious woman, but she endeavoured often to beguile her actual cares, by endeavouring to explain certain incidents of her monotonous life, as prognostics of better times; and, without believing in good or evil days, she carefully avoided beginning anything on a Sunday; and, when salt was dropped on the table, regarded it as an accident, if not absolutely ominous, at least not perfectly indifferent. She sometimes opened the Bible, to find in the first passage that should present itself, something that might bear on her situation, or furnish a lucky omen, a practice quite common in Russia, for investigating the secrets of futurity. If the passage in Scripture is insignificant, the book is closed and consulted again, and, by a “liberal construction,” an ingenious mind is not long without finding what it desires. Those who are under the pressure of misfortune, readily believe all that can mitigate their sorrows; and, without giving implicit faith to such presages, experience some relief, never probably remembering their fallacy, when wanting and seeking new consolation.

Lopouloff ordinarily read to his family, every evening, a chapter of Scripture, and explained the Sclavonish words which his wife and daughter did not understand; the latter waited always anxiously for such instruction. At the close of a melancholy evening, they were sitting silently at the table, the Bible before them, after the usual lecture, when Prascovia, without any other view than to reanimate the conversation, begged her mother to read the eleventh line of the right page, wherever she should open the book. The mother took it speedily, opened it with a pin, and counting the lines, she read aloud the eleventh, containing these words: “And the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven, and said unto her: what aileth thee, Hagar? fear not.” This passage seemed to have a striking application to the journey she meditated. With enthusiastic joy, she seized the Bible, and kissed several times the auspicious page. “This is truly remarkable,” said the mother, fixing her eyes on her husband. But he was not prone to favour their opinions, and declaimed violently against these superstitions: “Do you imagine,” said he, “that a human creature can interrogate the Almighty, by opening a book at random with a pin, and that He would condescend to indulge your foolish whims?⁠—no doubt,” added he, addressing himself to his daughter, “no doubt an angel will be ready to accompany you in your peregrination, and minister to all your wants. Do you not see the folly of indulging such ridiculous fancies?”

Prascovia replied, that she was far from expecting that an angel would appear to assist her in her undertaking; “but,” said she, “I believe firmly, that my guardian angel will not forsake me, and that the object of my hopes will be ultimately accomplished, though I should even abandon it.” Lopouloff felt his resolution shaken by this strange perseverance; yet another month passed, without any further discourse about Prascovia’s departure. She became silent and pensive; courted solitude; spent more time than ever in the place where she prayed, and seemed to have forgotten her usual tenderness for her parents. They began to fear that she was serious, when she threatened to depart without the passport, and their anxiety increased whenever she returned later than usual. One day they had already given up the hope of seeing her again. Prascovia, on returning from church, whither she had gone alone, had accompanied a few peasant girls to a hamlet in the neighbourhood, and had spent several hours there. When she came home, her mother took her in her arms, and said to her, with a faltering voice: “Thou hast been very late, Prascovia; we feared that thou hadst gone forever.”

“You will soon have that mortification,” replied her daughter, “if you do not give me the passport, and you will then regret having refused it, and parted with me, without giving me your blessings.”

In saying these words, she did not return the caresses of her mother, whom her melancholy and altered voice affected deeply. Anxious to tranquillize her, the poor mother promised not to combat in future her determination, but to let it depend entirely on herself and her father. Prascovia did not urge her, but her profound distress was more persuasive than the liveliest entreaties, and her father also felt sadly her alteration. One morning, his wife begged him to bring some potatoes from the small garden which they cultivated. Lost in a train of gloomy reflections, he seemed at first not to listen to her; but recovering suddenly, he roused himself and said: “Come, help thyself, and I will help thee.” When he had finished these words, he took a hoe and went into the garden; his daughter followed him: “Yes, father, we must help ourselves, when we labour under misfortunes, and I hope that God will graciously aid me in the entreaties I come to make you, and that He will move your heart. Give me the passport, dear and unfortunate father! believe, oh believe, it is the will of the Almighty! can you wish to force your daughter to disobey you?” All the while she addressed her father, she embraced his knees, and endeavoured, by that mixture of firmness and humility, to inspire him with the hopes which filled her own heart. Her mother having joined them, she begged her to help her to convince her father, but the good woman could not be persuaded to do it. She could master her feelings sufficiently to consent to her daughter’s departure, but she had not courage to advise her husband to follow her example. However, Lopouloff could no longer resist such affecting entreaties, and he saw, besides, too clearly, the decided character of his daughter: “How dissuade this child?” exclaimed he; “we must let her do her will.”

Enraptured with these words, Prascovia threw herself on his neck. “Be sure, dear, dear father,” said she, covering him with kisses, “be sure that you will not repent having complied with my wishes. I will go, yes, I will go to St. Petersburg; I will kneel before the Emperor; and Providence, who inspired the thought and touched my heart, will move also that of our good Sovereign in your favour.”

“Dost thou think, poor child, that it is possible to address an Emperor, as thou speakest to thy father? Sentinels watch at every entry of his palace, and thou wilt never find means to pass its threshold. A poor beggar girl, without clothes and without recommendation, how couldst thou dare to appear before him; or who would present thee or befriend thee?”

Prascovia could not gainsay the ordinary probability of a failure, but did not yield to it. A secret presentiment triumphed in her bosom over the ordinary suggestions of reason. “I too feel the fears with which your kindness for me fills you,” she replied, “but what are they in comparison with my hopes? Think only, dear father; remember how many unexpected favours God has already granted me, because I had put my trust in Him! When I had not the least hope of obtaining a passport, He sent an infidel to point out to me the means of obtaining it. The Almighty softened the heart of the inexorable Governor of Tobolsk. Lastly, has He not overcome your reluctance, and obliged you to consent to my departure? Be, therefore, certain, my dear father, that Providence, who alone could have enabled me to triumph over so many obstacles, and who has protected me until now, will know how to carry me safely to the feet of our Sovereign. Providence will put in my mouth convincing words, and your liberty shall reward you for the permission you have given me.”

From that day, her journey was decided upon, but the time of her departure was not yet fixed. Lopouloff hoped to receive some assistance from his friends. Several of the prisoners had sufficient means to befriend him, and some of them had made him, on other occasions, offers which he was too prudent to accept. But now he thought he might claim their aid. He wished also to find a traveller, in whose society his daughter might, at least, begin her pilgrimage. But he was disappointed in his expectations. Yet, Prascovia was impatient to depart. The whole fortune of the family consisted in one rouble of silver. After having in vain endeavoured to increase their mite, they fixed the day of the cruel separation, according to the wishes of the noble girl, on the eighth of September, the day of nativity of the Virgin. When this determination was known in the village, all their friends came to see her, led rather by curiosity than by real interest. Instead of lending her assistance, or of cheering her mind, they generally disapproved of her father’s having consented to her departure. Those who could have given her money, pleaded unfortunate circumstances, which they said “often prevent our rendering services to our best friends;” but not to be altogether niggardly, they were profuse in woeful predictions. Two of the poorest and most obscure prisoners, took up, however, the defence of Prascovia, and encouraged her parents. “Things more desperate,” said they, “have succeeded beyond all hope. If she cannot speak herself to the Emperor, she may find protectors who will speak in her behalf, when they shall know and love her as know and love her.” On the eighth of September, the two men came again to take leave of her, and to witness her departure. They found her ready for her long journey, unencumbered except with a small bag. She refused to accept the rouble which her father had destined to her use, because such a trifle could not carry her to St. Petersburg, but might be important to him. An express command of her father could alone determine her to accept his small assistance. The two poor exiles wished also to contribute to the scanty resources, with which she set out on her long pilgrimage: the one offered thirty kopecks, and the other a piece of twenty kopecks in silver, their means of subsistence for several days. Prascovia refused to accept their generous offers, though she valued them highly. “If Providence,” said she, “grant its protection to my parents, you will, I hope, profit by it.”

At this moment, the first rays of the sun illuminated the room. “The hour is come,” said Prascovia: “we must part.” She, as well as her parents, and the two friends, sat down for a little while; for in Russia, the custom is, for the traveller who sets out on a long journey, to partake as it were, with his friends, of a last social pleasure. They talk about the weather and indifferent things, for a few minutes, and then at once rise and give free scope to their feelings.

Prascovia received on her knees, the benedictions of her parents; and having made a last effort of firmness, in disengaging herself from their arms, she quitted their poor dwelling forever. The two exiles accompanied her for a verst, while her parents, immoveable at the door of their house, followed her with their eyes, to send her, from afar, a last farewell; but she did not look back, and soon was out of sight.

Lopouloff and his wife entered their habitation, now to them more gloomy than ever. Few visited them, because most of the gossips of Ischim blamed the father, for having encouraged his daughter to venture on so imprudent an enterprise, and ridiculed his presumptuous hopes. They derided still more the two prisoners, who had the simplicity to repeat the promise which Prascovia had made them to interest herself in their favour, and congratulated them on their good fortune.

We must now leave this scene of distress, to follow our interesting traveller on her journey. When the two friends who had accompanied her for a short distance, left her, she met with a few country lasses, who were on their way to the next village, at about twenty five versts from Ischim. During their journey, they encountered a number of young peasants, some of whom were half drunk, and who alighted from their horses, wishing to accompany the female travellers. The scene of this piece of clownish gallantry, was at the entrance of a thick forest. The terrified maidens, pretending to be fatigued, said they wished to refresh themselves: they sat down at the side of the road, opened their handkerchiefs, which contained some provisions, and begged the intruders to continue on their way. But, like other “travelled gallants,” they repeated their offer, and seemed resolute not to be denied. Prascovia, in order to rid herself of them, thought she might use a little deceit. “We would gladly go with you,” she said, “if we were not obliged to wait for our brothers, who are coming to carry us in their wagons.” Two wagons were indeed approaching, but they were yet at a considerable distance, and the lads had not seen them until Prascovia pointed in the direction in which they were seen, slowly advancing up the road. Her little stratagem was successful, for the men mounted their horses immediately and went off. “This was an untruth,” said she, when speaking of her first adventure; “but I was not the worse for it.” She reached the village in safety, and was hospitably received by a peasant of her acquaintance.

On awaking the next morning, she felt the effects of the fatigues of the preceding day. They were indeed new to her, and on leaving the village, where she had past the night, and finding herself again on the road left to herself, she was for a moment terrified with the dangers which might await her. But the story of Hagar in the desert, occurred soon to her mind, and revived her courage. She made the sign of the cross, and pursued her journey, recommending herself to her guardian angel. After having passed several houses, she discovered, by the eagle painted over a tavern, before which she had passed on the preceding evening, that instead of taking the road of St. Petersburg, she had gone in the opposite direction. She stopped to look around her, and turning towards the house of her hospitable friend, she saw him advancing towards her, and, mildly reproaching her, he said: “My dear, if you travel in this way, you must not expect to go far, and you would indeed do better to return to your parents.”

She made the same mistake several times, during her journey, and when she inquired for the road to St. Petersburg, although yet at an immense distance from that capital, the people, to her great confusion, laughed at her. Without the least geographical information about the country through which she was to travel, she imagined that Kiev, which is famous in the religious history of Russia, and of which her mother had often spoken to her, was on her way to St. Petersburg. She intended to pay her devotions in that city, and resolved to take the veil in one of its convents, if her enterprise should succeed. But observing that everybody laughed at her inquiries after St. Petersburg, she begged to be directed to Kiev, and excited still more mirth.

Being once more than ever uncertain which of several roads, that crossed each other before her, she should choose, she determined to await the arrival of a kibitk, which was approaching, and requested the travellers to direct her to Kiev. They thought she was jesting, and answered good-humouredly: “In whatever direction you go, you may reach Kiev, Paris, and Rome.” She took the middle road, which was fortunately the right one. In the narrative of her journey, she was unable to give any exact detail of the provinces through which she had travelled, or to name the villages through which she had passed, the names even which she remembered often proving her ignorance or inattention. When she arrived at a small village, she was generally received with kindness, at any house where she asked for hospitality, but obtained it with difficulty in larger places, and those which were remarkable for good dwellings; the refusal was sometimes rendered more painful, by the suspicion which was shown respecting her character.

In the vicinity of Kamouïcheff, and on her longest day’s journey, she was overtaken by a violent storm, upon which she hastened, as much as her failing strength would permit, to reach some house that she hoped could not be far off; but a sudden blast of wind having thrown down a large tree before her, she ran in great terror into the thickest part of the forest, to seek for shelter, in the underwood among the pines. The storm did not abate during the whole night, and the poor girl was but ill protected from the rain, which fell in torrents, and did not cease until daybreak. She then continued her journey, as well as she could, chilled by the cold, and exhausted by inanition. Fortunately a peasant, who passed her on the skirts of the wood, took pity upon her, and offered to take her into his cart. Towards eight o’clock they arrived at a great village, where the driver left her, in the middle of the street, being himself obliged to continue on his way. The good appearance of many of the houses, made poor Prascovia fear an ill reception. Forced, however, by fatigue and hunger, to solicit relief, she advanced towards an elderly woman, who was standing at a low window, engaged in some business of the kitchen, and begged her to give her shelter. But the woman, looking at her contemptuously for a moment, roughly bade her go her way.

In alighting from the cart, Prascovia had fallen into the mud, of which her bespattered attire bore strong evidence. She was, moreover, much disfigured and wasted by the sufferings of the preceding night, and the want of aliment. The unfortunate girl could nowhere find admittance. An old waspish woman, at whose door she stopped in the last degree of dismay, sent her off, with vociferations against thieves and prostitutes. A few steps farther was a church. Prascovia thought that there, at least, she should find a refuge; but the door being shut, she seated herself on the steps. Mischievous boys, who had followed her through the street, and had been witnesses of the ill-treatment she had received, continued calling her thief and insulting her. She remained for two hours in this deplorable situation, almost dying of hunger and cold, yet continually beseeching God, to permit her to survive this severe trial.

A woman approached, at last, with a show of compassion. Prascovia told her what she had suffered the preceding night; and while they conversed together, other persons joined them. The Starost, or Mayor of the village, examined the passport, and having testified to it, the charitable woman offered to take her to her house: but Prascovia was not able to rise; her limbs were stiffened; she had lost one of her shoes, and her naked foot was much swollen. A general compassion succeeded soon, to the uncharitable suspicions which had been manifested. She was put in a cart, and the same boys, who had a little before insulted her, exerted all their strength to carry her to the house of the person, who was the author of this happy change. She remained with this good woman several days, and was treated with uncommon kindness. A benevolent peasant made and presented her with a pair of half-boots. When sufficiently restored to health, she took leave of her benefactress, and continued her journey, remaining more or less time in the villages through which she passed, according as she might need repose or meet with hospitality: this, however, she did not always accept, without endeavouring to make herself useful to her benefactors, by washing, or assisting in other domestic labours. She disclosed the purpose of her journey, only when she was already received into a house; for she had remarked, that when she did it immediately on begging assistance, she was distrusted, and misconceived. —Most men, indeed, are less disposed to become interested in those, who manifest an intention of moving their compassion, than when they are left to the natural impulses of their generosity. They are, perhaps, rather willing to show their compassion, than to grant marks of esteem. Prascovia asked ordinarily for bread, said how exhausted she was, and how much she needed a little rest; and when she was admitted into a house, she mentioned her name, and made her host acquainted with her history. The way in which she performed her journey, gave her many opportunities of looking deeply into the human heart.

Oftentimes, those who had refused her a shelter, recalled her, when they saw her depart with big tears in her eyes, and became kind to her. Beggars accustomed to be refused, are little distressed at it; but Prascovia, although reduced to a similar situation, was probably too new to the feelings which it creates, to go without anguish through these trials of resignation and fortitude.

The advantage which she had derived from exhibiting her passport, in which the military rank of her father was mentioned, led her to show it, whenever she was in need of more than immediate assistance. In her intercourse with the numerous persons, to whom she addressed herself, she had, upon the whole, met with infinitely more instances of benevolence and humanity, than of unkind treatment. “My journey was not,” said she often, “as painful as some imagine, while they hearken with more eager attention to the few sufferings I have endured, than to the innumerable proofs of hospitality and benevolence, with which I was favoured.”

Among her most serious adventures, the following is remarkable, as well for its singularity, as for the dangers which perhaps threatened her life.

She was one evening walking on the side of a row of houses, to beg for a night’s lodging, and had just been very rudely refused at the door of one of the villagers, when she heard the steps of a person behind her, and saw the same man calling her back. He had an ill favoured countenance. Prascovia hesitated at first to accept the invitations of the keen-looking old man, but followed him, fearing she might not obtain shelter elsewhere. She found in the hut, an old female, of still less prepossessing mien than the man, who, as he entered, bolted the door, and barred the window shutters. She was scarcely attended to by her hosts, who, besides, promised so little good by all that she could observe in their features and appearance, that she became alarmed, and regretted having accepted their hospitality. The room was lighted by a few chips of pine, thrust into a hole of the wall, whose place, when they were burnt, was supplied with more. By that dim light, she found the eyes of her hosts fixed upon herself, when first she durst look up. At last, the woman interrupted the silence, which had continued since Prascovia had been motioned to take a seat, by asking her from whence she came. “I come from Ischim,” replied she, “and am going to St. Petersburg.”

“Ho! ho! you must needs have a good deal of money, for such a long journey.”

“I have but eighty kopecks in copper,” stammered the trembling girl.

“Thou liest,” returned the hag, “thou liest; no one goes on so long a journey, with so little money.” The poor girl vainly protested that she had no more. The woman, addressing her husband, in a scoffing tone, said: “What thinkest thou? With eighty kopecks, from Tobolsk to St. Petersburg! Indeed! indeed!” Affronted by the distrust of her veracity, and terrified by the dangers which she began to apprehend, Prascovia prayed inwardly to God, to assist her, and strove to repress her tears. She had for her supper, a few potatoes; and when she had eaten them, the woman advised her to go to sleep. Having begun to suspect the honesty of her hosts, she would gladly have given them all her money, if she could have left their house. She threw off a part of her garment, before she ascended the stove, where she was to spend the night, and left at the disposal of her roommates her sack and pockets, expecting that they would count her money, without farther affronting her personally. When they supposed that she was asleep, they proceeded to the examination of her things. Prascovia could hear their half articulate conversation. “She has surely more money about her,” said they⁠—“perhaps banknotes.”⁠—“I saw,” answered the woman, “a ribbon on her neck, supporting a small bag, where she probably keeps her money.” This bag of gummed silk, contained her passport, which she never parted with. The conversation between the hosts, continued in a lower tone, and the few words which Prascovia could hear, were ill calculated to lull her into sleep. “No one saw her come into the house.”⁠—“Nobody knows even that she entered the village.” The voices became then less audible, and soon they were entirely silent. Prascovia anticipating all the horrors which her alarmed imagination brought before her mind, felt, on a sudden, the head of the wretched old creature, who was mounting the stove. With anguish she prayed aloud for her life; she protested anew, gaspingly, that she had no money; but the hostess, instead of replying, examined her clothes, and took off her boots. The man brought a light: both searched the bag containing the passport; they obliged her to open her hands, and when they found all fruitless, they descended and left the poor girl more dead than alive.

This terrifying scene, and the dread of what might follow, prevented her for some time from closing her eyes: but when she became assured by the snoring of her hosts, that they were asleep, she recovered by degrees her usual tranquillity of mind, and her lassitude being probably greater than the fears which still agitated her, she fell at last into a tranquil sleep. It was late in the morning when the hostess awoke her. Prascovia left the stove, and could not help being astonished at the composure and seeming benevolence of both her hosts. Yet she would gladly have left them immediately; but they begged her to eat something, before she continued her journey. The woman set herself to work, and showed far more activity than on the preceding evening. She took out of the oven a pot of soup, with salt meat and cabbage, of which she presented to Prascovia a plentiful portion: her husband was not less prompt, and descending into a sort of cellar, beneath the floor, and covered with a trap-door, brought up a bucket of kvass (a liquor made of wheat-flour), and offered her a full pitcher. Somewhat tranquillized by these attentions, she replied readily to their inquiries, and told them a part of her story. They seemed to take interest in her situation; and, anxious to apologise for their previous behaviour, they protested that they had no other reason for inquiring whether she had money, than because they suspected that she was a thief. She would see, added they, by examining her bag, that, as to themselves, there was no cause to doubt their honesty. Prascovia, on taking leave, was not quite sure what to think of them, but was glad to bid them farewell.

When she had got a few miles, on her way from the village, she counted her money; and the reader will conceive her astonishment, when she found it increased. Her hosts had added forty kopecks.

Prascovia was fain to mention this example of God’s power, to touch the heart of the wicked with charity and compassion.

Shortly afterwards, she met with another accident, which alarmed her not a little. Having one day a long distance to walk, before she could reach any inhabited place, she set out at two o’clock in the morning. When she arrived at the outskirts of the village, a number of curs attacked her, and became more and more infuriated against her, as she ran to escape from them, and endeavoured to defend herself with her staff. One dog seized her garment and tore it; another flew at her face, while she was kneeling and praying. “I thought,” said she, “that He who had saved me from tempest and human wickedness, would not abandon me, in this new danger: and my reliance on His protection was rewarded; for a villager came and frightened away the dogs.”

The winter was fast setting in, and Prascovia was detained for a week in a village by the snow, which fell in such quantities that it was impossible to travel on foot: and when the road became fit for sledges, she got ready to continue her journey; but the good people, who had received her under their roof, represented the fatigues of it to be such as the most robust men would be unable to support; for when the wind blows up the snow, the beaten paths become invisible, and the traveller is lost in a frozen wilderness. Happily for our pilgrim, a caravan of sleds, carrying provisions to Yekaterinburg24 for Christmas-day, arrived at the village. She obtained a seat in one of these vehicles. Yet, notwithstanding the care which the kindhearted drivers took of her, she was ill-protected by her clothes against the severe cold, though she enveloped herself in one of the mats appropriated to the cover of the wares. The cold became so intense, on the fourth day, that when the caravan halted, the poor girl could not rise from the sled. She was carried to a sort of inn, at thirty versts distant from any village, and where the relays for messengers and travellers were kept. One of her cheeks was frostbitten. A fellow-traveller hastened to rub it with snow, and all of them were anxious to assist her; but they refused to convey her farther, because they considered it too dangerous for her to travel in such severe cold, which might yet increase, without better clothing than she was provided with. The poor girl wept bitterly, when she reflected that she probably could not meet again with such a good opportunity, and such kind people. The innkeeper seemed, besides, not at all inclined to receive her, and advised her to continue with the company with whom she had arrived. The drivers, seeing her distress, resolved to buy her a pelisse of sheepskin, which, in that part of Russia, costs but five roubles; and each one offered to contribute his mite for that purpose. But unfortunately there was no merchant to sell a pelisse, and none of the inmates of the kharstma (the inn) was willing to part with his own, for fear he should be obliged to wait too long for an opportunity of procuring another. In this perplexity, one among the youngest of the drivers, proposed that they should alternately lend her their pelisses, or that he would give her his own, if his comrades would each, by turns, part with his for a given time. The suggestion was received with loud applause; and a calculation was quickly made of the distance, and the number of times that the pelisses were to be changed. A Russian peasant likes to know what is expected from him, and is not easily cheated. When the arrangement was completed, the girl was put, well wrapped in her pelisse, on a sled; and the lad, who had given her his fur coat, covered himself with the mat, which she had used before, and seating himself upon her feet, began a merry song, and opened the march of the caravan. At every milestone, one of the drivers gave up his pelisse; and in this way the company reached without accident Yekaterinburg, in good spirits, and in less time than usual.

During that whole journey, Prascovia did not cease to pray to God, that the generous action of her companions might not prove injurious to their health.

Prascovia alighted in the town, at the same inn or caravansary where her fellow-travellers stopped. The hostess having been partly in formed, by the latter, of Prascovia’s history, and inferring that she was without money, went to her and took occasion to mention some of the inhabitants, most noted for charity, and advised her to solicit their assistance, and the means of continuing her journey. She mentioned with particular commendation, a lady by the name of Milin, who, she said, was an angel of benevolence, and the mother of the poor of the city. All the persons present agreed in this encomium. Had not Prascovia had worldly wisdom enough, to guess at the meaning of mine hostess, she would more expressly have been invited to seek another shelter. The house where she was then, was what the Russians call a postoïaleroi-dvor or “place of rest,” a sort of large stable, covered only at the top, and in an angle of which is a warm room, the fourth of its whole size. The travellers accommodate themselves as well as they can, in this chamber, and those who cannot find room on the stove, sleep on the floor. The day after her arrival, Prascovia went out early in the morning, to inquire after the generous lady whom her hostess had mentioned to her; but, according to her usual custom, she sought first a church. It was Sunday, and the church contained a larger number of people than she had ever yet seen together in one place. The fervour with which she said her prayers, called the attention of some; and her bag and her attire that of others. When she left the church, a lady asked her who she was. Prascovia answered her briefly; and remembering the call she was to make, inquired of her for the house of Mrs. Milin, who, she added, had been represented to her as a generous and benevolent lady. Probably Mrs. Milin had seldom heard of her reputation, in so unsuspicious a way. She had, however, her portion of human frailty; and instead of saying who she was, she replied to Prascovia: “Mrs. Milin, who has been so much praised to you, is not by any means so charitable as you imagine. If you would come with me, I can perhaps procure you a better shelter.”

After all she had heard of Mrs. Milin’s virtues, Prascovia could not help forming an unfavourable opinion of her new acquaintance, and she accompanied her, without either accepting or refusing her proposal. Observing that she seemed to follow with reluctance, Mrs. Milin said to her: “However, if you have such a great desire to speak to that lady, her house is close by: I will accompany you, and you shall see what sort of reception she will give you. But promise me before, my child, that if she does not urge you to remain, you will go with me.” Without answering, Prascovia entered the house with her, and addressing the first female servant she met, she asked if Mrs. Milin was at home. Astonished to hear such a question from a person who came in company with her mistress, she did not immediately reply.

“Can I see Mrs. Milin?” repeated Prascovia.

“Do you not see her?” said the maid.

Turning back, she saw her acquaintance, who extended her arms to embrace her. “Ah! my heart told me that Mrs. Milin was kind and compassionate,” cried our traveller, kissing the lady’s hands.

Mrs. Milin, greatly amused with this little scene, immediately sent for a friend who lived with her, Mrs. G., a person no less benevolent and generous than herself, to consult with her on the means of becoming most serviceable to the young girl. After breakfast, and when Prascovia had become a little better acquainted with her benefactress and her friend, she related to them all that she knew of the misfortunes of her parents, and mentioned, at last, the resolution she had formed, of imploring of the Emperor her father’s liberty.

Though Mrs. Milin did not trust much in Prascovia’s success, she did not immediately endeavour to dissuade her from her enterprise, but she and Mrs. G. resolved to engage her to remain, at all events, with them until the spring. She was herself reluctant to continue her journey at that rude season, the cold having lately much increased. The two ladies, with a view of determining her to remain, did not tell her what they intended to do in her favour, and what they performed afterwards, to aid her in her noble exertions.

Prascovia felt herself very happy, in the company of her new friends. Their affability, their polished manners, and unaffected kindness, afforded her a delight which was before unknown to her. She loved to remember each little incident of that fortunate time, and she never pronounced the name of her principal benefactress, without deep emotion.

Her health was, however, not so good as might have been expected from the comforts which she now enjoyed. The cold she had caught, in the night she passed in the forest, had been increased by the fatigues and the inclement weather, during her subsequent journey. She was, nevertheless, very industrious in learning to read and write. Her parents might be thought very blameable, for having so much neglected her education, had not their situation been such as to make them fear, that their child, who was, in all probability, to spend her life in the lowest occupations, might become rather miserable than happy through the cultivation of her mind. Her heroism was more interesting for that very neglect of her education. The little practice of reading she had acquired in her childhood, she forgot when afterwards obliged to aid her mother in her domestic employment. Now, however, that, for the first time, she enjoyed leisure, she applied herself with all her natural ardour and perseverance to reading, and, in a few months, was able to peruse the prayerbook, presented to her by her benefactress, who was often obliged to restrain her zeal. Her exertions were so much the more endeared to her, she said, as she found, in the prayerbook, the natural impulses of her heart, explained in the clearest and most affecting language. “How happy are the rich!” she once exclaimed: “how they must pray with all their soul, having so many means of studying and understanding their religion, of expressing their gratitude to their Divine benefactor, and of appreciating his gifts!”

Mrs. Milin smiled at these reflections of the enthusiastic girl, thinking that nothing could be impossible for so devoted a heart, and so ardent a piety as hers: and she determined, in common with her friend, to encourage Prascovia in her undertaking, and to leave it to the care of Providence, to enable her to surmount those difficulties, in which their aid could be of no avail. Before they knew her as well as they now did, they had, as we have already observed, tried to dissuade her, and made her the most flattering offers to induce her to remain with them. But nothing could alter her determination. She reproached herself, sometimes, for the comforts and the happiness she enjoyed. “How does my poor father do, in the desert, while his daughter forgets herself so much, in her unexpected good fortune?” She often upbraided herself in this way: and her benefactress thought, at last, that it would be better for her to continue her journey, as soon as the weather should permit. In the spring, Mrs. Milin, after having provided for her wants, put her on board of a boat, under the care of a man who was going to Niejeni,25 and who was accustomed to make that difficult voyage. Before leaving the Ural Mountains, which separate Yekaterinburg from Niejeni, the traveller embarks on the rivers, which run from these highlands and flow towards the north. He continues in the boat until he reaches the Tobol, where he lands to cross the mountains. The road is neither very high nor very rugged; and when the mountains have been passed, the traveller embarks anew on the rivers which fall into the Volga. Prascovia went on board of one of the numerous craft, which are employed to carry iron and salt into Russia, along the Tchousova and Khama.

The person to whose care she was entrusted, spared her many troubles, during this long journey, which she could hardly have performed without such assistance; but, unfortunately for her, he became ill in passing the defiles, and was obliged to remain in a small village, on the banks of the Khama. Deprived again of all protection, she travelled, nevertheless, without any ill accident, till she reached the confluence of the Khama and the Volga. From that place, the boats going up the river are drawn by horses. During that passage, our traveller met with an unfortunate accident. One those violent storms, which are so frequent in that country, had suddenly arisen, and the steersmen, endeavouring to put off the boat, pushed with all their strength a large oar, that supplied the place of the rudder, on the side where several persons were sitting. They had not time to turn it off, and three of the passengers, Prascovia included, were thrown into the river. She was immediately taken out of the water, and, happily, without any injury; but, reluctant to dress herself in the presence of so many persons, she retained her wet apparel, and took a violent cold, which, in the end, proved fatal to her existence.

The ladies of Yekaterinburg, having commissioned the person into whose care they had put their young friend, to make the necessary arrangements for the continuation of her journey from Niejeni, had not recommended her to anyone in that city, where in fact she did not intend to stop: but now, in consequence of the accident which had befallen her companion, she found herself in Niejeni, without any acquaintance or support.

Opposite the landing place, on the bank of the Volga, are situated on the top of a hill, a church and a convent. Prascovia immediately directed her steps towards the former, in tending to seek, after her prayers, a shelter somewhere in the city.

When she entered the solitary church, she heard from behind the grate, female voices, chanting the concluding part of the evening prayers. She considered this as a happy omen. “At some future day,” she thought, “if Heaven prospers my enterprise, I shall also be invisible to the world, and have no other calling than to worship and thank my Creator.”

On leaving the church, she stopped a while on the steps, to enjoy the splendid sight which meets the eye at that place, and which was then mellowed by the soft light of the setting sun. Niejeni Novogorod is built on the confluence of the rivers Oca and Volga, and seen from the spot where Prascovia stood, presents one of the most beautiful landscapes: our poor girl had no idea of so large a town, and she clasped her hands with admiration and amazement.

In setting out on her pilgrimage, she was prepared to meet, with resignation, all the sufferings and dangers, which, in her ignorance of the world, she could represent to herself; the inclemency of winter, oppressive heat, hunger, nakedness, diseases, death: but since she had become a little more acquainted with larger collections of men, than in her village of Ischim, she feared her courage would be insufficient. In the wilderness, she had no conception of the mournful and chilling solitude, that awaits the poor in populous cities: she did not imagine, that thousands of fellow-beings would walk by her, without seeing her, and without listening to her prayers, as if they had no eyes for misery, nor ears for sighs and lamentations.

Besides, since her acquaintance with Mrs. Milin and her friend, a sense of propriety, self respect, and perhaps a little pride, rendered the humiliations, to which her situation exposed her, more painful than ever. “When shall I find,” said she to herself, “friends like those I have left! I am now at more than a thousand versts from them: and how shall I be able to approach the palace of the Emperor, when I tremble to ask shelter at the poorest inn!”

For the first time, her courage was shaken, and with mournful dejection and bitter tears, she dwelt on the thought, that she had, perhaps, been wrong to leave her parents, on so adventurous an errand. But her natural strength soon got the better of this momentary weakness. Her confidence in God reviving in her bosom, she became ashamed of her despondency, sought forgiveness of her guardian angel, and hurried again into the church, to implore the Almighty for new fortitude to support her sufferings. Her steps towards the altar were precipitate; her prayers were fervent. A nun who was about to shut the church, and had seen her enter, and witnessed her devotion, interrupted her, by observing that it was time to retire, and by addressing some questions to her. Prascovia, yet agitated, told the cause of her re-entrance into the church, and, confessing her reluctance to seek for a shelter in an inn, she declared how infinitely she would prefer spending the night in the poorest corner of the convent. The nun replied that it was not permitted to lodge strangers, but that the Abbess would perhaps succour her. “I want no other assistance than a night’s lodging,” returned Prascovia; and showing her little purse, she added, “this gift of two charitable ladies, places me above the necessity of asking alms for the present, and all I now long for, is to be permitted to pass the night under this roof: tomorrow I shall continue my journey.”

The sister offered to present her to the Abbess. At the entrance of her closet, they found her on her knees, engaged in prayer. The nun stopped and kneeled. Prascovia following the example, breathed ardent supplications to God, to dispose the heart of the Abbess in her favour. After a little while, this lady rose, and, advancing towards Prascovia, kindly offered her hand to raise her. Our traveller related her story, showed her passport, and begged for hospitality. Her request was immediately granted. The company was soon increased by the arrival of several nuns, whom curiosity had brought into the room of the Abbess. In answering their various inquiries, Prascovia was insensibly led to mention the many incidents of her journey: and such were the affecting simplicity and natural eloquence of her narrative, that her hearers could not restrain their tears, and vied with each other, in showing the interest with which she had inspired them. She was loaded with kindness and caresses; the Abbess lodged her in her own apartment, and was glad to think that she might become one of her novices.

We have already mentioned, that Prascovia had formed the resolution of spending the rest of her life in a convent, if she should succeed in her endeavours to procure the liberty of her father. Better acquainted with the religious establishments of Kiev, than with those of Niejeni, she had determined to take the veil in one of the convents of the former city, because she wished to visit the famous Catacombs,26 which she had heard belonged to its Cathedral, and was desirous to be near the many holy relics which those tombs enclose. However, since she had learned that Kiev was not on the road of St. Petersburg, she was not disinclined to choose the convent of Niejeni for her future retreat. The nuns pressed her to make her vows, but she would only give a qualified promise. “Do I know,” said she, “what God may yet require from me? I wish, I long to finish my days here, and if it is also the will of Heaven, who shall oppose it?”

She readily consented to spend a few days at Niejeni, to rest herself, and prepare for her journey to Moscow;27 but, instead of profiting by it, she began to feel the effects of her extraordinary exertions, and became dangerously ill. Since her accident on the Volga, she had suffered much from a troublesome cough, and she fell now into an inflammatory fever, which alarmed her physicians for her life. She, herself, felt no apprehensions. “I cannot believe,” said she, “that my time has come, and I hope that God will permit me to perform my task.” She mended, indeed, gradually, and spent the rest of the autumn in the convent. But, feeble as she was, she could not continue her journey on foot, and still less support the jolting of post-wagons. For want of means to procure a more comfortable mode of conveyance, she was obliged to wait until the season for travelling in sledges had begun. In the meantime, she observed and practised the rules and the duties of the convent, perhaps retarding by it her recovery, but improving in her studies. By her conduct, she won more and more the esteem and affection of the nuns, who had no longer any doubt, that she would, at some future time, return to them and become a permanent member of their society.

When, at last, the roads were fit for travelling, she departed, in a covered sled, with some other travellers, for Moscow. The Abbess gave her a letter for one of her friends in that capital, and promised her that she should find a refuge in her convent, and be received at it as a favourite child, whatever might be the result of her pilgrimage.

Prascovia arrived safely at Moscow. The friend of the Abbess received her with great kindness, and kept her in her house, while she was endeavouring to find her a fellow-traveller, for the journey to St. Petersburg.

The person, to whom she determined to entrust her, was a merchant who travelled with his own horses, and consequently at a moderate rate. In addition to the letters, which the ladies of Yekaterinburg had given her, she had now one for the Princess T., an aged and highly respected lady. Under these auspices, she arrived at St. Petersburg, towards the middle of February, twenty days after having left Moscow, and eighteen months after her departure from Siberia. Her courage was unabated, and her confidence as unshaken, as on the first day of her journey.

She lodged at the merchant’s house on the Yekaterina-canal, and for some time she was at a loss in that vast capital, how to enter on her business, and how she should deliver her letters of introduction.

The merchant was too much engrossed by his own affairs, to care much for his lodger. He had promised her to find out the house of the Princess T.: but before he could do so, he was obliged to depart for Riga, and left Prascovia to the care of his wife, who was very kind to her, but wholly unable to afford her any advice, upon the subject which alone interested her.

The letter which the lady of Moscow had given her, was addressed to a person living on the opposite bank of the Neva. As the direction was very explicit, Prascovia thought that she could find the house, and accompanied by her hostess set out for Vasili-Ostrov;28 but the river was opening, and the passage was prohibited by the police, as long as there was any danger from the floating ice. She returned home, painfully disappointed. In the midst of her perplexity, a friend of her hostess advised her unfortunately, to address a petition to the Senate, to request the revision of her father’s trial, and offered to procure a person who would draw up the paper. The success of that which she had addressed to the Governor of Tobolsk, encouraged her hopes, and she was thus induced to copy an ill-conceived and worse written supplication. Nor could anyone give her the least direction how to present it. She neglected to deliver her letters of recommendation, and in this way lost the opportunity of obtaining timely assistance.

With the petition in her hand, she went one morning to the palace of the Senate, ascended a long staircase, and entered one of the public offices. She was much embarrassed at the sight of the number of persons, who were seated or moving in this large room, not knowing to which of them she should deliver her paper. The clerks, to whom she whispered her request, looked up to her, and then continued to write, without taking any farther notice of her. Some other persons, whom she was about to address, turned aside to avoid her, as they would a pillar which obstructed their way. At last an old soldier, who served as doorkeeper and sergeant-at-arms, and who was hurrying with rapid steps through the saloon, met her, and passing to the right to get out of her way, while she turned to the same side, to make room for him, they came violently against each other. The provoked soldier asked her what was her business. Prascovia, rather pleased with the question, presented him her paper, and desired him to deliver it to the Senate. But he, taking her for a common beggar, seized her by the arm, and dragged her out of the room. She durst not re-enter, and remained the whole morning on the staircase, intending to present her petition to the first Senator whom she should meet. She saw several persons alighting from their carriages, some decorated with stars, some with epaulets, and all in uniforms, in boots, and with swords. She thought that they were all Generals, or officers of the army; and waiting all the time for a Senator, who, from the idea she had conceived of these magistrates, was to be distinguished by something extraordinary, she had no opportunity of delivering her paper. Towards three o’clock, the palace emptied, and Prascovia finding herself alone, left the Senate, in great amazement at not having met with a Senator, among the crowd she had seen that morning. Her hostess, to whom she made that remark, had great difficulty in making her understand, that a Senator was made like any other man, and that the gentlemen she had seen were probably for the most part persons, to any one of whom she might safely have presented her petition.

On the next day, at the hour when the Senate meets, she again took her seat on the staircase, and offered her paper to every person that passed near her; hoping, by this means, to avoid her error of the preceding day, and that she should at last meet with some one of those great personages, of whom she still found it difficult to form any definite idea; but nobody cared to take her paper. She saw, at last, a corpulent gentleman with a red ribbon, and stars on each side of his red uniform coat, and a sword. “If this is not a Senator,” she whispered to herself, “surely I shall never meet with one, in my life.” She advanced towards him, praying him to take charge of her petition; but a liveried servant stepped suddenly forward, and gently turned her aside, while the starred gentleman, who thought she asked alms, murmured a “God help you,” and proceeded on his way.

Prascovia went thus to the Senate for two whole weeks, without any better success than on the first day: often, wasted with the fatigue of standing on a cold and wet staircase, she seated herself upon one of the steps, and endeavoured to read in the countenances of those who passed, some sign of compassion and benevolence. But probably nobody imagined what she wanted. This is inevitable in large cities. Opulence and misery, happiness and distress, elbow each other, and yet remain forever separate, unless benevolence and pity, or the exertions of charitable persons, bring them into closer connection than accidental meetings.

One day, however, one of the clerks, who probably had already become accustomed to her face, stopped beside her, accepted the petition, and took from his pocket a packet of papers. The unfortunate girl began to feel some hope; but the packet contained only banknotes, from which the stranger took one of five roubles, put it in Prascovia’s paper, and, returning it, quickly disappeared. The disappointed girl rose from her seat, and left the palace. “I am sure,” said she to her hostess, “that if Mrs. Milin had a brother, who was a Senator, he would have attended to my request, without knowing anything of me.”

The Senate not being in session during the Easter holy-days, Prascovia, contrary to her inclination, had some rest. She employed it in devotion. During her pious exercises, she repeated her prayers for the happy issue of her enterprise, and such was the sincerity of her faith, that after having partaken of the communion, she felt assured that her petition would be accepted, the next time she should present herself at the Senate, and told her hostess so when she returned from church. But the hostess was less confident, and advised her to try some other means. Still, on the day when the Senate was to open its session, she had some business on the “English quay,” and Prascovia being ready to go to the Senatorial palace, she offered to carry her in her droshky. “I wonder,” said she on the way, “that you do not become discouraged. Were I in your situation, I would not trouble myself further with the Senate and Senators, who will never do anything for you: you might as well present your petition to this statue,” added she, in pointing to the noble monument of Peter the Great.

“I am sure,” answered Prascovia, “that my faith will not be in vain. But I will try today for the last time, my fortune at the Senate; and I am confident that my supplication will be received. God is almighty⁠—yes, He is almighty,” repeated she, alighting from the vehicle, “and if He willed it, even this figure of bronze would move from his seat, and hearken to my request.”

The matron burst out into a laugh, and Prascovia, soon awaking from her enthusiasm, smiled herself: yet this was but the habitual current of her thoughts and expressions.

While she gazed on the monument, her hostess, looking round her, remarked that the bridge over the Neva was replaced: numberless vehicles were coming to and fro, in the direction of Vasili-Ostrov.⁠—“Have you your letter for Mrs. L.?” asked the good woman; “I am in no hurry, and could carry you to her house.” It being yet early in the morning, Prascovia accepted her offer. The river which, some time before, was meandering around masses of floating ice, was now thawed and covered with vessels and boats of every description. Prascovia was delighted with this sight; the weather was beautiful, and with redoubled courage, she felt assured that her visit would be successful. Embracing her companion, she said: “It seems to me as if God guided me, and I trust He will not forsake me.”

Mrs. L., who had received from her friends in Yekaterinburg, some account of Prascovia, reproached her kindly for not having sooner presented herself. The affectionate manner with which she was received, reminded her strongly of the time she had passed with Mrs. Milin. Prascovia explained the plan she had formed for the recall of her father from his exile, and mentioned the unsuccessful endeavours she had made, until then, at the Senate. On a perusal of her petition, Mrs. L. soon found that it was not worded according to the official form. “Few could be more serviceable to you than myself,” she said to Prascovia, “for one of my relations fills an important station in the Senate; but I must confess to you, as I would to an older acquaintance, and to a friend, that for a short time past I have not been on good terms with him. However,” she added, after a little reflection, “the occasion is so good, and our quarrel so trifling, that I should be willing to make propositions of reconciliation, of which you may be the immediate cause: besides, is it not Easter?”

Prascovia was to dine with her new friend, and in company with several persons who were invited, and who showed her the greatest kindness. When they were taking their seats at the table, a gentleman entered, and addressing Mrs. L., made the salutations usual on these festival days: “Christos voscres;” and without more words, they embraced each other in the most affectionate manner. This person was the relative mentioned by Mrs. L. The custom in Russia is, for friends and acquaintances, when they first meet in Easter, to greet each other by such marks of love and affection. The one says: “Christos voscres,” (“Christ is risen,”) and the other answers: “Voistino voscres,” (“in truth, He is risen.”) Between friends, these expressions are, as it were, a new covenant; and, between persons who have quarrelled, the first words are an express wish for reconciliation. Mrs. L. finding her relation so well disposed, presented to him the young pilgrim from Siberia. Her affair was canvassed during the dinner, and the whole company agreed, that her application to the Senate was an ill-advised step. A formal revision of her father’s trial would have required much time; and it was thought at once a surer and shorter way, to apply immediately to the Emperor. A little time, however, was necessary to determine by what means this could be done. Meanwhile, Prascovia was advised not to continue her application to the Senate, the narrative of which greatly diverted the company. Towards evening, Mrs. L. sent her little protégée home, accompanied by a servant. As soon as she could revert to the different incidents of that day, Prascovia, according to the ordinary bent of her mind, reflected on the wonderful ways, by which Providence disposes events in favour of those whom it designs to protect. How fortunate was it for her, she thought, to have presented her letter to Mrs. L., on the same day that her relative sought to make his peace with her! In passing before the Senate, she remembered her prayer not to be obliged to re-enter that palace, more than once. “God, in his great mercy, has done more than I requested, for I shall not be under the necessity of going into it again;⁠—and that bronze monument,” added she, looking at the statue of Peter the Great, “was the instrument which the Almighty used to direct my steps.”

Notwithstanding the lively interest of her new friends, she was destined to attain her end by other assistance than theirs.

The merchant, who had returned from Riga a few days before, was astonished to find Prascovia still in his house, and had begun to inquire for that of the Princess T. This lady, who already expected Prascovia, ordered him to bring her immediately. Though she regretted to leave the good people with whom she had lived for two months, she was too intent on her great purpose, not to be anxious to be introduced, as early as possible, to a protectress, from whom she might derive the most important services.

A Swiss in showy livery opened the door. Prascovia taking him for a Senator, dropped a low courtesy. “It is only the doorkeeper, child,” whispered her host.⁠—When they had reached the first story, the Swiss rang twice. Prascovia did not know the meaning of it; but having remarked, that the doors of some shops were provided with bells, she imagined that it was a precaution against thieves. In the saloon, everything she saw and heard, was calculated to fill her with admiration and amazement. Never had she seen so much splendour; never had she entered a room lighted like this; never had she imagined that a large company could move with so little noise, converse in almost inaudible voices, and bear the same air of dignity and state. The company was dispersed in small groups: the youngest among them, were round card-tables, in one corner of the saloon. Many persons were standing near one of these tables, where the Princess was playing whist with three other persons. As soon as she saw Prascovia, she motioned her to approach. “Good evening, my dear: have you not a letter for me?” Unluckily she had not yet taken it from her little bag, and was rather awkward in getting it from under her tucker, which caused some whispering and tittering among the younger part of the company. The Princess read the letter attentively. Her partner, who was not much pleased with this interruption of the game, drummed on the table, and fixed an ill humoured look on the new guest. Prascovia thought she recognized in him the corpulent gentleman, who had refused to receive her petition. While the Princess was folding the letter, the gentleman bolted out with his “trumps!” Prascovia, already greatly disconcerted, observing that he continued to stare at her, thought probably he had said something to her, and asked with trepidation, “What do you say, Sir?” the laughers did not lose the occasion to be merry at her expense. The Princess greatly commended her conduct and filial piety, and promised to assist her. Turning then towards a lady who was sitting next her, she addressed a few words to her, in French, whereupon the latter took Prascovia politely by the arm, and conducted her to the room which was prepared for her.

During the first days of her abode in the Princess’s palace, Prascovia, finding herself almost always alone, was low-spirited, and regretted not only the company of her friends at Vasili-Ostrov, but even the house of the merchant. Insensibly she became more familiar with her new acquaintances, and, to the humblest servant, every person in the house endeavoured to imitate the kindness with which the Princess distinguished her. Though she eat at the table of this lady, she never had an opportunity of speaking with her, and her protectress was often prevented, by the infirmities of age, from dining with her. The persons of her retinue soon became so much accustomed to Prascovia’s face, that they forgot she was a stranger, and what her business was. When she begged one of them to mention her affair to their mistress, her entreaties were fruitless, whether because they neglected to speak to the Princess, or because the latter found it impossible to fulfil her intentions. She visited sometimes her less illustrious friends in Vasili-Ostrov, and put all her hopes on their assistance.

During the time she lived at the merchant’s, a clerk of the Empress-mother’s Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Violier, had advised her to solicit her Majesty for succour, and had offered to take charge of her petition. The Secretary, believing that she needed only the ordinary relief of the poor, set apart fifty roubles for her, and sent her word to call on him. The next morning she went to his house: he was absent, but Mrs. Violier, received Prascovia, talked with her, and heard her story with as much surprise as interest. The acquaintance between charitable persons and the afflicted, is like the meeting of old friends, long separated by travels or difference of fortune. In the first hour that Prascovia passed with Mrs. Violier, she felt for her as much gratitude as for an old benefactress.

The lady desired her to wait for Mr. Violier, and when this gentleman, on his return home, saw her and heard her tale, instead of offering alms, he promised to speak, on the same day, to the Empress in her behalf. He begged her to remain to dinner, hoping that, at his return from the Palace, whither at that moment his official duties obliged him to go, he should be able to give her some news.

The Empress directed her Secretary to present Prascovia to her, on the same evening, at six o’clock. The astonished girl almost fainted, when Mr. Violier brought her this news: instead of thanking him, she raised her eyes to heaven, and said in a trembling voice: “Thus, oh God! have I not in vain put my trust in thee.” In her extreme agitation, she seized the hands of Mrs. Violier, covered them with her kisses, and begged her to express her gratitude to the generous man, to whom her father would be indebted for his liberty.

Towards evening, making a very trifling change in her simple dress, she accompanied Mr. Violier to the Imperial Palace. Remembering what her father had told her, of the difficulty of being admitted into it, she said to Mr. Violier: “Oh! if he could now see me, and know in the presence of whom I shall soon find myself, how happy would he feel!”

Without any preparation for what she had to say, or any direction of what she was to do, she entered the cabinet of the Empress, perfectly self-possessed. The Empress received her with her characteristic benevolence, and put several questions to her, with a desire to have farther details of her history, than the Secretary had been able to give. Prascovia answered with as much respect and composure, as the best educated person could have shown, on such an occasion. Persuaded that her father was innocent, she did not solicit his pardon, but the revision of his trial. The Empress praised her for her courage and filial virtue, offered to recommend her to the Emperor, and ordered that three hundred roubles should be given to her, as an earnest of farther interest and protection.

Prascovia left the palace with such a sense of these favours, that when Mrs. Violier asked her, if she was pleased with her reception, she could answer only with her tears.

A lady of the Princess’s retinue, remembering that she had not met with Prascovia, since she had walked out in the morning, was, on inquiring, informed by the servant, who had accompanied her, that he had seen her go with Mr. Violier in a carriage to the palace, and she quickly inferred that she must have been presented at court. When she entered the Princess’s mansion, towards the close of the evening, she was, for the first time since her first visit, ushered into the assembly room, where her recent fortune had already produced a happy revolution in her favour. The persons who had shown her friendship, were less profuse in congratulations, than those who had treated her with indifference. Some of the latter discovered that she had fine eyes and was well made. When she said that she was now certain of her father’s liberty, nobody thought that it could be otherwise; and several persons, less hasty in encouraging her confidence, offered to recommend her to the ministers. The amateur of whist congratulated her, as soon as he rose from his game.

When she awoke next morning, she asked herself: “Is it not all a dream? have I indeed, seen the Empress? has she, indeed, deigned to speak to me with so much goodness?”⁠—She rose hastily to look in a drawer, to convince her self, by the sight of the present she had received, that her imagination did not deceive her.

A few days afterwards, the Empress-mother assigned her a pension, and introduced her, herself, to the Emperor and his august consort, who both received her with the most gracious kindness and benevolence, and presented her with five thousand roubles. But what gave her the greatest happiness, was his Imperial Majesty’s command, that the trial of her father should immediately be revised.

The lively interest with which she inspired Count Kotchoubey, then Minister of the Interior, and all his family, removed many difficulties which might yet have retarded the accomplishment of her dearest wishes. That estimable statesman united in his person two things, which are not often found together: the inclination, and the means of doing good; and many afflicted families had cause to thank him, before they imagined that he knew of their misfortunes.

The revision of Lopouloff’s trial fell happily, under the jurisdiction of this Minister, and from that moment Prascovia was certain of success. Known to the Imperial family, and protected by the Minister, she soon became the object of universal interest. The Representatives of foreign Courts vied with the most distinguished inhabitants of the capital, in giving her marks of esteem and affection. Some ladies settled on her an annual pension. Yet these seductive favours did not alter the simplicity of her character, nor the modesty of her manners; and if anything distinguished her from any other demure and humble country girl, it was but the fearlessness of perfect innocence. After a most laborious study of society, a sagacious mind will feel convinced, that perfect artlessness, and an unassuming demeanour, are the most captivating qualities; and thus learn that, after all, nature is our best and unerring guide. The unsophisticated Prascovia could, without effort, display the winning graces of simplicity, and mingle, without the least disparagement, in the best society, her good sense and sound judgment supplying the place of education. Her quick and happy repartees discountenanced many, who had been more favoured in this latter respect.

Being once interrupted in her narrative, in the presence of a numerous company, by a person, who asked her for what crime her father had been banished, she answered indignantly, and in a tone of cold reproof: “Sir, a father is never culpable in the eyes of his children, and mine is innocent.”

Though she could not but observe the enthusiasm she inspired, in the unconscious display of the noble qualities of her soul, it had no influence on her behaviour or language; and, when she touched upon her history, she seemed but to answer queries, and never betrayed an intention of exciting the sympathy of her hearers. She wondered that her conduct should be praised, and she could not conceal her displeasure, when she was commended in exaggerated terms.

She spent the time she was obliged to remain in the capital, in the expectation of the final sentence of her father’s trial, very happily. Every enjoyment was new to her and delicious. The manner in which she expressed her emotions, on these occasions, was often very striking.

Accompanying, one day, the Countess W. through the interior of the Imperial palace, she exclaimed, on seeing the throne: “Is this the throne of the Emperor? oh! how I once dreaded to appear before it!” and, crossing her hands and turning pale, she whispered in a faltering voice: “Is this really the throne of the Emperor?” The awe, the fear, the reverence, with which this image of sovereign power had once filled her, were now blended with feelings of love and gratitude for the Monarch. She asked permission to approach the Imperial seat. With a trembling step she advanced towards it; and, throwing herself at the foot of it, she burst into tears, exclaiming: “Oh! my father, see where the omnipotence of God has conducted me. God, merciful God, bless this seat and him who occupies it! May he, through his whole life, be as happy as I now am.” She could with difficulty be induced to leave this room, and such was her emotion, that her friends found it necessary to defer showing her the rest of the palace, to some other day. She did not recognise the rooms where she had been presented to the Imperial family. When she entered the splendid assembly room of the Knights of St. George, she thought she was in a chapel, and crossed herself.

On the day her friends accompanied her through the Hermitage, she seemed to take great pleasure in looking at the pictures, with which this splendid palace is decorated, and she explained readily the religious subjects of some of them. But seeing a drunken Silenus supported by Bacchantes and Satyrs⁠—a picture of Luca Giordano⁠—she said: “What an ugly thing! what does this represent?” Having never heard of mythology, it was difficult to make her understand the subject of the picture. But when she was told, that it was a fable, she said: “I thought that there was no truth in it: men with goats’ feet! what folly to paint things that never have existed, as if there were a want of true ones.” Poor Prascovia was doomed to learn, at the age of twenty-one, what commonly is taught to children. However, her curiosity was never indiscreet; she seldom asked a question, and endeavoured, by her own efforts, to satisfy herself, about whatever fell under her observation, that was new or that she did not understand.

Nothing gave her more pleasure than to be with well-informed persons, who conversed among themselves, without thinking of her. Her eyes wandered then from one speaker to another; and the attention with which she listened was so intense, that she could remember every remark, which the limited extent of her acquirements enabled her to comprehend.

In the company of her intimate friends, she loved to dwell on the benevolent reception of the two Empresses, and to repeat every word they had honoured her with. Her emotion could not but increase, on hearing many other examples of the magnanimity and goodness of her sovereigns, and she wondered that they were not the usual topic of conversation.

The ukaze for the recall of her father was delayed, however, longer than she had expected. Pascovia had not forgotten the two prisoners, who had offered to assist her. But when she mentioned them to her protectors, they advised her not to embarrass the success of her principal request, by asking this additional favour; and for fear of injuring the interests of her parents, she was obliged to yield. But her good intentions prevailed at last; for on the day that the ukaze for the pardon of her father was to be despatched to the Governor of Siberia, the Emperor, in ordering his minister to congratulate Prascovia, directed him to ask her, at the same time, if she had no favour to solicit for herself. She answered immediately, that the only additional boon she desired, was the liberty of two of her father’s fellow sufferers. Her wish was complied with, and together with the ukaze, which set her father at liberty, was sent that for the recall of her two friends, who thus obtained their liberty, in return for the offer of a few kopecks.

Nothing now prevented Prascovia from making her long intended pilgrimage to the cathedral of Kiev; and in meditating on the last incidents of her life, she determined definitively to give herself up entirely to her religious duties. While she prepared herself for her new career, and went through the preparations for the monastic vow, her father enjoyed the liberty she had procured him. He received the joyful tidings twenty months after her departure. By an inexplicable mishap, he had heard nothing of her during that whole time. The Emperor Alexander had, in that interval, ascended the imperial throne, and on that occasion many prisoners were liberated, but none of those exiled at Ischim. Lopouloff and his wife felt so much the more discouraged. The separation from their only child had brought them to the brink of despair, when suddenly a messenger from the Governor of Tobolsk arrived with the ukaze of their liberty, a passport for their journey to Russia, and a sum of money.

This event, and the manner in which it was brought about, produced a great sensation in Siberia. Many of the inhabitants and prisoners of Ischim, were anxious to see the happy parents. Those who had ridiculed Prascovia’s enterprise, and chiefly those who had refused to assist her, now deeply regretted their error. Nothing was wanting to complete Lopouloff’s happiness, but the liberty of his two compassionate friends, for he was yet ignorant that they also had obtained their pardon.

These two men, who were both at an advanced age, had been exiled to Siberia since the rebellion of Pougatcheff, in which their youthful passions had engaged them. Lopouloff’s closer acquaintance with them, was dated only from the time that his daughter entered on her pilgrimage. Of all his acquaintance, they alone had manifested a sincere interest for her. Afterwards, they often conversed together of Prascovia, and formed conjectures on the issue of her enterprise. Hope and fear succeeded each other upon these occasions. Lopouloff finding himself now in a situation to show them his friendship, offered to divide with them the money he had received; but they refused to accept anything. “I need nothing,” said one of them, “for I have yet the piece of money I offered to your daughter.”

Dejection bordering on despair, was probably the cause of their refusal. They were about parting with their only friend. They remembered that Prascovia had promised them, to interest herself in their favour: and believing the exaggerated accounts which reached Ischim, of the reception she had met with at court, they were unwilling to let her father know the extent of their disappointment.

In order to avoid the pain of witnessing his departure, they went the evening before to take their leave of him, and they returned home with feelings of the deepest anguish.

When they had gone, Lopouloff and his wife lamented the fate of their unfortunate friends. “Prascovia surely has not forgotten them,” said they.⁠—“Perhaps she may yet obtain their freedom.”⁠—“We will beg her to renew her intercession in their favour.” After some farther observations of this sort, they retired, to be ready, early the next morning, for their departure.

They had scarcely closed their eyes, when they heard a noise at their door. Lopouloff rose, and met the messenger with the despatches for the two prisoners. He had searched in vain for the Captain-Ispravnik or head commissary, to whom he intended to deliver the despatch; and returned now to learn from Lopouloff, the lodging of the two exiles. They had gone home, in deep silence, and seated themselves on a bench, neglecting in their feeling of despair, even to light a candle: of what could they converse in these mournful moments? what consolation could they find in each other’s countenance? all hope for them, as they thought, had vanished, and an eternal exile seemed now their only and certain prospect.

They thus sat brooding for two hours, over their present misery, and their woeful futurity, when the glimmering of a lantern suddenly threw light into the room, through its little lattice. They heard steps near the door; one knocks;⁠—and the well-known voice of a friend cries: “Open, open! your pardon! your pardon! open.”

It would be vain to attempt to describe the scene that now occurred. At first, some broken expressions could alone be heard: “Pardon!”⁠—“The Emperor: God bless him! God bless him!”⁠—“Thousand benedictions to Prascovia! no, no, she has not forgotten us!” Seldom had the transition from profound despair to the greatest earthly bliss, been so sudden and so unexpected: never, perhaps, had a good turn of fortune been more deeply felt.

The Captain-Ispravnik, having been informed that a messenger was searching for him, ran after him, and in the presence of the two prisoners, opened the packet, which contained a passport for each of them, and a letter from Prascovia to her father. Among other things, she mentioned, that she would have solicited a pecuniary assistance for her two friends, had not God given her the means to make them herself a present, in return for the generous offer they had made her, at her departure from Siberia. The present consisted of two hundred roubles.

Prascovia anxiously waited for an answer from her parents. In taking the veil at Kiev, she was, nevertheless, determined to fulfil the promise she had given to the Abbess at Niejeni.29 She wrote to her, after having finished her devotions, and shortly afterwards determined to depart for Niejeni.

The Abbess, in the expectation of seeing her soon, did not write to inform her of the arrival of her parents at Niejeni. She went to meet Prascovia at the gate of the convent, with all the nuns. Prascovia threw herself at the Abbess’s feet, and her first enquiry was for news from her parents. “Come, my child,” said the old lady, “into my room, we have good tidings for you;” and she conducted her through the galleries and aisles of the monastery. The silence of the nuns might have awakened her fears, had their countenances not been expressive of joy.

In entering the Abbess’s closet, she saw her parents. They had heard nothing of her arrival; they knew not that she had taken the veil, and they threw themselves at her feet, overwhelmed by mingled feelings of gratitude, admiration, and grief. “What are you doing?” shrieked Prascovia, and gasping with her emotions, and falling on her knees, she added: “to God, to God alone we owe our felicity. Let us thank Him for His miraculous interposition.” The nuns, deeply moved by this affecting scene, joined in the thanksgiving of the happy family, who, after this first burst of gratitude to their merciful Creator, exchanged demonstrations of love and tenderness, in the midst of which the mother, pointing to Prascovia’s veil, gave way to her feelings and sobbed aloud.

The pleasure they found in their meeting, they knew, would be of short duration, and was therefore not unmingled with regret. Prascovia, in taking the veil, deprived her parents of the happiness they would have found in her company; and the new separation for which they were obliged to prepare themselves, seemed to them more painful than the former, because they could not flatter themselves, as then, to spend, perhaps, the rest of their lives with her. Their means did not permit them to establish themselves at Niejeni. Mrs. Lopouloff had relations at Vladimir, who invited her to live with them; and necessity obliged both parents to accept this invitation. After having passed a week with their daughter, in a quick succession of alternately delicious and agonizing feelings, they determined to depart. The mother was deeply distressed. “What have we gained,” said she, “by this liberty, after which we longed so much! all the toils, and even the success of my poor child, have but ended in her eternal separation from us! I wish rather we had remained in Siberia with her forever!”

Such complaints may be forgiven to the aged mother of a daughter like Prascovia.⁠—“She was her only child; beside her, she had neither son nor daughter.”30

Prascovia, in taking leave of her parents, in presence of the Abbess, promised to pay them a visit at Vladimir, in the course of the year. The whole family, accompanied by the nuns, went then to the church. Prascovia, though more profoundly affected than her parents, encouraged them, and seemed anxious to give them an example of resignation and fortitude. Yet, she found it difficult to guard herself against the overpowering movements of nature; she glided, after a short prayer, into the choir, where the other nuns were assembled, and showing herself through the grate, she said to her parents, with a ghastly effort at cheerfulness: “Farewell, my beloved: your daughter belongs to God, but she will not forget you. Dear father, my dearest mother, resign yourself to the sacrifice prescribed by Providence, and may the blessings of the Almighty accompany you wherever you go.” Her overwhelming emotion obliged her to lean against the grate, and to give a free course to her tears. The poor mother, overcome by grief, rushed towards her, with inarticulate cries of anguish. At a signal given by the Abbess, a black veil fell, and prevented a useless renewal of so distressing a scene. At the same moment, the nuns broke forth into the Psalm⁠—

“The good man’s way is God’s delight;
He orders all the steps aright
Of him that moves by his command;
Though he may sometimes be distress’d,
Yet shall he ne’er be quite oppress’d;
For God upholds him with his hand.”

Lopouloff and his wife had seen their daughter for the last time. A few minutes after wards, they departed from Niejeni.

Prascovia submitted herself with perfect resignation to the severe rules of the convent, showed the greatest zeal in the fulfilment of her several duties, and won every day more and more the affection and esteem of her new companions. But her health declined rapidly, and the mountainous situation of the convent was no way calculated to retard the development of the malady which preyed upon her. After a year, a change of residence was recommended to her by her physicians.

The Abbess, being at that time obliged to go to St. Petersburg, determined to take Prascovia with her. In this she was actuated, not only by a hope that the change of place might have a good effect on Prascovia’s health, but by a wish also, that the interests of her convent might be served, by the friends she had in the capital. Prascovia was now again a petitioner, but a more disinterested one than before; and instead of partaking in the pleasures of society, as she did then, she visited only those persons whose acquaintance she was bound by gratitude and friendship, to cultivate.

Her features were already much altered, by her wasting disease, the consumption; but even in her decayed state, her countenance was one of the most agreeable and interesting that could be seen. She was rather of a low stature, but well made; her black veil, though it excluded all ornament of her hair, showed to advantage the fine shape of her face; her eyes were of a deep black, her forehead was large, and her look and smile had a remarkable expression of sweet pensiveness.

She was aware of the nature and the danger of her disease, and all her thoughts were fixed on that future existence, for which she waited without fear, but yet without impatience.

The, Abbess, having despatched all the business which had caused her visit to the capital, prepared to return with Prascovia to Niejeni. On the day before their departure, Prascovia, on entering the house of some friends, of whom she wished to take leave, found a young girl lying at the foot of the staircase, reduced to the most abject state of misery. Seeing a lady followed by a liveried servant, the unfortunate creature raised herself to beg alms; and presenting a paper, she added, that her father was palsied, and lived only by the assistance which she was able to obtain, from charitable persons; but that she herself was so ill, that she had not strength enough to beg. Prascovia seized the paper with a trembling hand: it was a certificate of good character and poverty, signed by a parochial priest. She remembered the time, when she also was sitting on the staircase of the Senate, in hope of relief from her suffering, and when she solicited in vain for compassion. She hastened to give to the poor girl all the money she had about her, and promised her farther assistance. On her recommendation, the friends, whom she went to visit, became the protectors of this poor girl and her father.

She had hoped to obtain, before her departure from St. Petersburg, a dispensation from the law, by which, in Russia, novices are prohibited from making their final vows, before attaining the age of forty; but in this her hopes were disappointed.

On their return to Niejeni, the Abbess and Prascovia passed a few days in a convent at Novogorod,31 where the discipline was less severe than in their own, and the situation of which was more favourable to the health of the novice, who besides had the pleasure to meet here, with a sister of one of her companions at Niejeni. The young nun seemed extremely solicitous to possess her friendship, and informing her of the permission her sister had obtained, to change her residence at Niejeni for that of Novogorod, she urged her to follow her example and to come with her. The Abbess, who hoped that such a change might be beneficial to her health, consented, though she extremely regretted parting with her, and soon after their return to their convent, she made the necessary application for her transfer to Novogorod.

Prascovia shortly afterwards left the latter place, followed by the good wishes and regrets of all her acquaintance and companions. She was obliged to wait two months at her new residence, before she could be put in possession of a small wooden house of two cells, which she had caused to be constructed for herself and her friend, for want of such accommodation in the convent. Yet, she was considered as belonging to it, and all the sisters, who were already acquainted with her, looked upon her arrival as a great happiness, and gladly performed those duties for her, which were beyond her strength.

She lived in this way, until the close of 1809; and, like most persons afflicted with consumption, Prascovia, though resigned to an early death, did not think that her end was near. On the evening before her death, she walked with less fatigue than she had for some time before, through the convent, and, wrapped in a pelisse, sat down at the steps to enjoy the exhilarating influence of the sun, on a wintry day. She mused pensively on the events of her life, and remembered the more vividly those of her infancy, as the aspect of nature contributed to carry her back to Siberia. Observing some travellers glide rapidly before her in a sledge, her heart began to beat as if kindled by some cheering recollections. “Next spring,” she said to her friend, “if I am well enough, I will pay a visit to my parents at Vladimir, and you shall go with me.” Her eyes beamed with joy, while death already discoloured her lips. Her companion could not without difficulty assume a composed countenance and contain her tears.

On the next day, the eighth of December, 1809, the festival of St. Barbara, she had still strength to go into the church to partake of the communion, but at three o’clock she was so reduced, that she laid herself undressed on her bed, to take, as she thought, a little repose. Several of her companions were in the cell, and, not aware of her situation, talked gaily and laughed, in the hope of amusing her. But their presence became soon too fatiguing for her, and when the vesper bell was rung, she desired them to join their sisters in the chapel, and recommended herself to their prayers. “You may yet today,” she said, “pray for my recovery, but in a few weeks you will mention me, in the prayers for the dead.” Her friend alone remained, and she begged her to read to her the evening service as she was accustomed to do. The young nun, kneeling at the foot of the bed, began to sing in a low voice. But after the first verses, the dying Prascovia having made her a sign with her hand, accompanied by a faint smile on her lips, she rose, bent over her, and could with difficulty catch these words: “My dear friend, do not sing, it prevents me from praying; read only.”

The nun kneeled again, and while she recited the orisons, her expiring friend made, from time to time, the sign of the cross. The room was now becoming dark.

When the nuns re-entered with candles, Prascovia was dead. Her right hand was extended over her breast, as when she crossed herself for the last time.

Endnotes

  1. Bête is not translatable here. The English word “animal” is hardly nearer than “beast.” Bête is a milder word than “beast,” and when used metaphorically, implies silliness rather than brutality. In some cases our “creature” would translate it, Pauvre bête! “Poor creature!” —⁠Attwell

  2. Vide Werther, chapter XXVIII. —⁠Attwell

  3. The reader will probably have been reminded of the “Sentimental Journey” before reaching this proof of our author’s acquaintance with the writings of Sterne. —⁠Attwell

  4. A fashionable milliner of the time. —⁠Attwell

  5. This work was not published. —⁠Attwell

  6. The botanical garden of Turin. —⁠Attwell

  7. Richardson’s Clarissa Harlowe. —⁠Attwell

  8. Goethe’s Werther. —⁠Attwell

  9. Cleveland, by the Abbé Prévost. —⁠Attwell

  10. Some freedom of translation is, perhaps, pardonable here. Our author, depending, it would seem, upon his memory, gives Satan wings large enough “to cover a whole army.” It was “the extended wings” of the gates of hell, not of Satan, that Milton describes as wide enough to admit a “bannered host.” Paradise Lost, II 885. —⁠Attwell

  11. A popular Turin physician when the “Voyage” was written. —⁠Attwell

  12. A title known at the Sardinian court. —⁠Attwell

  13. Andrews translates the dog’s name as “Rosine.” We have changed it here to “Rose” for consistency with Attwell’s translation in “A Journey Round My Room.” —⁠S.E. Editor

  14. Andrews translates this as “the other one.” We have changed it here to “the other” for consistency with Attwell’s translation in “A Journey Round My Room.” —⁠S.E. Editor

  15. “On the Happiness of Fools,” 1782. —⁠Andrews

  16. The author was on duty in Piedmont, when the prvvince of Savoy, in which he was born, was ceded back to France. —⁠Andrews

  17. According to Malte Brun, the Tchetchengs live in seven great villages, and are a branch of the Gosski or Mountaineer tribes. —⁠Carey & Lea

  18. Mosdok: 43° 44′ 5″ lat. 44° 40′ 27″ long. E. Greenwich. —⁠Carey & Lea

  19. His name was Ivan Smirnoff, which might be translated “John the Mild;” an appellation which, as will be seen, was strangely contrasted with his character. —⁠Carey & Lea

  20. A common expression of the Russian soldiers, in moments of danger. —⁠Carey & Lea

  21. A cloak of shaggy waterproof felt, not unlike a bear skin, which is the ordinary upper-dress of the Cossacks, and only fabricated in their country; with this piece of furniture, they care little for rain and mud, when lying whole nights at the watch-fire. —⁠Carey & Lea

  22. Iegroviesky: 44° 8′ 55″ lat. 43° 29′ 12″ long. —⁠Carey & Lea

  23. Ischim is at 3,012 versts from St. Petersburg, 2,375 from Moscow, and 342 from Tobolsk.

    It is rather a small town than a village. “It is,” says Captain John Dundas Cochrane, “a miserable town on the stream of its own name. I could get no attention paid me, either as to lodging or food; and though the rain fell in torrents, I and my Cossacks were obliged to pass the night in the marketplace.” —⁠Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey. London 1824. p. 130.

    For farther details of Ischim, see also pages 529 and 530, of the same work. —⁠Carey & Lea

  24. Yekaterinburg, in the government of Perne, at 2,496 versts from St. Petersburg, 56° 50′ 38″ lat. and 60° 40′ 15″ long. E. of Greenwich. —⁠Carey & Lea

  25. Niejeni Novogorod, at 1,176 versts from St. Petersburg, and 449 from Moscow.

    For the modern embellishments of this city, and the works constructed for the Fair, see the Narrative of the Pedestrian Journey, pages 82 and 550. —⁠Carey & Lea

  26. The Catacombs of Kiev are large subterraneous galleries under the Cathedral, containing the remains of a great number of Greek saints, dressed in rich apparel, but of whose persons only the faces, hands, and feet are visible: yet the bodies are said to be entire. The fleshy part of them has the colour and hardness of mahogany. The religious service at the Cathedral, is committed to the monks of an ancient and rich monastery. —⁠Carey & Lea

  27. Moscow, at 727 versts from St. Petersburg. —⁠Carey & Lea

  28. A quarter of St. Petersburg, on the right bank of the Neva. —⁠Carey & Lea

  29. In Russia, the nuns make no vow of perpetual seclusion. —⁠Carey & Lea

  30. Judges 11:34. —⁠Carey & Lea

  31. Novogorod, at 185 versts from St. Petersburg, 58° 31′ 33″ lat. and 31° 19′ 39″ long. E. of Greenwich. —⁠Carey & Lea

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Short Fiction
was compiled from short stories published between 1794 and 1825 by
Xavier de Maistre.
It was translated from French between 1871 and 1899 by
John Andrews, Henry Attwell, H. C. Carey, and I. Lea.

Ray Riga
sponsored the production of this ebook for
Standard Ebooks.
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