The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Rebellion in the Cevennes, an Historical Novel, by Ludwig Tieck and Madame Burette This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Rebellion in the Cevennes, an Historical Novel Vol. II. Author: Ludwig Tieck Madame Burette Release Date: March 22, 2010 [EBook #31739] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK REBELLION IN THE CEVENNES, VOL II *** Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans by Google Books.
The next morning Edmond felt himself considerably better. Cavalier continually flitted before his eyes, and it appeared to him as if arms lifted him from his couch, in order to follow his friends. When Eustace had fallen asleep towards noon, he arose quietly, took his rifle and with light footsteps hastily descended the mountain path. He felt light and well, it seemed as if he had never yet walked so rapidly and so indefatigably. He avoided the high road, and again a sort of instinctive knowledge conducted him through the shortest and safest ways.
When the sun went down and the shadows became darker, images arose in his imagination more clear and defined with the encreasing obscurity. When night came on, he also distinguished the other forms in the group, his father, Franz, the paternal home and the little slumbering Eveline appeared to him, dark figures were lurking about, threatening destruction.
An hour before midnight, he was standing on the top of a mountain, beneath him lay a dark valley, a large house, lights gleamed from only a few of the windows. What was his surprise on recovering his recollection. It was his home, and he arrived at it by a road that he had never before trodden. Here he had lately waved a last farewell to his father. He descended. He heard whisperings in the vineyard, he perceived figures moving along creeping. Familiar as he was with the place, he easily gained the back of a rocky wall of a grotto in which he heard voices speaking. "It must soon take place," said a hoarse voice, "and truly as I have arranged, it would be better from the garden, let us all assemble in the vaulted passage, from thence we shall with greater facility reach the lower window. Two or three others might in the mean while ascend the ladder and enter by the window there above. The old man, the child and the domestics must be put to death. But no shooting, I tell you, for there are royal troops quite close, who would most certainly forbid us to plunder, on that account also you must not set fire to the house."
Edmond stole down, behind the barn he found Cavalier and his troop, who were amazed at seeing him so suddenly and rejoiced at the news he brought. He conducted them by a different way into the garden and posted them at the back of the entwined arbour, which, moreover, had no opening at the sides. He took half of the troops with him to guard the entrance. The robbers were already in the dark beach avenue; when they saw men advancing towards them they retreated, but Edmond pursued them; a fray ensued in the obscurity, and Cavalier and his party now also appeared and surrounded the assassins. Cavalier quickly caused a torch to be lighted and after a short, but murderous combat, when the bravest of the robbers had fallen, the rest were compelled to surrender, Cavalier caused them to be bound and carried away by his soldiers.
Edmond accompanied by a few followers went in the stillness of night round the house. He found a ladder ready placed by which it was evident that some of the robbers intended to enter. He could not resist the inclination to visit again the house of his childhood. When he reached the top, he found the whole household asleep, all the lights were extinguished. He now opened the hall door, there sat his venerable father, sleeping in an arm-chair, a night lamp by his side, the holy scriptures open before him. How pale and suffering he looked; for in the night, fatigue had overpowered him in his meditations. Edmond approached softly, and with a beating heart. "He has given his angels charge over thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways." This passage presented itself to his eyes from the open book. Inspired he looked up, wrote his name on a slip of paper and placed it upon this text of the bible. Then in his dream the old man sighed, "Edmond! my son!"--"Oh how unworthy am I of these tones, this affection, this attachment!" said Edmond to himself. He was impelled downwards, he kissed his fathers feet and then departed.--He shut the window, caused the ladder to be carried into the garden and then followed Cavalier's troop through the night back into the wood.
They proceeded with the troop in silence. In order to elude the king's soldiers, who were in the neighbourhood, they were compelled to make a circuit. Catinat with his band conducted the prisoners that they might be delivered up to Roland, to pronounce sentence on them in the lonely mountains, and Cavalier and Edmond separated from their companions in order to reach the distant height by a footpath through the wood.
They walked together in silence for a long time. In Edmond's mind all that had appeared to him solid was by the late crowding events thrown confusedly together. The wound and the weakness that it occasioned, the wandering in the night and the emotions which alternately shook him, had at first wonderfully raised his mental and physical strength, and now almost entirely exhausted it. As they advanced farther into the obscurity of the wood, he thought of himself and his concerns as of a stranger; what he had experienced, what desired and effected flitted in his memory as a strange tale of by-gone times, and Cavalier appeared either to respect his silence, or to be himself too much occupied with weighty thoughts to require any conversation. On issuing from the wood, the light of the moon broke forth from behind heavy, lowering clouds. As the silvery light with its calm brightness spread over the rocks, the venerable head of his father presented itself to the imagination of the youth, and a refreshing and reviving flood of tears gushed from his eyes. He turned to his companion to excuse his long protracted silence.
"Brother," replied the latter, "the spirit has also visited me and shewn me visions in which I viewed a consoling futurity. Oh that that, which I know will and must take place, would soon happen, to spare the blood and sorrow of the poor people."
"What has been revealed to thee beloved brother," asked Edmond.
They seated themselves on a flat piece of rock which bordered on a precipice, and Cavalier began: "I imagined myself transported far, far from hence, beyond our mountains, our plains and rivers. I quitted my native mountains reluctantly. I saw foreign cities, I heard the various tones of different men. As I was carried away through the immensity of space, a beautiful, a very beautiful garden opened to my view, many cascades were throwing their waters up in the warm summer air, and beneath them there were strange figures of men and fish, and naked women, and marine animals, artificially hewn out of brilliant stone, every thing, such as I had never before seen, and I know not if I ever heard of them. A large and very extensive palace shone and dazzled with its innumerable columns and windows. While I was viewing all in amazement, I suddenly felt a conviction that I should immediately see our king, our Louis, descend from the great steps before which I stood, that I should speak to him, that he had already been waiting for me; and thus it happened, in all the splendour of majesty, surrounded by his whole court, he descended. He did not embarrass me, it was merely dazzling, as when the sun upon his journey suddenly darts through a vapour, and we still retain and know all our ideas and purposes. Now then was the moment upon which the fate of our country hung, in which to say all to him, who had requested to speak to me, and to move his humane, his kingly heart. This hour will come, in which the salvation of many, many thousands will repose on my tongue, and the Lord will then lay his fiery flame upon it, that its brand may also light his spirit; then will our brethren and our faith be free, then will all our foes fall powerless to the ground, and the sword be no more required. I will pray that this glorious day may only soon arrive, soon be sent by the Lord; that there may be an end to this unhappy warfare. When, just as I intended to address the King, we issued from the wood; thou spakest to me, and the prophetic vision disappeared." "How camest thou lately, my friend and brother, into our house?" asked Edmond, "a multiplicity of events has prevented me until this moment from asking you about it."
"That was a very, very disastrous day," replied Cavalier, as they proceeded onwards. "We were surrounded on all sides, by the treachery of a few faithless brethren, we were enticed down into the plain, the spirit was silent within us and we thought ourselves secure. A part of my people had gone to encounter the hermit and I heard (a false report as I afterwards learned) that he had been entirely routed, when, suddenly, another new army was in our rear. The fugitives before us rallied again and faced round. We were compelled to fight our way through in order to find the mountain footpath, where the heavy horse of the royal party could not follow; with great loss, it is true, but, still fortunately, I led my people through, I succeeded in turning the enemy, so that we had them only on one side of us. Fighting and flying we reached the wood and being one of the last that I might secure the retreat of my party, I found myself suddenly cut off. My horse carried me at full gallop as far as it could, I shot dead two dragoons, who were pursuing me, but the noble beast fell down; I lost sword, hat, and fire-arms, while I was disengaging myself from the saddle scarcely quick enough, I changed clothes with a peasant in a field; soldiers were scouring in every direction, at the risk of being recognised. I was forced to seek a shelter, and moreover the storm burst forth, and thus the Lord conducted me to the house of your venerable father. A few days after, things would have been much worse with me, if my younger brother, who is now a prisoner at Nismes, had not liberated me."
"With what admiration I must look upon thee, brother," resumed Edmond, "thou who younger than I, hast already done such great things, who hast had so much success, that the whole country speaks of thee. From whence proceeds this daring, yet circumspect courage, this experience, this skill to deceive the enemy, to conquer them, or to escape their artful snares! where couldst thou have learned all this?"
"I have not learned it," replied Cavalier, "nor do I know if the like can be learned. You esteem me too highly, brother Edmond, if you believe, that that which I do proceeds from reflection or skill. It is true I do not lose courage, I preserve my sang froid, although I see before and around me a thousand foes with their swords and guns, but such is my nature, there is no merit or extraordinary courage in this. When I was yet a little boy, minding my good old nobleman's sheep, I was never frightened when I perceived the wolf. I remained calm, and slew two of these bad fellows, whereupon every body admired my great courage, and I could not at all understand what they meant by it. Thus, then, my spirit was roused, and I engaged in this war, in which I soon succeeded in liberating my brethren and defeating the enemy, so that all the companions of the faith placed their full confidence in me, and expected the blessing and success of their hopes from me; but brother Roland is much wiser and more experienced, he has more penetration and I must be considered only as a learner in comparison to him, yet the Lord had not endowed him with so much success as me, on that account the combatants preferred following me. Now when I lead out the brethren, and the affair does not turn out as we have arranged and thought, the spirit suddenly directs me, I see, I remark all that which was before unknown to me, of its own accord my mouth gives the right orders, it soars, it hovers round me, so that I know not what to say, and it leads me and my followers through the enemy's troops. Like joyous intoxication, it flies with me through the tumult, and the victory is won."
"Thou wast a shepherd then in thy childhood?" said Edmond; "how fitting if they compare thee to David."
"I grew up poor and desolate in the solitude of the mountains," replied the former: "I had forgotten myself, I could never have thought that I should at some future period have to fight for the Lord, for my faith had died within me; and I agreed to all they proposed. Until then, zealous brethren rekindled the extinguished embers into flame, so that my life was restored, and I was enabled to seek and find the Lord. Afterwards, when they had so cruelly murdered our brethren, zealous wrath drove me into their holy community. And since then, I am an humble instrument in the hand of the Most High. I could not believe, that I should have been so highly honored, when I was compelled to endure all the drudgery of an apprentice at St. Hypolite, and my master, the baker, for a slight, often for no reason at all, beat me and pulled my hair; yet he was one of our firm companions in the faith, who, however could not control his passion."
"So the priest was right after all," said Edmond with a smile, "when he would recognise you for a baker by your knees." "Well," said Cavalier, "the singular man is not deficient in intellect and penetration. If he knew more of men than of their legs, perhaps he would be less impious, for, from the foot, he ought at length to arrive at the heart, and finally at the mind. It is true we probably stand in the same relation to great nature; and if the Lord in his mercy does not approach us personally, we cannot succeed even in loosening the thongs of his shoes, if it is indeed permitted to talk of him in such a worldly manner."
Just as daylight was extending itself over every object, and when they had turned round a projecting rock, they perceived in the valley beneath then, the Camisards marching with their prisoners. At the same moment old Favart came running up and announced to them, that Roland had descended with a troop from, the summit of that mountain, but that Colonel Julien with a considerable body of men, was now posted between them both, and that it would be very difficult to turn them. Catinat marched forward with his band and was highly exasperated on perceiving the obstacle to his further progress. "Mameluke!" exclaimed he, "this Julien whose death I have long since sworn, crosses all our undertakings. No mercy, should he once fall into our hands, nor need he expect any either, as he is an apostate brother, who has abandoned our reformed community, merely to please the government and to enjoy worldly honour."
A loud shouting was heard, and Ravanel with a band, who had fortunately escaped the royal troops, rushed from a narrow defile. They halted upon the summit and the prisoners were brought forward. The court martial, which was quickly held, sentenced them all to death, and scarcely were the words pronounced, when the ready Ravanel shot the foremost dead with his pistol, so that the gushing blood sprinkled Edmond, who was standing close by. The fallen man expired instantly after a few struggles. Edmond drew back pale and horrified.
"Thou hast surely not seen much blood yet, young man?" cried Ravanel mockingly; "Thou oughtst to celebrate thy consecration to-day, and massacre some of those wretches thyself."
"Not now, brother Ravanel," said Catinat, "the royal troops are stationed so near and we do not know their number, therefore we must not attract them hither by our firing. It would be difficult enough to disengage ourselves from them afterwards."
"But the villains must not be suffered to live!" exclaimed Ravanel, his anger aroused anew, drawing his sword he struck the next prisoner to him, who also fell instantly weltering in his blood.
"Ought a brother to be blood thirsty?" asked Edmond.
"He ought well be so," cried Ravanel turning angrily towards him: "Oh my friend, he, who has once tasted the pleasure of stretching an enemy at his feet, becomes like a lion after the palatable sweetness, scarcely able to spare his keeper. I am feeble and weak when I am long without seeing blood; it ascends like the smoke of a lamp in the mournful twilight, as the rosy dawn after the darkness of night."
Cavalier reprimanded the enthusiast for his cruelty, and Catinat led the remaining prisoners to the brink of a precipice, when they fell under the swords of the Camisards. Their leader the fiercest among them all, only remained alive. He now called out in a powerful voice: "Stay! far be it from me to beg for my life, I would not for once owe an obligation to such pitiable people, though, what I require, you may grant me without prejudice to yourselves."
"What dost thou require, knave?" asked Cavalier, while the others clustered still closer round him, "That you unbind my arms," said the fierce, wild man with an expression of the most profound contempt: "that I may once more, and for the last time, put my flask to my parched lips, which has been a friend and comforter to me in all my sorrows, and that you will afterwards be careful to deliver me speedily from such contemptible society as yours."
The Camisards murmured and would have cut him down, but at a sign from Catinat, they drew back, he himself unloosed the arms of the prisoner, and watched him with his drawn sword in his hand, lest despair, perhaps, might at the moment of his death, impel him to some fool-hardy attempt. But the powerful old man looked round him with the greatest composure, shook his arms and shoulders that he might feel his freedom after the restraint he had endured, then took a flask of wine from his bosom and emptying it jocosely, dashed it against the rock, where it broke in pieces, then turned to the bystanders, baring his neck as he said: "Now, if it please you!" Even Ravanel measured him with a look of surprise; and Edmond, who had watched all his movements, felt himself impelled by an inexplicable feeling to save the life of so ruthless a man. "Strange as I may appear to you, beloved brethren," cried he aloud advancing into the circle, "I entreat you nevertheless by the high esteem with which you honour me to make over this luckless man to me, that his fate may rest in my hands. Shall this lost creature, so unprepared, in all the nakedness of his crimes, go before his accusing Judge? shall we not try to moderate the fierce temperament and to lead the apostate closer to his Maker? Grant me this favour ye friends, do not refuse my petition and accept my own life as a pledge, that he will not repay this deliverance by treachery and falsehood?" Cavalier, from affection to Edmond, joined his entreaties to those of the youth, and after a short opposition from Ravanel and some murmurs from the troop, all unanimously consented to pardon the robber. Cavalier informed him that his sentence was remitted, that he might, added he, feel, that mercy which exists even in an enemy and that he might also seek for mercy at the throne of justice of the Eternal. The robber looked long and searchingly with his large fire-darting eyes on Edmond. He now bowed low to the little Cavalier, and said with a laughing countenance: "Ah! my little man! from whence derivest thou thy knowledge of Him on the throne of justice, that thou chatterest about him as if one had only to go round the corner there and knock at his house, and fee the doorkeeper for admission? You think, therefore, that I shall breathe the air within me, some time longer, and look upon this light which I have done for almost these seventy years past? Be it so. But I will not deceive you, you shall not give me this wretched life in order to rejoice at my conversion, for you have just pitched on the wrong one with all your atonement, godliness, and love. I will have nothing to do with your stories and fanaticism, with prayers and singing you shall also spare me, though I should have no objection to march out with you and fight valiantly, because I must do something, or other, and for the present I have nothing better to do."
Again a murmour arose, but now, there was no time to pass sentence, or to dispute, for the royal troops were already seen marching by. Each leader quickly betook himself to his troop, called to them, gave the word of command, and in a short time order was restored, and all in readiness to await the attack, Edmond and the robber, whose life he had solicited, stood in the ranks together. While each ranged himself in opposition to the other, several Camisards fell at the first salvo of the small cannon, but undismayed, they marched forward, singing their psalms aloud. They soon met hand to hand, and all appeared one confused mêleé, for Ravanel and his troop rushed like frantic upon the enemy, who soon gave way on that side; others tried to come to the help of the panic-striken men, and thus the mass fought confusedly on the limited space of ground. A stout officer seized Edmond, while a second raised his arm to hew down the youth, when the robber with gigantic strength, seized both the soldiers by the hair, and knocked their heads so forcibly together, that they fell senseless to the ground. But Edmond was rescued only for a moment, for he found himself directly afterwards engaged in a combat with several, and a heavy blow upon the arm disabled him. He was taken prisoner, while the king's troops were compelled by his friends to give way. They fled with their leaders, and carried him with them. He saw himself lost, without hope of deliverance.
In the wood Colonel Julien drew near and viewed his prisoners with surprise. He sent detachments hither and thither to reconnoitre the wood; he also sent a troop backwards, to see whether the rebels would turn, or if they intended to follow them.
"Leave this single prisoner to me," cried he to the last, which he also sent forward in some minutes. "I will soon dispose of this unarmed man. Is it needful?" turned he to Edmond, when he found himself quite alone with the latter; "So young man, must we see each other again? I would not believe the reports, nay, I can scarcely trust my own eyes now! Oh thou miserable father of so degenerate a son!"
"Apostate!" bitterly exclaimed Edmond, "hast thou indeed the right to use such language?"
"Go, fly," said Julien with an expression of the most contemptuous pity; "hasten into this thick underwood, I will pretend not to have seen you. Escape ignominy and execution, before my companions return and render it impossible."
Edmond sprang into the thick wood, enraged, ashamed and vexed: he ran without stopping, and was soon in the most lonely part, and when at last he fell exhausted and breathless in the cleft of a rock, he found the stout robber reposing there, whose life he had, through pity, generously solicited, as he in return had been obliged to accept his own from the hands of a former friend, who now despised him.
"Are you satiated with the buffoonery?" asked the fierce man of the youth after some time. "I should have thought that you had served your apprenticeship, and were now looking about for some more profitable business."
"Wretched man!" exclaimed Edmond, "thou, who neither believest in God, nor man, begone from my presence, for thy thoughts poison my mind."
"Not so haughty, young gentleman," cried the former in a bantering tone! "today my fist, in spite of my poisonous thoughts, has rendered you good service, that is, if you do not estimate life as cheaply as I do; but, as yet, your milky face has not the appearance of that. Why then are you of a disposition so inhumanly virtuous? Let me still continue to enjoy your gracious society, for I am indeed yours; early to-day, you begged me off indeed almost like a dog, therefore, you must allow me to bark and to remain near you, so that no other may bite you."
"How couldst thou then have sunk so low?" asked Edmond with some little sympathy. "I have merely remained stationary," said the former composedly, "I have only not been enabled to raise myself, and as I have perceived no wings on my shoulders, I had no wish to put any on, and still less to address myself on the subject to the first best goose I met, who, moreover, could not have assisted me."
"Thou meanest," said Edmond, "that thou hast formerly been a man like others?"
"Very probably," replied the robber: "now perhaps there is not so great a gulf between you and me. If one man rates himself so highly, then certainly to the mind the distance appears immeasureable as between the king and the beggar; but place both naked on a desert island together, then are they brothers and boon companions, provided the one does not devour the other. Thus is it also with the so called souls: when they compose verses, or are in love, then indeed they think themselves miracles enshrined, but let them but fall into despair, become utterly wild and untractable, then all affectation disappears like the rouge from the cheeks of the harlot when she is compelled to wander about in a shower of rain."
"Have you never heard my name perchance? I am called Lacoste, I should be surprised if you had not." Edmond became thoughtful. "It occurs to me," said he after a while, "that this name is not totally unknown to me; but I cannot revive my memory."
"Aye, good, young soul," continued Lacoste in his peculiar way. "In your green age, I was a gallant spendthrift, a sweet rabbit, that with rosy smiling lips, flattered every one, only tell me, have you ever yet loved passionately?"
"Oh silence!" angrily exclaimed Edmond: "who now would speak of that with you?"
"A curious discourse that we are holding," said Lacoste coolly; "if you know nothing of it, so much the better for you, but at your age, I was so thoroughly in love and enraptured, that a mere touch from me would have made a thousand men in love, as by the magnet the bar of iron acquires the power of attraction. At that time, the earth, with all its stones, appeared to me transparent, I was so benevolent and affectionate, that I would willingly have given my eye-brows to the nightingales, that they might carry them to their nests, to make a bed for their young brood. And beautiful was my beloved, the blind might almost have been aware of it, she was even still more loving and compassionate than I was. She would indeed have voluntarily taken upon herself all the suffering and sorrows of the whole world, would have even suffered herself to be condemned, could she thereby have released from hell, and make the hungry and sick, rich and healthy."
"Even in your wickedness," said Edmond, softened, "you represent this girl as a noble one, who was well worthy of her heavenly origin."
"Heavenly," said the former, "to disgust: quite natural. That is just what I mean. To every beggar she would have freely given her all; but to me--she saw my love, my despair, how I only breathed in her looks, how I withered away, and my grief, my inexpressible misery would assuredly have driven me to the grave or to madness.--But that was indifferent to her, more even then indifferent, it was pleasing to her."
"But how is such a thing possible?" asked Edmond.
"Every thing has its drawback," resumed Lacoste. "It is but just, when senseless fools, such as I was, are ill-treated by women, that they may serve as an example to other simpletons. But she would however have leant to mercy's rather than to justice's side, had it not been for a fault that lay within myself and which still oppresses me, although I do not see it as such."
"And what is it?"
"The same upon which our conversation commenced; those same wings which always sit so ridiculously upon us. To come to the point, I was not religious; I could by no means comprehend how people made this discovery. I had learned to think, to judge, to fancy, but I could believe neither of the new lights of which I had heard so much. From whence was I to derive it too? I exist, I rejoice if all goes on well with me, shall I render thanks for that? be resigned and humble? Well, to whom am I to rescribe the innumerable sorrows? all the sufferings of this wretched life? the multiplied griefs? There is no one whom I dare accuse of it. But even all this I am to receive with joy and humility! If it go well with me: superabundant benevolence; if wrong: parental correction. I cannot conceive such things as other brains have done. The nameless Being, whom I know not how to represent to myself at all, or only with giddiness and with terror, sustains worlds, permits shipwrecks, wars and earthquakes, therefore he may now suffer me and my thoughts. But he will, he cannot approach me closely, as they say, if I do not draw near him with contrition, if I do not believe and speak thus and thus of him; edifices, words, prostrations, belong thereto, in order to lay him as by magic in fetters, that he may take an interest in me, that he may love me, he must even first excite my commiseration. Aye, truly all this roused my wrath. Instead of these loving, religious men having patience, instructing and sympathising with me, they imagine they can offer no satisfaction to their God of love, if they do not hold me in execration."
"Fearful man!" exclaimed Edmonds "how could they do otherwise? if the flame of the stake be kindly; it certainly is so for such as you."
"Naturally!" said Lacoste, with a loud laugh. "As the jews burn gold out of old garments, so also out of the most hardened, callous and heartless sinner, a little spark of religion may be extracted by burning. The best and most supportable of all this, is that they massacre and inflict martyrdom on one another for the sake of this faith of love, and each treats the other as heretic, each curses the other and gives him up to hell, but, however much all parties may rage against one another, they still invariably agree in my damnation." "A sign," said the youth, "that though all may err in themselves, with regard to you, they still possess the truth."
"I envy them not their possession," replied the old man; "my life, all my sorrows, even when I became wicked and with justice so, I have only to thank this egoism, which calls itself humility, inspiration, love, or religion; I was rejected, persecuted, nay to use the silly expression, misunderstood, for what man knows another, or even himself? Impoverished, brokenhearted, I went forth, and my friends gladly saw me depart. In every country this self-same miserable farce was repeated. They would willingly have lent me their aid, confided in me, probably have loved me, had I but possessed this so called religion. The foolish virtue of my probity was lost sight of, that I would pretend to none, even to the very best of them. A few marriages which were almost decided upon with me, were broken off for the same cause. It did not fare better with me in other quarters of the world; thus am I become an old man, thus am I become a villain, and I returned, to revenge myself on my beloved countrymen, and on my friends. Then you came and spoiled the thing with me: just, you yourself! strange enough!"
"How so?" asked Edmond excited.
"Come let us go," said the stranger, "we ought to seek our comrades again."
They arose and walked as chance directed through mountain and wood. When they ascended higher, they observed a thick smoke advancing towards them, blackening the heavens with dark clouds. A distant cry directed their steps. As they proceeded, they beheld on the summit of the mountain a number of rebels moving hurriedly to and fro. When Edmond approached he thought he recognised Roland. It was he too, but before he was able to advance towards the leader, a young man rushed with a terrific shout, to meet him. "Brother!" exclaimed he, interrupted by sobs and rage, "brother, all is over! The incendiaries have rendered thee for ever unhappy."
It was difficult for Edmond to recognise his young friend Vila. "What is the matter with thee? whence comest thou?" asked he at length, amazed.
"I am now one of yours!" exclaimed Vila: "I have not been able to govern my heart, since I beheld the affliction of our people. Yes, I will assist you to annihilate, to murder, to tear to pieces these murderous slaves, which, to the shame of all created beings, bear but the figures of men." When Edmond desired to question, to gain some information, Vila drew him higher up the mountain, and the youth stood again above, and looked down, as on that night, upon his father's garden and house; but the house was in ruins, the fire was still raging through the apartments, and thick columns of smoke arose, between which was seen a consuming glow, that frequently sent red streams sideways and upwards; shepherds and peasants stood beneath, many were gazing fixedly on the spectacle, some seeking powerless help and deliverance.
"Where is my father?" exclaimed Edmond, when he had recovered from the first shock. "Fled," answered Vila, "no one knows whither; child, servants, all were compelled to escape, for the Marshal and the Intendant had summoned him to a severe account at Nismes. When miscreants, who call themselves soldiers, found the house quite empty, they plundered, and then set fire to it."
"I have now nothing more to care for," said Edmond coldly.
"Ah! ha!" cried Lacoste, "has it then fared so ill with the old Lord, my ancient rival, my former friend and foe? see now yourself, we had lately scarcely an idea of worse than what has now happened, when you, Ned, stopped us in the business."
No one heard him, and all gazed in silence, Edmond with deadly pale countenance, down on the raging fire.
The greatest agitation prevailed in the city of Nismes. New arrests had taken place, suspicion had increased still more, and many noblemen, who until then had escaped observation, were shut up in the prisons. No condition, no inhabitant was now deemed in safety, treachery lurked in every house. The Marshal had brought some of his ci-devant friends, even ladies, to a strict trial.
The amiable hero was concealed in the severe judge. The Intendant had never yet been so pleased with his opponent. The consternation was still greater in the country, and those who dwelt in the château, no longer knew how to escape the mistrust and suspicion of the rebellion, particularly the newly converted, whose assurances were not trusted, and whose devotedness and patriotism were no longer valued.
The physician, Vila, was also obliged to proceed to the city to answer numerous accusations against him. Deeply afflicted as he was, he however testified no depression or humiliation before his judges, but was able to refute with perfect composure all that they would lay to his charge. The Intendant as well as the Marshal were undecided, whether they ought to impute his self-possession and security to innocence, or to the obstinacy of a rebel.
"No, my honoured lords," said he, as he stood before them in the hall surrounded by a great number of officers and civilians; "I have nothing to do with these most unfortunate affairs, for it is impossible that any one would lay to my charge as evil propense, that I recently intended to cure the Lord Marquis without a wig, an occurrence, which may indeed be astonishing enough, but which however does not render the extremity necessary, that you should now immediately cause my head to be taken off; whereby I should become an entirely useless and slaughtered man."
"Be serious sir," replied the Intendant in the greatest anger, but with a calm exterior: "what took you to the mountains some time since? wherefore that disguise of which you yourself have complained?"
"Irrepressible curiosity, my noble Lord," said Vila, "as an inquisitive doctor, I also wished to thrust my nose for once into these spiritual monstrosities. In my youth, I knew only of four great and twelve lesser prophets of the bible, the thousand great, and twenty thousand lesser of our times seemed to me so little plausible, that I wished to see some examples of them in my proximity, and to examine myself their ascribed characters."
"And you persuaded your son and the young Edmond to accompany you there?"
The old man paused a while, and was obliged to wipe his eyes. "Pardon," said he then, "man is affected, though already old, by certain sensations, a kind of cold, which operates on the tear vessels; perhaps you may have already experienced this. Strong snuff produces the sensation. Yes, it was I indeed that induced the young men to this folly. I could never have thought that the young lads would have made a serious affair of it. They should only have reflected on themselves, collect psychological observations, to strengthen thereby their own mature wisdom and corroborate all noble religion; and the simpletons act like that peasant, who is to take only twelve drops daily from a phial, and would rather swallow down the whole bottle with cork and label. But believe me the cholic will not delay coming, and it will require skill to empty the body of the devilry again."
"You appear to consider the affair on the jesting side," cried the Marshal.
"Certainly," said the old man, who could not however restrain his tears, and was obliged to repress his sob by a strong effort; "it is still pleasant enough, that I have not slept since the last three days, still less have I been able to enjoy anything: that my cursed imagination represents my unhappy son upon the scaffold, suffering the most ingenious martyrdom, and looking upon me with the same dark eyes that sparkled in his childhood when he ardently desired a fruit, or a toy. I believe too that I look rather pale and sorrowful, and whatever you may ordain, I shall bear my head heavily on my weary shoulders for the future."
"You know then that your son as well as the young Edmond has gone over to the rebels?" said the Intendant sharply with his icy coldness: "and who will assure us that this did not happen by your counsel and suggestions?"
"No man will be security for me," answered, the father with quiet composure, "and of myself, of my many years of probity and an assurance, by my honour, I will not even speak, for that appears to myself absurd. No, my highly honoured lords, my counsel would never have been able to produce so strange a metamorphosis in a vagabond, who has hitherto only interested himself in plants and antiquities, or to make of a catholic enthusiast a fanatic and a rebel; but if I may be permitted to speak for a moment as a father, it rather appears to me, that you, my most worthy judges, are the authors of it, without its being exactly your intention it is true, and may be the cause why so many other fanatics will run to the mountains."
"Well, this impudence," exclaimed the Marshal.
"Suffer the unhappy man to speak," interrupted the Intendant, "he is doting in his sorrow, and it is not unreasonable to hear all that he may bring forward for his defence." "I only say," continued Vila, "that, with the very best intentions to put down this rebellion, you add strength to it, for it is precisely the peculiarity and perversity of the human mind, (and in this I only say what has been of very old standing) that prohibitions and obstructions irritate and place the punishable case in a seductive, enchanting light. That, which at first appeared indifferent and often unimportant, now presents itself with a kind of glory, danger entices; if only a few victims deriding it, have fallen, passions master the heart, and the same, who a short time previously preserved his faith in silent doubt, feels now in each emotion of caprice, and of anger, the immediate voice of his persecuted God. He now refutes his adversary with murder and massacre, as if he would correct the erroneous reading of his mind in his mangled body. The true believer cannot naturally bear such a turning over the leaf, he waits with stump and stalk to root out of the breast the perverted and corrupted text. On both sides the commentators excite one another, each becomes fiercer and more violent, reconciliation is no longer to be thought of, instruction profits not, and whoever wishes to step in coolly and moderately between them is a horror to both parties. You see indeed all the pills, that you, my honoured Lord Marshal cause to be turned and moulded and which the thousand surgeons press Upon the perverted, have not purged them of the evil, nor even ameliorated it. What does it profit then that the busy men so diligently assist with their bayonets, nor do these lances, nor the incisions of the gentlemen dragoons improve the blood. Also your imprisonments and executions in the public places have no success. What can your reasoning, your cold, calm persuasions effect, that the whole country, frankly speaking, stands like a great, disbanded madhouse, where the lunatics with their dogmas rage against one another, and like dogs, set on to fight, gnash with their teeth. I think the air is infectuous, and renders insane, and thus it has happened to young Edmond and my poor son. Whom the devil rides, cannot certainly affirm that he possesses an abundance of free will to go and come; but what could have bribed me to lay the stirrup on the shoulders of my only son, in order that the black raven father of all lies might be able to mount him more comfortably? only reflect on that yourselves, generous men."
"I but half understand you," said the Marshal.
"I pardon much in consideration of your grief," replied the Intendant.
"But why as not the Lord of Beauvais appeared at our trial?" recommenced the general; "wherefore is he fled? Does not that action bespeak him criminal? and do you know anything of him and of his retreat? can you impart to us some information of his proceedings? do you keep him concealed? confess the whole truth."
"Your excellency," said the doctor, "the old sinner has assuredly escaped because he is indeed suspected, even by me, and certainly could not appear here with safety and decency."
"Proceed," said the Lord of Basville, "you are approaching nearer the point to my satisfaction."
"You know it as well as I do," replied Vila, "the scandal is notorious throughout the whole country. He would have been forced to come here baldheaded to speak and answer. I will even consent that one may dispense with ruffles, lay down his sword, embroidery on the garments, or the cravat may also without herisy be esteemed as superfluous; but if you consider, that for more than ten years, he lived there yonder in his desert without a wig like a Theban hermit, you cannot then possibly have any confidence in the orthodoxy of his sentiments. How should his head remain sound, when he gives himself up, thus naked to all weathers, all society, all sorts of phrases, wit, and nonsense. It is indeed like a fortress, where they have broken down the walls and redoubt. There, in war, all the rabble ride in without obstruction." "You are childish," said the Lord of Basville, "but where does the Lady of Castelnau remain, you must know that she has disappeared. In all these circumstances we see, say what you will, a concerted plot."
"Ah poor Christine!" sighed Vila plaintively; "I now know for the first time, how much I have loved the noble girl. She is no longer indeed in her house, but the Lord Marshal will best be able to give intelligence of her retreat."
"I?" demanded the latter.
"All the world says, at least," continued the doctor, "that you have caused her to be incarcerated, and that is not entirely without probability, as the imprudent girl, some time ago, wholly lost sight of the esteem she owes you."
"It were derogatory to my dignity," said the Marshal, "to revenge inpertinences by means of my office.
"Where one cannot inspire love," said the doctor, "which one may reasonably expect, then terror and the due punishment of the object must suffice." "I give you my word of honour, I know nothing of the little fool!" said the Marshal blushing.
"It is very possible," answered Vila, "that you do not know exactly in which dungeon she languishes, since within the last few years we have considerably increased these establishments."
"Sir!" exclaimed the Marshal,--"I think, my Lord Intendant, we may dismiss this dotard, for it is in vain to hope to hear a word of sense from him. You may thank the Lord Marquis and his zealous intercession, or rather his caprice, not to suffer himself to be cured by any one else, that your insolence, which affects madness, is permitted to go from hence unchastised. But beware that you hold no correspondence with the rebels and suspected persons, or we shall speak again together and then in a higher tone."
"As it may please you to order it," said the doctor, and retired with a low bow. His carriage stood at the door, he went however first into the stables of the court to seek an old servant, whom he intended to take to St. Hypolite with him, the latter advanced groaning, limping and with head and arm bound up. "Coachman," cried Vila to his driver, "make room on the box for this old servant of mine."
In the mean while Colonel Julien came down the street; "What sort of merchandise are you carrying off with you there?" asked he, scrutinising the wounded man.
"My superannuated Conrad," replied the doctor; "the stupid knave found himself in a village yesterday and took it into his head to engage in the conversion of a Camisard, who in the true rebel fashion began to deal out blows, my decrepid enthusiast would let neither his king, nor his Lord God be outraged and on that account is so bedecked, that our Phylax at home will scarcely recognise him again." "Look," said the Colonel, "the poor cripple trembles so, that he cannot attain the high coach-box. He does not appear accustomed to such a place. Help him a little, reverend priest."
The sturdy vicar of St. Sulpice, who had pressed forward, helped up the old man with arms and shoulders. "Accustomed, or not accustomed!" cried Vila, vexedly, "he may thank heaven, that I take him with me at all. A knave, who at his years still addicts himself to pugilism, is good for nothing in my peaceable house. Times, indeed, seem strange enough, so that the rabble will soon, perhaps, assert their pretensions to ride with me in my carriage."
"You would have room enough," said the Colonel, taking leave of the doctor, who had already seated himself at his ease.--
"Now, drive on!" said Vila, "and not too fast, particularly over the stones, for all my sides, and my head into the bargain, are as if they were crushed, and take care that that old spectre does not perchance tumble from the box,--Adieu, reverend priest!"--The coach drove down the street and out through the gate.
The high road was filled with soldiers and militia, the coach was forced to stop in many places to let the troops go by. At length, when they had taken another road towards the mountains, the journey could be continued without interruption. The doctor was very uneasy, and looked round on all sides, muttered to himself, and was alternately moved, and vexed. At last, when the country became rather solitary he ordered the carriage to stop, descended and assisted the wounded Conrad, as he had called him in the town, himself, from the coach box. "My poor, old friend!" exclaimed he embracing him with the greatest emotion: "How fares it with you? do you feel fatigued? come now inside here with me, and pardon all that I have been forced to do for your safety."
"I am tolerably well, my kind, faithful friend," answered the Lord of Beauvais: "but render me one more loving service, that we may once more visit the ruins of my dwelling."
Vila gave directions to the coachman, and they both ascended into the carriage.
"But why will you make your heart still heavier?" commenced the doctor. "Come rather directly with me, that I may conduct you to the little rural asylum, in order to conceal you there until better times. For it is not to be thought of, that they will now be able to carry you over the frontiers in safety."
"Oh my poor country!" sighed the Counsellor of Parliament: "men of probity must now seek hiding-places like criminals. I will only go once more to the great hall: an iron closet has perhaps been spared by the robbers and the flames, in it lies the portrait of my wife, which in the hurry, I forgot to pack up. It would be very painful to me to lose this dear remembrance." The sun had already set, and they were now approaching their native, well-known place. From the blackened walls, dense, smoky clouds were still rising, although the fire appeared extinguished. The carriage stopped, the travellers descended from it; a lantern was lighted, and the Counsellor could not avoid wondering at the difficulty he experienced in finding his way through the formerly so well-known mansion. Fallen beams reduced to cinders lay extinguished, and obstructed the entrance to the hall, ashes and rubbish filled the vast space, it was impossible to recognise any thing, the walls alone still indicated the former seat of happiness and peace. The lantern threw a pale wavering glimmer over the sad destruction, and while the father tremblingly felt about by its light for the closet, he thought he heard a voice in another apartment.
As he listened more attentively, all was still; yet after a short interval, a deep, painful sigh was heard again, and then as if from a heavily oppressed bosom resounded these words: "Yes, my sinful fire has laid this dwelling in ashes, my wicked impetuosity has murdered the happiness of this beloved house."
"Oh my unhappy son!" exclaimed the old man as he endeavoured to reach that apartment; but Edmond advanced immediately, sank down before him and embraced his knees. "Can you forgive? can you still love me?" cried he in violent emotion; "I, I, wretch that I am, have flung the brand into this house, I have rendered you and my sister miserable, I am indeed the cause of your death. Oh, most gracious, mildest of men, with what a torn heart do I lie here at your feet, unworthy to embrace them, unworthy of the dust.--"
The old man raised, pressed him to his heart and said: "Not so, my son, we are not to criticise and blame the ways of destiny in so short-sighted a manner. It was you, as I well know, who delivered me from the hands of the incendiaries. Your heart has remained to me; those walls, this inanimate possession belonged not to my happiness and existence, you are nearer to me, you are, God be praised! not lost to me. Let me enjoy the satisfaction of having found you again among the ruins, and I will thank Heaven with heartfelt tears for my calamity. Follow me now and abandon your unfortunate covenant. The time and favourable moment will be found, when we may fly over the frontiers of our native land, and under another sky be permitted to rear the blessing of our love again."
"Only require not this of me, generous man," cried Edmond, as if in unconscious anger: "at least I must punish, avenge, retaliate, in some degree on our and God's foes. Oh Catinat! how unjust I have been in censuring thee. No, I will not degrade mercy so far by wasting it on these wretches, who might take the tiger in apprenticeship in order to augment his malice and cruelty."
Vila came up with the lantern and turned the light upon the youth's pale, agitated countenance, saying with the greatest good nature: "ah! Ned! my boy! be advised: now for once only follow your aged parent there, who has ever merely required from you what is quite reasonable."
"Leave vengeance to Him," said the father in a powerful voice, "to Him, who rules, permits and superintends all, and in whose almighty arm our wrath and weakness, are no longer vengeance! I do not understand the word. Our hearts were not created for this feeling."
"Still and ever the same folly!" cried a deep voice from behind and the gaunt figure of the grey-headed Lacoste was groping his way towards them in the dark, over heaps of rubbish. "Vengeance! hatred!" exclaimed he; "who knows not those sentiments, knows love but in part. Knowest thou me still, thy rival, the Lacoste, whom thou renderedst many years ago so unhappy? Who meant thee evil were it not for thy gallant Edmond."
"How comest thou here?" cried the father astounded. "What art thou doing here?"
"I am become thy son's dog," replied the former, "I do him what service I can, at least I run after him, out of gratitude, because he has saved my life."
"I have scarcely time and feeling," said the Lord of Beauvais, "to wonder at this extraordinary rencontre."
"The hour presses indeed," cried Vila, "we have yet a long way before us and we must take advantage of the night."
"Here is the concealed closet still unconsumed," cried the Counsellor of Parliament, "just as I had supposed." He took a key, opened and held a light into it, among various articles, which were kept there, he found the picture in a little casket. He gazed upon it with tears, and was going to attach it to his person, when Lacoste seized his hand and said: "Only one moment, for the sake of former acquaintance and friendship: suffer this face after so many years to blossom once again in my desolate heart."
The father gave it to him trembling; Lacoste held it close to the light and gazed fixedly on it with his widely opened grey eyes; a tear unconsciously escaped him, he imprinted a kiss on the portrait and returned it to the Counsellor. "See, see," said he to himself, "every man remains still a fool, let him behave as he will. If they can feel and imagine as much over their relics, as I at this moment feel, then the unfortunate ones are not so entirely in error."
"Roland is stationed in the neighbourhood with his troops; a few of us may conduct your dear father, as far as you wish, so that at least our party does not harm you."
"Prudently spoken," said Lacoste, "for we are, with permission, very outrageous people."
The Counsellor of Parliament re-ascended the carriage with his friend, saying: "We are now indeed so far on our road, that the usual precaution becomes superfluous. Let us only be careful, that our friend Vila meets with no misfortune on our account." "Were my son only reasonable," said the latter, "they might do what they liked with me, old, half dead and worn out sinner; to die is almost a diversion to be sought for, to that have the ruling lords pushed affairs."
They drove off, and Edmond and Lacoste followed on horseback, in order to accompany them to Roland's troop.
When the night was nearly elapsed and that Roland had long with-drawn with his troop into the distance, the little escorting band of Camisards was suddenly surprised, out of an ambush, by a considerable multitude of royalists. It was in the direction of Florac, where Vila with his friend had intended to seek a place of refuge, which he deemed safe. The confusion was general, and it seemed, that the destruction of the little troop of Camisards, as well as that of the travellers, was absolutely inevitable. During the firing and cries, Vila sprang from the carriage with pistols in his hand, and the Counsellor of Parliament followed him, without knowing clearly what was going to happen. By the grey light of the morning it was discovered that the attack was given from a valley lying sideways; the travellers were on the heights. The Counsellor of Parliament, who had quitted the carriage the last, saw immediately, that all were engaged in a mêleé, the royalists seemed to give way, when a second troop rushed out of the underwood of whom it was difficult to decide whether they were soldiers, or rebels. Before however the Counsellor was able to gain any certainty, or to form any resolution, the coachman laid hold of him, pressed him urgently to get into the carriage, and as he saw the old man's hesitation, he lifted him into it almost forcibly. "Better without the master, than to perish here with him, he will soon find us again," cried he in the utmost anxiety, and whipped the horses, so that they started off snorting in full gallop over hill and dale. After some time the Lord of Beauvais recovered his recollection and with much argument and dispute, he compelled the obstinate man to stand still again. On the summit of a mountain, from whence they could overlook the whole surrounding country, they awaited the one, who had remained behind. Of the combat nothing more was to be discovered: it seemed as if far in the distance a band of fugitives was flying; but nothing could be clearly distinguished. At length they espied two riders emerge from a copse, who pursued the same road. They approached nearer and the doctor was now seen waving a handkerchief and working his way up to the summit, mounted on a little horse. A young lad with his head bound up was following him. "You did well," cried he, when he arrived at the top, "to retreat immediately at the commencement of the battle; that is dull, insipid business, which does not suit us civilians."
"There Martin, for such is your name, take the nag again to yourself and do what you will with him." With these words he dismounted, and betook himself to the carriage, where he was first obliged to listen to many self-praises from his coachman, who wished to appropriate to himself the whole credit of this clever retreat, and on account of whose over-haste, the Lord of Beauvais abashed, entreated the pardon of his old friend. "It was no over-haste," cried Vila, "but the most prudent that could have occurred, I ought to have remained sitting in the carriage, for my little bit of firing was like a drop in the stream compared to the bravery of the Camisards; with them none of us can engage. These knaves understand no reason, whether balls fly, or swords glitter, it is to them mere pastime, and the smallest boys, who are scarcely weaned from their mother's breast, are just as much infatuated with this devilry as any of the oldest grey beards. I have seen that, for once quite close, which I could not have believed by hearsay; but now that I have witnessed it, it is enough for the rest of my life."
They stopped at a lonely inn to refresh the horses, and while they were enjoying their breakfast the doctor proceeded to relate the sequel of the event to his old friend. "How fortunate." he commenced, "that you were not present at our battle, for only think, your Edmond continued to accompany us, he would not be dissuaded from attending in person to your safety. When the scene now opened he was ever foremost. There was a young lad, who then came forward. 'From whence come you?' shouted the Camisards.--'What's that to you,' answered the impudent fellow,--'You are a traitor.'--'Wherefore insult,' cried the little man, 'honest people act not thus.'--'Hew him down!' cried another.--'Hew me down;' said the hop of my thumb, 'when I would sacrifice my life for you.'--'Who art thou?' was again reiterated.--'My name is Martin, further it is not necessary for you to know.'--Inquiry was cut short by firing and hewing down. It came near me, and I felt a goose-skin all over my body. I had already spent my powder without, perhaps, having hit any one, when the gigantic Lacoste took compassion on my trouble, and hewed down the knaves together as if they had been merely poppy heads. But Edmond who tried to cut his way through to me, got into a desperate mêlée. Two dragoons fell upon him, and struck furiously; but before they were able to hit, behold, my dear friend--the little rascal Martin, cut down one of them from his horse, and shot the other at the same moment almost through the breast, as if the urchin had been accustomed to nothing else all his life long. The stout Lacoste, the dog as he styles himself, was not tardy either, and your son lost neither courage nor strength; the Camisards were like so many devils, and thus those of the true faith were obliged to leave the field to us, on which a great number of their friends remained lying.--I could not discern my poor, dear son; he may very likely have gone with the main body of the troops; if they have not already slain, or taken him prisoner."
"And Martin! the boy, of whom you spoke, who so valiantly saved my son's life?" inquired the Lord of Beauvais.
"Martin;" cried the doctor aloud: "where then do you hide yourself? yes, that's true indeed, you are both indebted to the stripling. He wore, when he entered, a thick handkerchief round his head, it may have been from a blow that reached him; after he had rescued your son, he received a right deep cut in the head again from a sabre, so that a stream of blood gushed out. As if for a change, he wiped his nose and without ceremony bound a second turban over the first, though he turned ghastly pale from it.--Martin! Where then is the rascal!" But there was no one to answer his call. "Thus is it with foolish youth," said the doctor vexedly: "he has misunderstood me about taking back the horse, and in his simplicity returned immediately. Poor youth! I trust no fever may be added to it."
"It would make me miserable," said the Counsellor, "if I should not be able to testify my thanks to the dear boy. If I were persuaded that he was suffering, ill, helpless, or dying, I should weep tears of blood."
"It will not turn out so bad as that," muttered Vila chagrined: "Why should the oaf run off thus, as if----Aye! Aye! at least I would have bound up his wounds for him. But now, the devil will not catch him directly. Such Camisard webs are usually formed of very tough materials."
"They were compelled to proceed again, in order to reach with safety the solitary village in the mountain heights." "You must know," said the doctor, when they were again seated in the coach, "that it is merely to an old maidservant of mine I am now conducting you, a simple person, who served me long, but who is, however, so faithful and honest, that it is almost a scandal, what perhaps many free thinking exquisites would say of her. She has married a gardener, or peasant, who also plays the surgeon in the mountains. There you will pass for an old invalid cousin, whose house and farm the Camisards have set fire to; you will find your daughter there already, the intelligent child however must not betray you; the husband and wife would suffer themselves to be torn to pieces rather than give out any thing else of you. If you will but sit half an hour in the room with Barbara, she herself will take you for her cousin, and there will be no further necessity for lying. That is why such things often succeed better in this class than in a higher one: education they have none, but they possess the proper capacity for belief. Only lose not courage yourself, and in that solitude there do not become a timid hare's foot. All may yet be well." With these and similar conversations they, at length, arrived in the afternoon at the village in the centre of the mountains. The houses lay dispersed midway, or above the declivity of the mountain; each had a garden and shrubbery attached to it, and the church situated on the highest point, looked down on the lowly cottages. The little dwellings after which the travellers were obliged to inquire, stood at the extremity of the village, immediately over a rapidly flowing brook, a kitchen-garden was in front and a few chesnut, ash, and plantain-trees spread a shade and freshness around. When the travellers alighted, the rather elderly hostess advanced to the little vestibule to meet them. "Welcome! right welcome!" said she half jestingly, but with the heartiest good will: "So the old gentleman is my cousin? I rejoice in the acquisition of his relationship." "Where is my daughter?" asked the Lord of Beauvais.
"Hush! hush!" said Barbara with a significant look; "my little cousin sleeps in the room above--which you too will now inhabit, my much honoured cousin."
"That's all right," said the doctor: "only study nicely your expressions; and what is sick Joseph doing?"
"Ah, heaven!" said the old woman, he did not get over his fright, "the poor man has died at the next village below there, for when he was obliged to make off so quickly, helter skelter with my little cousin, and had lost his master, who had taken another road, and that the police officers became so troublesome, and the militia would also interfere, then all that affected his liver and spleen, and he died of it.
"Poor Joseph!" sighed the Counsellor.
"But pray, make yourselves comfortable," pursued the old hostess,--"sit down then cousin, poor man, there on that soft chair; you must now forget, that you were formerly accustomed to anything better."
"Well," asked Vila, "and the household, how fares it? what is your husband doing?"
"Thanks for the kind inquiry," answered the chatterer; "Ah! dear God! nothing can be done with him, he will remain a boaster his life long."
"Wait until he comes a little to years," said Vila, "his petulance will then pass away."
"Ah good heaven!" exclaimed she, "he is already past fifty; it does not depend upon that, God has permitted him to arrive at years of discretion, youth no longer oppresses him, but he is past all hope of amendment."
"Is he idle then? or does he squander your substance?"
"No," continued she quickly, "that must not be said against him, he spends nothing on himself, scarcely will he allow himself the extreme necessaries, and as to running about, working and lending a hand, he is not remiss, but he lays by no store. Indeed times are no longer as they were formerly."
"You get no profit then?"
"Just so, most respected doctor. Look you, here among us in the country, my old husband is called nothing, far and wide, but the clever man. Where an animal is sick, where a man is infirm, there is he called, and it must be true, that heaven has placed a very peculiar blessing in his hands, for almost whatever he merely touches becomes better. Where his misicaments, or his proscriptions fail, he is then compelled to have recourse to symphonies, or what you call the sympathretical system, and that is always among the peasantry most liked and most fructifying."
"You have then learned something from him," observed Vila.
"Should not something have devolved to me in so many years?" replied she modestly. "But if he would only not do so much without remuneration, all would be well and good. Look you, instead of planting cabbage, our little garden is full of learned rampons, and horse radish and onions with Latin names, which he then mingles or distils, as he calls it, and economises powders and opiates out of them that cannot be equalled. But they know already throughout the whole neighbourhood that he is a fool, for they frequently knock him up at midnight and summon him to a sick child, or to a tom-cat or taby-cat that has eaten or drank too much. And when they are to pay, the service is forgotten and there is no money in the coffers. 'They are poor people,' says the good-for-nothing fellow, 'they have already misery enough; and God be praised, we have never yet been in want of bread.'
"Thus was he ever," remarked Vila. "I thought he would become more reasonable, and learn to think a little of himself. He was always too devout."
"Devout!" exclaimed the wife: "ah heavens! your honour, we now come in earnest to the foul spot. No, Monsieur Vila, religion, or what people so call christianity, he is utterly deficient in."
"How then has he thus fallen into error?" asked the old man.
"The Lord knows best," answered she, "who has created him so confused. He will ruin himself yet with his curing. Look you, it is not alone his companions of the faith, the Catholic Christians that he succours without remuneration, if they only give him the least hint of poverty; nay also--God be with us--the Huguenots and even the Camisards he attends, as one of us, if he can find an opportunity. The wounded whom they ought to have taken off to Florac swarmed here; look you, the God-forgetting man quartered, healed and fed them and occupied himself so much with them, that they were able afterwards to run off in health, and I will not answer for it, that he did not also give them money and the worth of money to take with them on the road. No, not a spark of true genuine faith and of proper christianity is in the man."
"He is probably a sort of Samaritan," said Vila affected.
"You are right, good sir," continued Barbara, "Samariter, or Samoid, and if he only does not turn out an anibaptist in his old days. Would you believe it, six weeks ago, when they gave up so many of those poor sinners to justice at Florac, thither did he run the first, and bound up the wounds of the sick and set their broken limbs. Husband, said I, they will certainly be put to the wheel, and hanged, there is nothing more to heal in them. Then said the simple fellow, God or nature had taken so much pains to suffer their joints, bones, muscles, and I know not what else to grow, that one is obliged out of charity to spare and take care of them as long as they will last. Look you, he has such enthusiasm stuff in his head that, as the saying is, he is Jack in every corner, where there is only any thing to doctor, should it even be the greatest criminal, there he is."
"I shall read him a sermon on that point," said Vila.
"That's right!" cried she joyfully, "scold him a skin full, for he always says, that I am too stupid; and my persuasions tend to nothing." The woman had got up several times to look at the little bed. "Perhaps, you have a sick child there?" asked the doctor.--"Child!" answered she somewhat mockingly! "quite otherwise! only look at the present!"--when she removed the cushion, there lay a cur dog with bandaged paws.--"The history," commenced the narrator, "correcterises exactly the simple man. The people about here often make him their laughing stock, because he is such a good-humoured, easy fellow; and so the smith at length gave him his dog to doctor, having in a passion broken its hind-paws in two with a hammer. My Godfred wrapped up the dog and dragged it home to me, bound up its wounds himself, laid him down, raised him up, suffered him not to run about, bound the cushion tight over him, made him a kind of maskinnery for his legs, because he said the dog would not be taken proper care of at home, and that he must have it under his own eyes. Well, my good smith's dog became healthy again, and went off without saying good day, or by your leave. That may be about two months ago; last week, towards evening, something came scratching at our room door; come in! no one opened; but the scraping and scratching continued: so my Godfred opened the door and looked out, in springs our old smith's dog like a fool and behind him came hobling the diseased thing, the cur there with a broken leg dragging behind him, and the smith's dog danced and sprang round my husband, as if to beg, and thus supplicated him that he would also doctor his comrade. In my rage, I seized the botanix stick from my old man to cudgel the curs out of the room. But he, as if affected, said, 'Never could I have imagined so much understanding and gratitude in a dog,' and immediately took him in his arms, examined his foot, bandaged it, and busied himself about the animal. Gratitude! cried I, you call it thus, if the bull dog recommenders you to the cur which will afterwards spread the story about among all the dogs in the country, so that finally with all the fame of dog-pratix, you will no longer be able to stand, or walk? But all in vain! there is the beast, and I must attend to it, when the old fool is not at home."
The husband now returned, his arm full of herbs, which he immediately carried into a closet; he then saluted his guests quietly and affably, and before he sat down he looked after his four-legged patient, which in gratitude licked his hands, and looked fondly in his face. With the greatest composure and as if there was nothing remarkable in it, he rebandaged the foot, placed the invalid again in its bed, which he also bound fast, then pressed its head down on the cushion, as if to intimate that it must now go to sleep. The dog seemed also to understand him, for he only blinked a few times up at his benefactor, and then resigned himself to sleep.
"Your wife here," commenced the doctor, "complains of you, that you do not think enough of your own concerns, you cure every body, even dogs and cats, and receive nothing for it, for this dog as little as for the former; have they not paid your bills yet?"
"I made none for them," said the old man with the driest gravity.
"Then I must make them out for you; you negligent fellow!" exclaimed Vila vehemently: "What; write out prescriptions for nothing? truly you degrade our whole art. Take this then on account of what the poor sinners, the wounded, the beggar-train, and the oppressed race of animals owe you up to the present."--He threw to the astonished and perplexed individual a heavy purse of gold, and without waiting for his thanks, he hastened out, and was already seated in the carriage before the rustic practioner had recovered from his astonishment. The Lord of Beauvais gazed with emotion after his rapidly departing friend.
The father went up to his daughter, who now awaked from her refreshing sleep. The little girl, in a flood of tears threw herself into the arms of the new comer, and was never weary of kissing his hands and cheeks: it seemed as if it were a necessity for her to indulge this once, in an unrestrained declaration, and expression of her love. "Man, indeed," thought the Lord of Beauvais within himself, "has nothing else but these poor tokens, or the action of alleviating sorrow, and administering food, clothing the naked, or affording warmth to the freezing: perhaps it may be that in a future state spirits intermingle in love." When both were more composed, the father said, "Eveline, you have ever been a sensible child, but now you have an opportunity of shewing it in deed for my safety; and for your own also. Never must a word escape your lips here of our former residence of my friends, or of your brother. When we are both quite alone, you may then talk of these things, but below, or when anybody is present, you must ever be the little cousin of our good hosts. Be therefore in company rather perfectly quiet, or try to accommodate your behaviour for a short time to these people; for your father's life depends on our not being discovered and spied out in this place of concealment." "My dear, my poor father," said Eveline, "all this will not be difficult to me, now that you are with me again. You know well how our great Hector always looked up to my brother, or to Frantz, and from a sign understood, when he was to go, to stay, to lie down, or to eat; the animal has never once made a mistake: Now, dear papa, thus will your little pet dog attend to the slightest sign from your dear eyes and understand, and conceive everything. I was not allowed to speak of many things in the presence of my brother, many things that Martha related I was unable to tell you, because you were angry with my nurse formerly; one must, indeed, learn from childhood to suit one's self to the world. But shall we see Frantz and Hector again? my brother too? ah, it has ever floated in my mind, that he would one day become downright godless; for no good can come of it, when men approach God as it were too rudely."
The father descended again, and was very much surprised to find a newly arrived guest in his host's room. Old Godfred was at that moment employed in dressing two deep and dangerous wounds in the head of a young lad, who seemed scarcely fourteen years of age. "See now, cousin," cried the talkative Barbara, turning towards him, "as I told you, our Sam-Rocious, as the old gentleman called him, a short time ago, is again seized with a vertigo, a real vagabond, as they call such deserters; who asks here in the village after such and such an one, after a coach and strange travellers, and immediately our dealer in herbs there brings him to our house, because he has something to cure, which is once for all his greatest passibility." The Counsellor of Parliament listened not to the chattering, but examined with the greatest attention the handsome countenance and noble expression of the stranger, who seemed to be yet almost a boy. This sight attracted him the more, as the supposition occurred to him, that this wounded youth might probably be that Martin of whose astonishing fearlessness the doctor had spoken. Emotion and gratitude mingled therefore in those feelings of sympathy which drew him towards the sufferer, and he only waited for the others to retire to interrogate him. The surgeon Godfred seemed dissatisfied at the appearance of the wounds, he comforted the youth, and cut his short brown hair still shorter, and stroked his handsome head with tender sympathy. "The Lord has blessed us with money," exclaimed he aloud, "it shall benefit you, not only thee, I was going to say, dear old cousin, but this young patient here as well. I will run directly to the town and fetch better food, for wounds must not be neglected by any means."
A gaunt, haggered-looking man, in a tattered uniform entered, the surgeon sprang joyfully to meet him, and shook his meagre hand so heartily, that his long arm quivered with emotion, and a grim smile of affability passed over his pale face, under a large hat, which he still kept on. The new comer who now perceived the Counsellor, took off his hat, and said: "I did not know, gossip, that you had strangers."
"Not exactly strangers," immediately replied dame Barbara, preventing her husband's reply, "but a dear cousin of ours, Mr. Peter Florval, who possessed a pretty house and garden below there in the fruitful Camargue. The antichrists, the rebellious Camisards have plundered and burnt every thing, and it was with difficulty that he saved himself with our little cousin; he will now remain here contenting himself with our poor house until better times." The stranger drew near, and said solemnly, while he extended his hand to the Counsellor with a certain majestic air; "Venerable Mr. Peter Florval, be but at peace and let not your spirits flag, these times will pass quickly and in less than a year you will be happy again. I have had dreams, which have predicted this and still more to me, and my dreams never deceive, as I know how to give them the right interpretation. The abominable Cavalier has appeared to me, I could have painted him; behold: a head taller than myself, broad, muscular as a hercules, moustaches that he might have twisted twice round his whole head, which he did too, several times, to make himself look still more terrible. He came up to me, he had a guard's uniform in his hand: sergeant, I shall be once more under the banners of the royal guards, and that shall be the sign, that this day twelve months I shall wear this uniform, and then peace will be in the land, for without my supernatural giant-strength the rebels would be unable to do anything, and would be obliged to surrender. Remember Gerard Dubois, my good Peter, when the thing comes to pass."
Without paying particular attention to the speaker, the surgeon had again devoted himself to the invalids for whom he had also made up a bed in the hay loft. He looked after the dog too once more, then gave his hand to the Counsellor and fetched his hat and stick. "I will go with you," said Gerard, "if you do not botanise, for I cannot endure that cursed stooping and mountain-climbing." On learning that the walk was only to the neighbouring market-town, he took leave, rejoiced to have an opportunity of accompanying his gossip.
"Look you, dear cousin," commenced the old dame, immediately again, "that great herculus is also the cause, that my old man will not be anything as long as he lives. He seduces him fearfully to idleness, because he himself has nothing to do. He has been formerly a dreampeter in the royal guards, but as he was weak at the chest, he obtained his discharge and a pension, and with a small fortune, he plays the nobleman here, and gives himself such intolerable airs, that he addresses almost every body with familiarity. He was so enamoured with blowing, that they were obliged to pull the dreampet forcibly out of his mouth, for he is phthisical, properly hictical, as my old man calls it, for he looks wicked enough for it. Now the great beast stalks about here, and no one can bear him, because he is so very haughty and moreover wearisome and quite ennuiyant when he speaks of his forefathers. My good calf, however, will suit him, he might easily speak and listen to him in his leisure hours, and often may be thinking of other things at the same time; but this is not the case, he has nothing to think of, and is delighted when the bully goes on with his gasconading to him. Only think, cousin, because he is not permitted to blow any more, he whistles, or lisps a little with his tongue all his old dreampeter airs for hours together into my husband's ears; when he tells of campaigns, at times, with his mouth screwed up, he imitates the sounds of appelle, and retreat, the attack, every thing; or he beats it with his long stork-fingers on the table, which then is to represent the dulcimer or the harpichord, and thus does he play the harpichord as it is called before my old husband the live-long day and he talks of x sharp and z soft, and crosses and stories of fughes and passages, such gibberdish, that one might loose one's senses, looking at these two fools wasting their time. The lanky fellow frequently assists in searching, for herbs, and makes out of old rags a lineament for wounds, or cooks a mixture, and syrup quackery, and as they are almost always together, he seduces my old husband away from me. They will no longer suffer the long Urian in the public-house, because he drives away all the guests with his blowing and harpchord playing, even the common people are wise enough for that, my Godfred alone suffers himself to betaken in. But this quick dreampeter-blower is an arrant rogue. He tices my old husband out of his chimistical experiments and begins to doctor patients, but he principally makes use of symphonies, which besides is much easier when one is once in the way of it, and the silly peasants therefore begin to have faith in the spoil-trade. What does a physician know of symphony; books and study appertain to that, and no little dreampeters. Moreover, he is for ever telling his stupid dreams. The times are so very bad, because now children, and old people, women and maid-servants, almost every one in the country, when they at once gave up the faith, began with prophecying and prediction to prepare misfortune; formerly my husband was asked this thing and that, he also looked at the hands to see whether they would get rich husbands and so forth; he drew their line of life longer, once even he cast the Hurenskorp of a right noble lady, yonder in Florac, for he was much renowned at that time; but since this new-fashioned superstition has arisen, hardly any one inquires after him, all tell their own fortunes, or run to the unbelieving children, and what can these urchins know of philosophy or chiromantic and particularly of the stars; as if one only needed to take a horn in the mouth in order to obtain any knowledge of astrology and of all the abstract or dried-up sciences; for which purpose a great deal more is required." The old dame would have still run on, if she had not thought that she heard a pot boiling over in the kitchen; she ran therefore hastily out, leaving the Counsellor of Parliament alone with the young man. "My son," began the Lord of Beauvais, "could you be the same of whom a friend of mine has spoken to me? perhaps your name may be Martin?"
"It is so," said the youth; approaching nearer and seizing the Counsellor's hand, over which he bent with deep emotion.
"And this blood."----
"It is mine, mingled with that of your son." "Thanks then," exclaimed the father and embraced the youth much affected. "You know then who I am?"
"Yes," replied Martin, "in the fight your son pointed you out to me; Vila spoke of you, and now, my honoured sir, as I have discovered you, as I enjoy such kind care here, and as I shall soon be cured, grant that I may remain by you, and be your servant. Your domestic household is far from you, flown, dead, your tender child requires more affectionate, more gentle attendance, than these people here, with all their good will, are able to bestow. I shall be wretched, if you reject my petition."
The Counsellor gazed long on the youth's dark, sparkling eyes. "My dear, beloved son," said he then, "I am indeed bound to you by the dearest ties; oh, ought I not call it friendship cemented with blood? How shall I command you, as you are here the guest of our benevolent host? I dare not now have any attendants, I must conceal myself, I must appear as a poor man of inferior condition. Would you wish to belong to me, so that I might put full confidence in you, you must give me further knowledge of yourself. Who are you? from whence come you? your appearance is too refined and delicate for service to be your vocation; this small, nobly-formed hand has not yet been hardened by any labour, your pale face has never yet been exposed to the inclemency of the seasons; tell me then what is your parentage, your name, how you became a member of this unfortunate rebellion?"
"Dear, beloved, paternal friend," said the pale Martin with a gush of tears, "did you but know the excruciating pain you give my heart by these questions, you would spare me. Will it not suffice, that I venerate your family, that it has long been my desire to be at your beloved side? you can guide, you can reform me; let my whole life be consecrated to you. I can, I dare not return, they would seize and sentence me to an ignominious death; my brethren too, the Camisards, distrust me and hold me for a traitor. Why put my poor parents to the blush, by naming them at this moment? They brought me up with tenderness and affection, and the more bitter must their sorrow be, to behold me degenerate, and liable to be executed. They are wealthy, but not of such high rank as to have their name disgraced by my humble services in my attendance on the noblest of men."
"I will believe you, young man!" cried the Lord of Beauvais; "could such an eye as that deceive? Be to me in lieu of child, of son, perhaps soon----." He could not proceed from emotion, and Martin also appeared deeply moved.
The repast was served up and Godfred also returned from his wandering loaded with poultry, and delicate vegetables, Eveline descended, who in her peasant's attire appeared very attractive; the Counsellor placed a chair for Martin, by the side of Eveline, saying at the same time, "My dear cousins, this young man belongs to me, he is related to me, and whatever expenses you may incur for him, I shall return to you again: only do me the favour to call him also cousin Martin and be kind to him."
"Aye! aye!" Smiled Barbara, "last week, I could not have supposed, that all on a sudden my family would thus increase, sit down then, cousin Martin, and you Godfred, take care only not to make blunders before strangers." Grace was said, and the little Eveline made the sign of the cross, just as gravely as she saw the old people do; Godfred had prepared a separate soup for the invalid Martin, and would not allow him to eat of such meats as he deemed injurious to him. Godfred spoke little, he seemed as if he had almost entirely renounced the habit of speech in the society of his too loquacious spouse, but on that account he had imbibed the peculiarity of frequently expressing aloud, when a pause occurred, whatever was at that moment passing in the train of his thoughts, for he listened but seldom to Barbara's wonderful phraseology.
"The fever will now be kept under," said he; just then Martin perceived that he was the subject of discourse, and the Lord of Beauvais would willingly have inquired more closely into the state of the invalid, if the dame had not again launched out into narrations and far-fetched ideas.
"A little deeper and all would have been over," continued Godfred.
After the repast, Martin, for whom a room had been prepared near the Counsellor of Parliament, lay down. The rustic doctor, who had already fed the dog, now examined his wounds; Eveline and her father retired to the room up stairs.
"Have I done all well?" asked the little girl. "Quite well, my child," answered the father, "I am satisfied with you."
"That is a beautiful rule," recommenced Eveline, "to pray before and after the repast. Why did we not do the same at home?"
"You are not wrong, my child," replied the Counsellor; "for fear of being like tradespeople, or appearing very hypocritical, much that is good is neglected!"
"Ah! what a beautiful prayer the old woman said before dinner," continued Eveline: "All eyes wait upon thee!"--"Do you know too, papa, how at home, when our Hector, or the other dogs, were fed in the hall, all gazed up so fixedly into the eyes of old Frantz? and as he turned his head, so went all the eyes like so many torches, right and left, still peeping at the old man, without ever blinking, until they at length obtained their portions. No other animal, no ox, tat, nor horse can so affectionately gaze into the eyes as the faithful dog. Even the smallest child is ashamed, when it begs so fervently. That sick dog looks thus hungrily at old Godfred, and immediately shuts its eyes, when dame Barbara glances that way. That is indeed a glorious thought, that here, in all towns, in all France, in all countries, and in the whole world, all hungry eyes, young and old, rise up to our Heavenly Father so devoutly, so confidingly, and it must also be pleasing to him, mighty and great as he is, when he beholds prayers and confidence shining from all parts wherever he turns. But indeed all men are not, or perhaps at all times grateful. Ah! dearest papa, how often have I, in my short little life, already been ungrateful to you! Forgive me, pray, good papa, how often have I sulked, when you would not give me a toy, or when you have kept me steadily to work, for then I forgot so intentionly in my ill-humour and wickedness, how much I ought to thank you, how you love me, and care for me. That God exists and gives me every thing, I have often forgotten the whole day long. But I will become better and more reasonable."
The father took his child in his arms, and his heart was gladdened by the prattle of simplicity.
Roland had in the mean while by several successful engagements entirely cleared the higher mountainland of the royal troops. The Camisards were incamped in safety in the woods, and upon the lofty mountain table lands, and all were rejoicing in the hope of soon beholding their worship and liberty of conscience reestablished. Edmond had been but slightly wounded in the last combat, and was now sitting by the side of Roland, that he might converse with him on the probable issue of the war. Cavalier was incamped opposite on the confines of the wood, surrounded by Clary, Marion, and other religious men, who were discoursing on ghostly matters. Upon the most elevated height stood Mazel, the charcoal-burner, Eustace, young Stephen, and a swarm of young people, all in the greatest excitement, for they were expecting the commander Castanet, who on this day intended to conduct Mariette, his bride, from the village below, in order to unite himself with her in the bonds of marriage. "So the God of love," said Lacoste deridingly, "has made his way even to these solitary mountains, and what is still more, into the enlightened hearts of such pious rebels of the woods? The old heathens were certainly quite right to call him, although a boy, the greatest among all the Gods."
"Cease your profitless mockery," said Marion, who had also climbed up to the summit, "our brother has been long since betrothed to her; the poor girl is there exposed to the daily peril of her life, because her connexion is known, here at least she will share the fortunes of her husband, and shall be protected by us; and if marriage be a holy ordinance, why should not the command of the Lord be fulfilled in the solitude of the mountains, under oppression and distress, with a religious, modest mind and christian humility?" "Do not trouble yourself," said Lacoste, "at least no expence or parade will attend the marriage, I think too, that neither bridegroom, nor any of the guests will retire nosily to bed."
At that moment Castanet, his bride and a croud of his friends issued from the wood, Cavalier and all the others advanced to greet them with kindness. The young girl was dark and not particularly tall: a peasant girl of a healthy robust appearance, a little embarrassed at first but in a short time she conducted herself with a composed and easy bearing in the circle of the brethren.
"Brother Castanet," said the tall slender Marion, "it is you that I have to thank for my conversion, but for your early admonitions, I should perhaps now be wandering in error, permit your grateful pupil here in the circle of the brethren; to bless you in your new condition, under the Almighty eye religiously and christian-like." Roland and Edmond had also approached, and Elias and Marion delivered a short, touching discourse concerning their oppression, the distress of the times, and how by reason of the perishable tenure of all earthly goods, and the ever increasing danger, it was expedient to unite together in the name of the Lord, in life and in death; that they might find solace and strength in general consolation of love and mutual perseverance. A simple meal was prepared, and in peaceable enjoyment, the various groups dispersed; while many sang psalms, and others discussed their past adventures. It was announced that a troop was approaching, and the pale, sickly Duplant advanced with a band of men leading a number of prisoners, among whom were Clement and the Vicar, who had again headed the volunteers in an expedition against the Camisards. Roland and the others now arose, and formed a large circle to pass sentence on the unfortunate men. Young Clement trembled violently on seeing himself exposed to the cruel arbitration of his enemies, and the Vicar looked round, to try and discover an acquaintance, to be able to find, at any rate, some means of deliverance, or mitigation of his condition. At length he perceived Cavalier, who with the rest had approached nearer, and cried: "Oh! best of young men, I know not 'tis true, who you may be, but you have, as you know, rescued us formerly, intercede for me now, for I perceive clearly that you must be quite at home here among you comrades."
"Have not you and your fellows," said Roland, with the greatest gravity, "reduced to ashes that same benevolent house since that time, which then saved our brother Cavalier, as well as yourself, and the execrable hermit." "There is not much to say in reply to this," said the priest, opening wide his eyes, "than that I am wondering, that the little delicate fellow should be nothing less than Cavalier."
Duplant said, "The Lord has given you into our hands at the moment that you were in the act of plundering a commune after having slain several of our friends. We came unexpectedly, to the succour of the oppressed, many have fallen, some escaped, but these, forty in number, have become our prisoners."
"Shall they die?"
"Have mercy on us," whined Clement, as he threw himself down before Roland.
"I cannot give you grace," said the latter retiring from the circle, "you spare none of us and with your own free will you urge on to murder: endure then your fate."
"Little man," cried the Vicar, "world-renowned Cavalier, listen to reason and be humane."
"Is it seemly in you to speak thus?" replied the young commander, "you, who revel in cruelty; who has called upon you to dye your hands with the blood of innocence."
Castanet came forward: "Will you, beloved, honoured brethren, deliver the execrable wretches up into my hands?" asked he, looking round the circle. "Yes! yes!" resounded from all sides, "this solemn day belongs to you, annihilate them, command, do with them what you will, they are given up to you."
"Now we are falling out of the frying-pan into the fire," said the priest to Clement, "for the thick, stout, prophecying man will play an ugly game with us, even the gentle Cavalier would not grant us grace; courage! make the best of a bad game, and do not be so chop-fallen."
Castanet took Mariette, by the hand, who was weeping bitterly, for, a short time before, these men had slain, or delivered up her brothers to be executed; "Weep not," said he, with suppressed sorrow! "let us give an example to these miserable wretches, that we think better than they; that our union may not be stained with blood. I pity these poor, these erring men, and this timid youth. Return without danger to you dwellings and preach mercy to your party; refrain from blood and tell your magistrates, who call their cruel bloodthirstiness justice, how much better are our sentiments, how much better we are than they. Heaven will the more readily bless my marriage the less I indulge my wrath and desire of vengeance." Young Clement threw himself again on his knees, weeping with gratitude; the others, who had already given themselves up as lost, followed his example, the priest alone drew himself up after a very low bow, and said stammering with embarrassment: "You are a generous man, Mr. Castanet, and I shall know how to extend your fame, although people are loath to believe anything of the kind of such as you; I however have experienced it myself, and thank you for it in my own name, and in that of these prisoners. Mr. Cavalier, let us commend ourselves to God, au revoir!" "No, not au revoir!" cried Cavalier, hastily advancing, "this may only happen in one way, in the field, and I counsel you with your bold, unblushing manner not to reckon again on our generosity, nor brave our condescending flexibility; for mercy and love are not always to be dispensed, and should we see each other a third time, it will be your death, thus does the spirit prophecy to me."
"Let the spirit rest, Sir Captain," said the clergyman, as he again made a low bow and retired with the volunteers and Clement, who all more or less testified their gratitude and emotion.
Lacoste now came forward and said laughing: "Generosity, as I observe, is common among you, and your turn is come do-day, thick, little stump. Thus every trade, even that of incendiary, has its good side; nothing in the world is perfectly bad, as there is nothing perfectly good to be found in it. To-day, however, there is a greater extension of generosity than what was lately accorded, when I alone remained, though my companions were not a whit worse than myself. But such magnificence suits so festive and splendid a wedding, and the short-legged fellow has delivered his speech in quite a royal style and in a most impressive tone. You, rosy-cheeked, stunted-grown, and brown-armed spouse, be now the Queen and Princess of these mountains. Infanta of have-nothing, Dauphiness of hunger-sufferings, heiress of all the airy castles, and governess of all mad-visionaries, I present you my sincere congratulations, and hope to see you soon rise to the rank of the prophets."
"Scoffer!" said Castanet reddening; "your presence would not suit our assembly, if your speeches were not useful in rendering our humility still more humble, and to make our reproach before men, and our misery still more conspicuous to us."
"That thereby spiritual pride be so much the more glorified! Be not however disturbed in your feelings and convictions by me; compared with a christian, my speech is merely the barking of a dog, and in this animal dignity, I now indeed follow my illustrious patron, the spiritually-minded Edmond, and prophet also by the grace of God."
A murmur arose round about, which probably would have broken out into anger and tumult, had not Cavalier directed the attention of the brethren to a different subject. "My friends," cried he in a lively manner, "I have just had a vision. At this very moment the commandant of Usez has sent a courier with important dispatches to the Marshal at Nismes. New troops are to arrive, and they intend hemming us in on all sides. But little was said, neither could I distinguish all. The enemy has just ridden out of the gates of the city; Bertrand, if thou wilt seize him, thou wilt meet him in the ravine two miles from hence. He is not to be mistaken, he wears a red coat, and a blue cloak over it, in consequence of the threatening rain, he has spread his white handkerchief over his new hat, by these marks he will be clearly enough known to you: he is an elderly man, who, I should think, has never been a soldier. Bring him here safe and sound with his dispatches."
Bertrand took with him two assistants, and mounted on light ponies, they hurried down the mountain towards the well known ravine.
Lacoste listened to these instructions with staring eyes: "Little brother," said he thoughtfully, "if thy information be at all true, thy little finger has more penetration than the whole of my large body. But I still believe, thy red-coated courier will not be found in the circle of created beings, and good Bertrand will have been made a little bit of an April-fool by his general, in order to afford some innocent amusement to the bridal pair. If it's not all a humbug, well and good, more must be said about it when an opportunity occurs."
"May it not be allowed to-day," began young Stephen, blushing up to the eyes, "to play a little on the flute?" while he was yet asking, he took it in his hand, and Roland smilingly gave his assent. He first played a psalm, and after they had gravely chimed in with him, the fair-haired amateur, to please the company, gave a few worldly, airs. The swarthy Eustace, who was now quite convalescent sprang merrily forward, and cried: "Brother! if thou lovest me, play, to enliven me, the old dance of the Cevennes, to which formerly, in my youth, we tripped so gaily."
The young man modestly commenced his melody, and as he received no interruption, he continued to play with renewed vigour, and it was not long before several, castanets were heard with their pleasing clattering, so that Eustace could no longer, resist singing aloud, with the most grotesque gestures, and jumping round the circle highly delighted. The little shoemaker Anton, as well as the still younger François could not withstand so enticing an invitation, they danced as partners, and several other young people came forward to exhibit their rustic dexterity.
An old, careworn man now came from the wood and cried: "As this is to be a day of merriment, suffer then my son, the silly Michael, to receive a little honor; besides, consider his small capacity for prophecying, formerly when a shepherd in the fields, he learned several inimitable capers, which well deserve to be seen. The tall lad has such strong legs, that he can spring almost to the height of a man."
Michael, a robust, tall lad of an idiotic appearance, advanced sneakingly and lazily, turning his little blue eyes timidly and inquisitively round on the circle, and as he thought he perceived no disapprobation any where, he suddenly changed his lagging laziness into the most surprising activity, and jumped backwards two or three yards high, turned head-over-heels in the air, and ran over the ground in the same manner, and was so souple in all his motions, that it was scarcely possible for the eyes to follow his changes. Eustace, in amazement, clapped his hands over his head, and the young lads in admiration tried to imitate their unattainable model. With the loud laughter, which the comical jestures and attitudes excited, the merry Stephen was compelled to suspend his blowing for awhile, and the whole enclosure, when the old and religious men had retired, appeared only a merry, nay, extravagantly joyous company, which the bride, and even the grave Castanet, by their loud applause encouraged to new and still more extraordinary feats of skill.
As the grass was already tolerably beaten down, the dance might be continued with greater safety; and now old Favart stepped upon the level ground, and said: "As we are celebrating a festival to-day, pray permit for once, that the brothers Mark Anthony and Cesar may perform some of their exploits, they think, that they know some more refined amusements, which would contrast very well with the high leaping and peasant dances."
The two ci-devant noblemen after this short preface, exhibited in the then customary dances of the more refined society, but these did not excite that admiration among the spectators, with which Michael had been encouraged; the wilder exertions therefore resumed their place, and the noblemen found themselves compelled to conform to this taste, if they wished to share in the festivity. Many other instruments struck up, a flute resounded, a hautboy was raised, and between these and Stephen's pipe a flageolet was heard, mingled at intervals with the loud and merry song of the mountaineers; now the air of a dance, now old national songs, and merriment and jesting resounded loudly through the wood, so that the cliffs of the adjacent precipices repeated with joyful echo the tones of wild gaiety.
The merry-making, that to-day, once in motion, would have lasted longer, had it not been suddenly interrupted and broken up by a terrible outcry. The fearful sound proceeded from the summit of a pointed cliff, which rose almost perpendicularly over the green sward to the scene of the joyous tumult. All eyes turned quickly thither, and they beheld a demoniacal figure with upraised, extended arms, face, head, and body coloured and besmeared with blood. Once again the lunatic shouted, and then ran and precipitated himself down the steep rock into the arms of the brethren. It was the wrathful Ravanel. "Curse you! curse! ye apostates!" screamed he, "as if mad; that ye thus forget the Lord! Lamenting, mourning, discoloured with the blood of our brethren, of the enemy and with my own, shed in the holy cause, I returned to summon ye to vengeance, and I find the idolators here in the heathenish dance round the golden calf. Thus Moses descending from Sinai, in his wrath broke the tables of the law, as I now in my burning zeal, curse the bond that unites me to ye, ye impious ones!"
They tried to pacify the zealot. Stephen had long since replaced his pipe, the dancers stood at an embarrassed distance, and Eustace, who could as quickly turn from prayer to the dance as from this to that, was already sunk in profound meditation. "My brother," shouted the infuriated man anew, "has been executed to-day at Florac, ten believers have suffered martyrdom with him; I wished to rescue them, but have been beaten back with my brethren with a great deal of bloodshed, and in the mean while we forget our God, our misery, our faith, thus scandalously bring curses on yourselves, voluntarily draw down the malediction of heaven, the scornful laugh of hell voluntarily upon ye,--does no fire then fall down upon the scum? does not the earth open and swallow the iniquitous bands? Howl! howl! ye laden with sin, and roll in the dust, smite on your stony hearts and be contrite before the Almighty, that peradventure his mercy may awaken and a look of grace from the fiery wrath of his eye may light upon ye."
He threw himself down and writhed on the ground. "Mercy! mercy!" roared he in convulsions,--"No, there is no compassion, mercy is a lie, love is no more!"--"Now is woe come upon us!" sighed Eustace, "our brother is again fallen into his ravings! assist me with your prayers, beloved brethren, that his reason may become strong again.--" He threw himself on his knees by his side and prayed fervently. Duplant and Salomon came forward, that they might help the old man in his supplications; but for the present their good intention had no influence on the lunatic, who was exclaiming as if unconsciously, while he was trying to tear himself away from the arms of his friends who were supporting him. "Whither art thou fled," cried he, "lost, wandered away, thou great inexpressible being, whom we with stammering tongue wish to call God? It was a fearful, a terrible event, when before the beginning of time, created spirits in their arrogance rebelled against him, and would be God and ruler and crush and annihilate him. Then he withdrew himself from the rebels through the whole heaven of heavens, through all the starry infinities, through the immensity of space, which thought alone can reach, presentiment alone can fathom, and the audacious ones lonely and abandoned, in their malice, bitter as gall in their wrathful fire, in impotent fury, were transfixed and turned to stone and in their dark interior their last, their expiring consciousness is lost, those are the cliffs, the stony rocks, the deep masses of granite, which reach far into the centre of the earth and still rise up in defiance over clouds and vapour: that is the flesh and bone of the arrogants that the earth is now compelled to bind together as with a cramp iron. Then malice, wrath and discontent as if extinct; Yea, the flame expired, when it should have nourished itself. Was it lost, departed love recovering itself again, which would collect and burst from its powerless state. Figures move in the sea, in the air, and on the earth, and all persecute, hate, kill one another; bloodthirstiness is delight, lacerations, tearing asunder, martyrdom and devourings of one another are raiment and food. Yea, malice is now for the first time awakened into life, if it contracts and unites itself with the sentiment of love, thou hoary darkness of the primeval rocks, and as a lighted brand penetrates into the bones of the snuffing lions and tigers, and roars in the waterfall, that crumbles the mountains and thirst in the fiery torrent, that greedily eats its way to the stream and siding with his brother, the storm, swallows up woods and fields, and mocking as dead spits forth from itself the former existence as dead, cold as ashes."
Edmond turned away with indignation, and said: "Woe to thee slanderous tongue that in perverted folly takest upon thee to disfigure the most holy, and inspirest superstitious rage."
"Why are you thus unjust?" said Lacoste smiling, "it affords me inexpressible pleasure to hear for once so cool and impartial a philosopher reason thus conclusively. One does not meet every day with anything so good." The others became outrageous, and were still more fervent in their prayers. Ravanel foamed and continued crying out: "But how pious is the world, how mildly the brand still searches into the bowels of all! Then man came forth, the image of God, as he calls himself, and now in him hell first broke out in glowing, purple triumph, the loud joyful laugh of inward horror. Whatever subtilty can invent, imagination create, the wildest dream depict, and voluptuousness can attain, will turn into martyrdom, into cutting off the beings that give themselves out as their brother. All the pulses of the everlasting Satan beat joyously. Here is God! exclaims the brood, murder, torture them! here is Christ! roar the others, and slay the adversaries. Does an eye from heaven behold? Do the stars know of us? will the lost, the nameless one after eternity find himself once more in his, by himself accursed creation, and will he not then send forth, epidemics, pestilences, famines, fiery flames, and floods of waters, together with earth-quakes and a thousand all-powerful deaths on white horses, in order to crush this his brood, to grind, to powder into nothing, who scandalously imagine that the sparks of his spirit dwell in them. He, He himself inspires them? Yea no future hell; we are it and live in it, prophecied from the ancient prophets mouth. We dust of dust, we curse of curse!"
Now the prayer of the prophet seemed to operate with greater fervour, for the voice of Ravanel died away, he appeared to sink into slumber totally exhausted, and Lacoste said: "Oh that this pithy syllogism should be thus interrupted, he might have added to the preceding several other arguments just as bold and subtle."
Bertrand now returned with the courier prisoner, whom he had met in the ravine. "Behold," said Lacoste to himself, "all corresponds, either these are slyer devils, than they have ever been considered, or there is some other devilry in the game, which is still strange enough."
The courier, a rather elderly man, was raised from his horse, his dispatches had already been taken from him. "Who are you?" asked Cavalier. "Ah your excellency," stammered the embarrassed man, "Now I am, indeed, nothing but an insignificant ambassador, formerly a surgeon in the royal guards."
"Dubois, by your leave."
When he announced himself as surgeon, he was commanded to bind up the wounds of Ravanel and several of the other brethren. Cavalier and Roland discovered from the papers the position of the royal troops, and it was decided to anticipate the attack. As they intended to dispatch a trusty person to reconnoitre the country, Edmond stepped forward and said: "As yet I have not been able to do any thing for you, my dearest brethren, intrust this commission to me." It was granted to him, and he retired to dress according to his own ideas, in a manner befitting his design; Lacoste, who would never separate from him, now pressed forward again as his companion. As soon as they had discussed and ordered every thing, Cavalier proposed, that the courier should be detained until they should have brought their plan to a fortunate conclusion, and Castanet with his young wife repaired to the leafy hut, that had been got ready for them both, while the darkness of night set in.
Edmond intended visiting the valleys under pretext of inquiring after and purchasing an estate and castle in the district, that were abandoned by the owner, and now for sale. He had become acquainted with an aged secular priest, who dwelt in a beautifully situated village of a charming valley, and his companion had under other pretences taken up his quarters in a neighbouring village. As Edmond wandered solitarily through the enchanting landscape, for the purpose of acquainting himself with its conveniences, his heart became oppressed as he struggled to know if the object, that led him hither might in itself be a good, whether it might be a justifiable one. "Shall I," said he to himself, "bring war into these peaceful valleys, where hitherto no noise of arms has ever resounded? Here the monsters still slumber, which we are going to awaken, in order to provide victims even in these communes for their grim jaws." He quieted his perturbed feelings with the thought, that without his assistance the royalists would march hither, for the purpose of entangling and, if possible, extirpating his new brethren from this part of the country, which was almost wholly in the possession of Catholic inhabitants.
His host, the Catholic priest, was a very little grey-haired man, who, with just as old and amiable a housekeeper lived under the vines and olive trees, that shaded his dwelling so quietly and peaceably, that Edmond on his first entrance was involuntarily reminded of the fable of Philemon and Baucis. He could not divest himself of the idea, that in this habitation the earliest and dearest recollections of his childhood were hovering round him, he was confounded at himself, that his wrath, his burning, religious zeal seemed here nearly exhausted, he was almost obliged to confess that it was forgotten. He meditated and dreamed in the rustling of the trees, by the murmuring of the little waterfall, how softly his soul melted away, and his resolution, like that of Rinaldo's in the enchanted garden of Armida, lost all its strength. When he could not regain his former energy in his waking dreams, as he strolled by the side of the brook, he called it the stream of oblivion, where he now enjoyed the vernal gales and flower breathing elysium and in Lethe separating himself for ever from the world of strife and suffering.
The clergyman had also received the youth with the greatest cordiality; whenever Edmond returned from his rambles, such pleasure beamed on the countenance of the old man, that the stranger felt himself bound to his host by kindliness and emotion. The latter frequently examined him fixedly and as if he had known him already at an earlier period, and then sank into a reverie as if he could not connect his recollections.
"My dear Chevalier de Valmont," (thus Edmond had named himself) commenced the old man on the second day, as they sat at table, "the longer you are with me, the greater pleasure do I experience in your society. An extraordinary resemblance to an old friend almost compels me to treat you as a beloved brother, nay, I may say as a son. It is long since any stranger has visited me in my solitude, here I learn but little of the world, and that is why such a visit as yours is so acceptable to me." "I too am delighted with your society," replied Edmond, "and I ask myself not without sadness, wherefore it should not be granted to man to spend his days in peaceful quiet, elevated and instructed by nature, enlivened and comforted by the simplest and most delightful enjoyments."
"Perhaps this will be your fate my good sir." answered the priest with vivacity, "perhaps we may then see each other very often and confidentially, if you should only, become the possessor of yonder castle, which is scarcely half a league distant from hence."
"And," said Edmond hesitatingly,--"if the war should rush down here also? should this castle, this house here be consumed in flames? Where is safety in our times?" "The Lord will protect us replied the priest, as he has done heretofore." "And should he confer victory on the foes?" "His will be done," prayed the old man, "for his decree is wisdom, he is just and good, and with his might dwells love." "It almost appears," said Edmond surprised, "that you will not be disinclined to grant victory to the rebels; at least you express yourself so mildly, that I do not recognise in you the Catholic, as zealous for his religion as, however, he ought to be."
"Let us not misunderstand each other," replied the priest, "I only mean, that I surrender myself intirely, wholly, and unconditionally to the will of my Lord, and resign the reins to him without murmuring, or contending. But I love my religion, I am thoroughly imbued with it, and on that very account be it far from me to banish these poor deluded ones and to call down a curse upon their heads."
"You are thus a worthy servant of your religion," answered Edmond, "and deserve that the enlightening should be made manifest to you."
The venerable man looked smilingly on the youth and said: "You have now betrayed yourself young gentleman,--do not blush," continued he in the mildest tone, "fear nothing from me; you are not the less welcome to me on that account. Perhaps we shall understand, when we have learnt to know each other and perhaps not; but you shall ever remain my beloved guest, may become also my friend, although it may happen that I should blame your enthusiasm, or your fanaticism. How many worthy, noble, truly inspired, loving minds have I also known among the Huguenots and how many harsh and pitiless ones in my own church. It is now indeed a woeful time in our country, and moreover, we see as yet no end to the misery."
Edmond had recovered from his surprise and embarrassment, and said: "Is it though right, to remain thus indifferent and irresolute as you appear to me to be? Yet, perhaps, at a later period of life I shall also feel thus, for my father, to my sorrow, spoke almost as you do."
"You do not know me yet," answered the priest, "and I may well assert, without pretention, that sentence ought not to be pronounced so hastily and so readily on a man, who has had such experience of himself and of the world, who has reflected and really lived. In religious affairs particularly, my brain whirls in agony, when I see how so many place the whole tenor of a profound mystery in a book, an expression, a phrase, or even a syllable, and weigh the immensity of love in grains and scruples, that they may know the faster how surely their brother is to be damned, who in other countries and with different vessels draws out of the ocean of grace. Whoever too hastily gives a yes, or a no to the interrogations of the conscience, in such assuredly neither doubt, nor conviction is as yet awakened. That exhaustion, that mournful faintness which comes over us, when we see all parties fallen into error, all truth and inspiration mingled and disfigured by human passion, is not to be called indifference. Whom the revealed word has once enlightened can never again forget the glance of love, that has arisen in his inmost soul, he would rather forfeit his life than his conviction, he requires no proofs, no renewing to confirm him, no passion, no illusion, or miracle to ground him more firmly in himself, as little will raillery, or doubt, brilliant talent, or presumptuous philosophy, again be able to displace in his heart that directing star."
Edmond became thoughtful. "You are recalling," said he at length, "my former existence within me; I believe I comprehend you, and yet formerly I did not understand myself. You even mention the miraculous and similar things slightingly, do we not live in the age of such things? Oh! my honoured, venerable friend, could you have beheld what I have seen, could I tell you what I have myself experienced, you would then be bewildered at yourself and your own conviction, but you content yourself in peace, that you may escape the conflict, you deny the gift of prophecy, the visions, the wonderful state of these children and inspired Camisards, or censure with your church all, as deception and falsehood, if perchance you do not, as however I cannot believe of you, agree with the most infamous, and declare it the work of Satan and of hell." "Aye, no, my young enthusiast," cried the old man, "nothing of all this; I have spoken with sensible men, and I have witnessed myself years ago similar singularities: Why should I deny these miracles, and may be, here and there mingled with lies, what should deter me from believing in them?"
"Well, nevertheless," interrupted Edmond passionately, "you will withdraw from the truth, you will uphold only your church as truly orthodox?"
"Has mine then no miracles to bring forward?" said the old man meekly: "and why should I not recognise them? But should the truth of revelation be grounded upon these alone, we were then indeed entrapped in the worst of errors. That, which habit renders necessary to us, we call nature and its laws: When I see a deviation from this, which surprises and confounds me, I speak of miracles; as if these so named laws were not likewise miracles; as if I were able to interpret, to comprehend and explain the daily phenomena; as if each flower did not blossom before me as a miracle; my origin, growth and decay, sun, moon, and stars, light, air, and water, nay, the organisation of the smallest fly were not also miracles like horror and spectre. All life surrounds me spiritually, miraculously; or, if my spirit is torn out of the peaceful element of its heavenly atmosphere; then love becomes hatred and despair, and wisdom as well as the revealed word of the Lord madness and blasphemy." Edmond was mute. "Know I then," continued the old man, "that which I call nature and its energies, the mind and its faculties? how each day it varies in different men for the most insignificant occasions! The poet, the artist knows how to speak of feelings, which to the uninitiated must appear as delirium, or miracle: energies unfold themselves, of which the former world was ignorant, many others have in the course of time declined, or have been forgotten; they appear again probably to astonish, or to give a firmer foundation to true science. Would my mind set limits to the Almighty, and know I, what God from wise, unsearchable causes will permit or execute? but no miracle can ever be elevated to a religious mystery; revelation requires not this to announce its eternal truth; the Saviour himself did not perform his miracles for that purpose, and reproaches the pharasees and people; miracle seeking testifies disbelief and irreligion, and where passion, party or sect, in the conflict of opinions, relies upon these inexplicable phenomena and wish to found conviction, or even to prove and explain for ever and ever out of what is indefinite, then is it all over long since with every sincere examination, with all true religion."
"And the resurrection of the Lord?" said Edmond. "Is not," said the former, "to be reckoned among the phenomena, commonly called miracles, if the grosser, unenlightened mind can indeed comprehend them only in this manner." "Go on," said Edmond, "to make your opinions clear to me, I am not yet too old to learn." "It happens not unfrequently," resumed the priest "that remorse and despair either in criminals or in weak, sickly men have produced a sudden cure of old paralysis, so that the strength of the arm has been able to tear off their fetters, or to break iron posts; passion or terror exasperated that man, and gave him what in an ordinary state he did not possess. In dreams, in sickness, strange worlds are often discovered to us, and unknown feelings, scarcely foreboded, are presented to our view, and thus it may well happen, nay, I have myself experienced it, that in excited minds, inspired by enthusiasm, remorse, and passion, a state, as if between sleep and wakefulness, originates, in which, in the struggles of the organs, the spirit breaks in a short time through the bonds that confine it; it sees and hears as a spirit, distance approaches it, barriers obstruct not its view, futurity becomes the present, and in this total overthrow, the original vigour of the soul resumes its own appropriate right."
"And wherefore should not this, according to your own words," said Edmond, "be able to be pure and heavenly?"
"I will neither combat, condemn, nor ratify it," answered the clergyman, "were our nature entirely pure and refined, had we never falsified our heavenly origin, then indeed might these phenomena deserve our praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty, who again ever raises us to the rank of apostles, and denies us not the gift of prophecy. But frivolity, mortality, and evil have penetrated into us, this death obscures our life, this annihilation struggles against our spirit, as we are of heavenly origin; our outward existence is, however, as well as our spiritual operations continually exposed to this pitiful enemy, as the shadow, it follows every thought and every deed, and to combat it in thought and action, as well as in pure faith and devotion, is the task of our existence; the past must be continually put aside to make room for the coming, of the Lord. But woe to us when that wonderful excitement of the mind, when these gifts of prophecy associate themselves with this nullity, this chaos, and all the dark passions! Then eternal truth, which never slumbers within us, summons falsehood, vanity, pride, wickedness, and bloodthirstiness, to enter into the shadowed gloom of our dark deformed soul, hyenas and tigers then tear themselves free from their fetters, and hapless man imagines, while the spirit of murder is roaring within him, that the Spirit of the Lord is prophesying directly from out of his mouth."
Edmond looked at him searchingly. "Often, however," pursued the old man composedly, "it is only the Immortal Spirit, that collects all its present and future energies, that it may step beyond the ordinary limits of nature, and that it merely takes with it the images of folly, and the almost innocent mask, in order to announce even in the supernatural, that which is absurd and contrary to nature."
"If you are right." said Edmond, "what do you counsel those, who are thus gifted? This state must be a most critical one; but how disembarrass yourself of it?"
"By simplicity of conduct," replied the old man, "by estrangement from all passion and pride, and by pure prayer for the deliverance from this error, and from the deluding gift."
"That signifies," answered Edmond passionately and bitterly, "I ought to entreat the Lord to withdraw from me, I ought to pray to him to remain far away from me; in order to become godly, I must commence with consummate impiety. Is it thus that a priest of the Lord can exhort and counsel? but thus they are, thus they speak, these persecutors. And if they be but consistent, they must also entirely deny the miracles of their church, nay, even censure sacred Scripture as a lie."
"You have not indeed completely understood me, young man," answered the priest. "May not the ardour of love kindle so intensely, that the matter, the obscurity, the nothingness in us, may become temporally annihilated, and our speech, with the Lord's permission working in his strength may issue forth? That this may be possible, the example of the apostles teaches us, the prophets bear witness; that many great saints whom the world venerated, may have thus spoken and worked, is certainly credible.--And thus belief may move and elevate, it may be a positive crime to mock reservation,--but what can this avail true religion, or its mysteries? How weak would it be, if these supports, as I have already said, were indispensable to it! The miracle of all miracles, my young friend, is the great moment which is revealed to all sinning, hapless mortals in their limited life, when the lord himself advances to meet the penitent, the indifferent, and creates his heart anew. This metamorphosis is more wonderful incomprehensible, and more mysterious than all the overthrows of the laws of nature, which attract the eye searching for miracles, for here out of nothing something is brought forth, out of death, suddenly like a flash of lightning, life is created."
They were disturbed at this moment by several peasants, who were begging directions from their priest how to proceed respecting the approaching festival and procession. Edmond in the mean while walked about the little garden, variously excited and inclined to contemplation, for his earlier youth had been recalled to his remembrance, many of his father's words, many of his early instructor's, his mother's admonitions were again revived within him. The clergyman returned after a short time and said: "Still I must ever lovingly admire the human mind, when it preserves itself pure, and so many sentiments and customs affect, while they appear to us childish, and foolish. Let no severe judge expunge these feelings from our religion, for even, these sucklings will hang on their mother's breast, and while they nourish themselves, they gaze in her dark eyes, whose expression they understand more from the instinct of childhood than from knowledge. We have here in our little church a miraculous portrait of the mother of God, which is renowned and honored far and wide by the country-people of the mountain. An old shapeless figure cut in wood of small size, probably in the early age of art, when it was yet scarcely aware of its own existence. I have seen the sick, when they prayed before the altar, restored to health, for faith and the commotions of the mind are able to bring forth the strongest phenomena in our delicate nature. Now when I reflect that upon this little spot so many thousands have for centuries derived consolation and joy, I cannot look upon her without emotion. The war has rendered a festival impossible this year, which otherwise has annually been celebrated on the morrow. From several village communities, even from those which lie twelve leagues off, processions of the communities arrived; eight young girls crowned with flowers bore the portrait of the Madonna of their church, singing all those hymns, which sound so beautifully in the mountain dialect in their tunes: Thus they walked round the church and one procession after another brought many with spiritual songs into our temple, here the strange visitor must bow low before ours, who then in a chaunt thanked and praised the Lord, in the song which our young women here sing most enchantingly in alternate chorusses. Thus all the processions bring in their mother of God quite similar to the theories of the ancient Greeks, and retired again in praise and thanks. This ceremony, which to the wise may only appear puerile, has, since I have been able to observe the people here, always produced much good and salutary fruit. The common man (though what do I say, who among us that calls himself the educated,) need not such things at times. The whole village all the winter long rejoiced in the anticipation of this day, the possession of this Marie endears this spot of the mountain, and renders it invaluable to them, the pilgrimage church here dazzles to the absent from a distance as if surrounded with a glory. The wandering through unknown districts encouraged the young and old, the visitings of a foreign nature, made the accustomed home more agreeable to them. Religious sentiments, pious designs, were developed, and at a later period, in peace brought to perfection. On the road they encountered the poor and sick, who needed assistance, all the feelings of the heart were renewed and reinvigorated, for man requires a similar renewal at times, that he may not become too monotonous to himself. Shall I also remind you, that by this means their native land became to all more endeared and beloved? without mentioning, that people from far countries became acquainted, and one heard of this and that from another; affection and also marriages were contracted among the distant mountaineers, and thus the useful, the good with piety and an inclination for the wonderful, as well as the love of nature went hand in hand." "All this," said Edmond, "however much you may speak in its favour, the Huguenots call idolatry."
"It would be so too," answered the old man, "if persecution, hatred and malice, were excited by this love and festivity. It might be perilous to celebrate the festival now, especially if it should be interrupted by enthusiasts of the other party. In bygone years, however, I have seen even protestants, who were unable to look upon the puerile ceremony without shedding tears. For it is just in a similar way, when man suffers himself to yield to his most cherished sentiments as if he were at home, when in an entirely childish and artless spirit he draws near to his God, or to his representative, his mother, or the saints, (whom he believes nearer to the nameless one,) plays and sports with the dreaded, the worshipped, laying aside all solemnity and all serious pomp, then does mankind appear purest and simplest. All ages, all nations are the same, let them think and worship as they like, have never been able to do entirely without it, and what we are often compelled to hear from free-thinkers or reformers, that we have again introduced the old overthrown idolatry, is only, if rightly understood, in the spirit of love, the regeneration of the human mind, which will never permit this source of its holy thirst to be exhausted. But abuse and error attach themselves to everything human. Indeed, the most beautiful body consists merely of earth, and dust; and yet beauty is more sublime than the moist clay of the fields."
Thus was Edmond compelled to hear from strange lips his former thoughts detailed. He was so affected by the presence of the old man, that he felt himself compelled to discover to him what a zealous catholic he himself had once been and had but a short time previously turned to the Huguenot faith; he was silent, however, respecting his alliance with the Camisards, and the purpose for which he had descended into the valleys.
"It is easy to understand," answered the old man, "how lively minds in these troublous times forsake their party and seek on the opposite side, what is wanting to them; that love makes such attempts to become reconciled with itself, even though these attempts should fail. My dear, young friend, you recall to my mind by your confession, your countenance and presence my own past youth in the most lively colours, and I cannot refrain from exchanging confession for confession, confidence for confidence. I am indeed tempted to impart to you the history of my little limited life, that has almost only experienced emotions of the mind."
They seated themselves in an arbour, before which stood plantains entwined with vines, the green wooded mountains were open, and the murmuring of the brook resounded pleasingly through the solitude, while from to time to time, the bells of the village church on account of the festival on the morrow, rang out their monotonous and solemn tones.
"I come from the Netherlands," commenced the priest, "born of Huguenot parents, whom I lost at a very early period. My guardians, worldly-minded men, troubled themselves more about the preservation of my small fortune than of giving me a sound education, and therefore it happened that I was consigned to a tutor, with whom they, as well as myself, were very well pleased. He was a man of extensive information, who had also travelled much, and had resided a considerable time in London. As he was descended from a good family, and possessed himself some tact, he became acquainted with and acquired each day the confidence of many beaux esprits and of the courtiers here, and although his morals had not suffered as much as one might well have been led to fear, his religious principles at least, which may never have been very strong, were by this intercourse entirely stifled and destroyed. Knowledge, understanding were the most important to him, however he devoted himself with religious worship to poetry, as well as to the history of the ancient Greeks. No one could be more eloquent than he, when he enlarged upon these subjects. That these sentiments, as I was of a very lively disposition, should influence me, was very natural; my tutor seemed to me the most gifted of mortals, and his decisions were my oracles. Though I may still honour his memory, I must nevertheless censure as a weakness in what then certainly appeared to me his greatest forte, namely, his unwearied mockery of Christianity and of every religion; all others rather than the various sects of the Christian Church, found a release from his satires; the present, as well as the past, the history of the development, its mysteries, all was a subject of his derision, and the apostles, even the Saviour himself, were not spared by him, how much less Luther, or Calvin, and Zwingli, or even those so named mystics, who desire to form in themselves a peculiar spirit to recognise God. My mind had soon become so intimately connected with his, that I could not endure that there should be any religion for me on the earth, that any pious sentiments should ever arise in my heart. I had indeed my heroes of the former world, the Grecian antiquity, the high-minded Romans, in whose patriotism I glowed in dreams, the boundless fields of poetry with its gardens of wit and humour; and out of Sophocles and Eschylus, those dreamers of a world of spirits not understood, these seemed to me the most sublime objects that could ever have the power to shake my soul. In a short time I was honestly and truly ashamed of being a Christian, when I thought of the variegated world of fiction, of the ambiguous Grecian mythology, of those feasts and spectacles, lofty statues, and noble temples: Where then were the deliverer on the ignominious cross, and his impoverished disciples? how this faith of poverty and misfortune dwindled into nothing compared with those sacrifices and public parade, and the jubilee of the Pindaric hymns? neither did I reckon myself among the community, and the dullest day of my young, life, was that on which I was received into the church of our sect with the customary ceremonies. Each word seemed nonsense to me, all solemnity degradation, in anger only I responded to the questions, and while still in the church, I swore never again to visit it: A contradictory and foolish oath, which, however, I long observed. At a later period, when I reentered into the world, I remarked that all, who were called strong-minded, were either privately or publicly of my belief. All did not openly mock; the weak disapproved of this outrage, but only from the feeling of not making weak men err, or become unhappy, who though had nothing better themselves, or were not able to produce any thing but the old, miserable tale, that, without a connexion, one often contradicts the other. Many forcibly denied altogether the history of the Saviour, with others still worse, he was merely an unfortunate rebel, and to the best, a moral man, but who indeed, according to their views must be far inferior to Socrates, whose life was clearer, and whose doctrines seemed more comprehensible. Several of these free-thinkers, to whom the catholic church was a stumbling block, and who, that they might not be considered as antichristians, turned all the strength of their mind, under pretext of protecting the protestant freedom, to tear to atoms and to disfigure their catholic brethren, the history of the church, spiritual and temporal ordinances, in the most barbarous manner: thus behind this rampart, they imagined under false names, to be able to annihilate Christianity itself, for this it was which was hateful to them, not this, or that party. All this was very evident to me, and I lent my aid as much as my limited power would permit. I arrived at the age of maturity, and my opinions only became still more deeply rooted. I travelled, I saw the world, but only on the side, which confirmed my prejudices. If I met with pious enlightened Christians, they appeared to me only as strange disordered spirits, worthy of remark perhaps, of pity assuredly. In a German town I took out of sheer insolence the book of a German mystic from the library to my own dwelling, that I might for want of better amusement, divert myself in the spirit of derision with the madness of the absurd and the foolish. Unconsciously, I had brought the fire-brand into my house, which soon set in flames all this edifice of pride and worldly impiety. I turned over the leaves, read and laughed, read again and found the puerility at least poetical. The book left me no rest, I felt as it were attracted to it, it tortured me, and to my shame I was soon forced to confess to myself, that it contained connexion, strength, and spirit, that it instructed me, and that gardens, flowers, and trees of love bloomed, where I had only seen a waste desert. The presentiment seized me, that another God might rule the universe than he, whom in my enthusiastic views of nature, or in my poetical inspirations, I had been willing to discover, or to acknowledge in the vortex of frivolity.
"My mind much affected, after some weeks of anxiety and meditation, longed ardently to read the Holy Scriptures. None of my numerous acquaintances, even such as were book collectors, or who possessed extensive libraries, had this book in their households. I felt ashamed, that I too had never required it. From that time this treasure became my faithful companion on my travels. I read in solitary and consecrated moments, and experienced what every thirsty one feels, who is susceptible of humiliation, in whom the utter sense of helplessness is not entirely extinct, which, indeed, is so indispensably necessary before the spiritual word can take root in the uncultivated heart. Faith! this so often disputed, attacked and variously explained word. Oh! who has experienced it, in whom it has arisen with its strength, he will not dispute it. I could not withdraw myself from the revelation, the faith, so triumphantly did the words, the images, the language of the gospel glittering in the splendour of arms pierce through my soul, and all my energies became the prisoners of eternal love, and were now happy and blessed in the service, in the sweet slavery. My former rebellion against the Lord appeared to me mean and despicable, and my contempt turned from its course, no longer understood the folly of its early wisdom. Many indeed imagine, that faith, humility, and unbounded trust in the Lord, are nothing else than killing our energies, nay the faculty of thinking, and consequently withdraw in anger or in trembling from that work of regeneration, which, nevertheless speaks sometimes from afar indirectly to their insensible hearts. Unhappy men! This so much dreaded faith would first elevate their capacities to energies and kindle new lights and flames in their spirits. Without him, the revealed Christ, no sense in profound thought, no spirit in history, no consolation in nature and no peculiarity in our existence. Art, love, humour, who possesses him, they are then free play-fellows. How joyous, sweet, yea intoxicating and full of merriment, cheerful, and smiling does Christianity appear through all the genuine works of modern art, how blessed and pleasing are they, when in the greatness and fulness of the old world, yet like a spirit of gentle melancholy that passes away as the cloud, momentarily over the beautiful landscape in the brilliancy of spring." The old man paused, and Edmond said: "Oh! how willingly I listen to you, and remember all the sentiments and vicissitudes of my stormy youth."
"What I had before rejected," continued the priest, "now became the most urgent want of my soul, for I felt, how much a christian congregation, in unison together, must strengthen and elevate the individual. I visited the church therefore and wished to join in the worship of my sect. But whether it was that my mind was too much agitated, or that I had perhaps fallen on the wrong one, it appeared to me that every where the church overreached itself by preaching. All preferred their own explanations, and their close reasoning philosophy to the word of the Lord, they were all ashamed of Christ and denied him in artfully spun phrases, they misinterpreted him, merely that they might bring him nearer to their own weak necessities, as if he and his disciples must be subservient to their enlightened times, as servants and sextons of the church. I knew well, that every believing auditor and layman must be a priest himself to be able by his own power to transform the worthless into the good, but all my vital energies sank in the midst of that which surrounded me; the shrill singing stunned me, and the whole left a void and almost brought me back again to the state of a despairing infidel. It was certainly unreasonable on my part to require that all should partake of the intoxication of my newly planted vineyard. I was now compelled to feel, that fanaticism, and stepping beyond the limits was yet worse than remaining cold and apathetic below the mark. I continued my travels, and quarrelled on the way with my companion, already an old acquaintance, who neither could, or would not share in all my feelings. Thus we arrived at Nismes; there my destiny ordained, that I should long remain, in order that my whole life fully aroused should be determined and resolved. My companion, a certain Lacoste, introduced me to a house, where new feelings awaited me, to torture as much as to bless me."
"Lacoste!" exclaimed Edmond, "should he, perhaps--but proceed my venerable friend, I may be mistaken."
"My former friend," pursued the priest, "was tall and robust, a handsome man in every sense of the word, feeling and kind, but frivolous, and as far from every religion, as I had been a short time previously. This friend introduced me to the family of a worthy magistrate, which soon, as the good man and his excellent wife received me so hospitably, became my daily abode. They had a son, an amiable youth whose enthusiasm quickly procured him my confidence, for just as much as Lacoste disputed all religious principles, young Beauvais warmly cherished them, voluntary lived in and for religion: he was the most zealous defender of his Catholic party, that I have ever been acquainted with."
"Heavens!" exclaimed Edmond, "you are then, venerable man, the Edmond Watelet, of whom I have so often heard the Counsellor of Parliament speak, as the favourite friend of his youth?"
A long pause ensued.--"It is indeed so," said the aged priest wiping away his tears, "the young enthusiastic Beauvais must now be an old man; I too though am become old! Aye, truly, there is a period which our heart refuses to believe, it is that alone which exalts the life of each one of us to a strange fiction, to a wonderful tale. He is still living then? ah, my dear Chevalier, you are yourself very like him. That is the spell, which so inseparably bound me to you."
Edmond talked of his father, but notwithstanding his deep emotion, he felt it was impossible to discover to him at that moment, that he was his son. After a time during which the old man recovered from his agitation, he continued more calmly: "That which most contributed to convert the paternal dwelling of my young friend into an enchanted garden for me, was the society of the young and beautiful women, who assembled there. Ha himself was affianced to a lovely girl, and he ardently anticipated his union with her. His Lucy's sentiments corresponded exactly with his own, and all that drew them nearer to each other was more or less imbibed into their existence and grew with the inspired hymn. The elder Beauvais only smiled at the high-strained feeling of the young people, for though he was himself pious, he rather feared that overreaching, and this religious ecstasy appeared to him as such. I now visited the temple in high spirits with my enthusiastic friend. The solemnity of God's service, the stillness, the enchanting singing, the dread-inspiring presentiment which hovered over every mystery that here tried to present itself visibly to the necessitous, languishing senses, transported my heart. Already accustomed to look upon every thing as a riddle, as a concealed mystery of love, the celebration of the Mass appeared to me as elevated and divine, as revelation and work of art, as type and fulfilment at the same time, and each word spoken, or sung as it fell on my ear in the full force of its signification, drove back a bolt from my heart. Art and nature changed before my eyes, the element of water became glorified, in the fire, in the light of the church tapers as well as that of the house, I perceived and recognised the whole tenor of the secret of nature. The nights became too short to enable us to impart to each other all that arose in our minds. A young abbé, a mild, miracle-believing enthusiast was often the third in our consultations in the open air or within doors, and his learning, his knowledge in old legends and histories of the church gave to all our spiritual movements body and presence, yes, my friend, this rosy period of my youth was like the wedding festival of my soul, and griefs not to be named were already preparing in the midst of this enjoyment, in order to teach me how weak, how frail man is and remains."
"And this abbé," exclaimed Edmond, who had scarcely heard the last words, "was he not named Aubigny?"
"Exactly so," replied the pastor with much astonishment, "it seems indeed that you know all the companions of my youth."
"Through the Counsellor of Parliament," answered Edmond, "who also likes to recall to his memory the season of his youth. But I pray you to continue your narrative. I fear that that Lacoste did not wish to be the fourth in your alliance."
"The unfortunate man," said the priest, "who had already become so confidential with us, withdrew from us day by day, although he still continued to visit frequently the paternal dwelling. Notwithstanding that we had agreed to deal mildly with him, his derision of us excited our anger, and his coldness refused all our conciliatory endeavours. It was not predestined, that our days should flow along in peaceful, undisturbed cheerfulness.
"Among the young girls that visited my friend's house, the next in loveliness to his bride, was one Euphemie the most delicate and beautiful apparition that my eyes had ever beheld. She dazzled less than Lucy, but she was still more refined more etherial. Her mind was also already abstracted from this world, her wishes were directed to the cloister, the life of a nun seemed to her most desirable. Fortunately this inclination coincided with the views of her parents, who as it so often happens, wished the whole of the fortune to devolve on the son, so that he might be able to occupy a more important station in the world. In order to complete my reformation, the knowledge of love was only wanting to my deeply affected mind. Euphemie and I drew near to each other, we became as quickly familiarised as if our being had for many years been only waiting for this acquaintance. We were as brother and sister, before we had yet been able to wonder at the rapidity of this mutual confidence. We soon felt that we could not do without each other, she could tell me all her thoughts and feelings more easily and confidingly than she could impart them to her parents, even more than she ventured to do to her female friends. My heart floated in the sweetest repose; at the sound of her voice, at the glance of her mild eye, when I heard her footstep, when she walked in the garden, nay even when I only thought of her, my mind was as if plunged in bliss. Even thus the spirits of the pure soar glorified towards their sacred destiny, estranged from all passion and inquietude, from all violent incitements. And yet I knew not that I loved: I had never permitted this word to enter into my mind.
"We conversed on her future cloistered life, on the saints and their miracles, and Euphemie had in me the most believing pupil. She lent an equally attentive ear to my enthusiasm and days and weeks passed away in a pleasing dream. That Italy, whither indeed I was journeying, was in the world, I had totally forgotten.
"Beauvais took possession of a country house, that lay in the most beautiful part of the country. I followed the family and my adored Euphemie also accompanied her friends, for the mother, as well as the son's future bride respected the wonderful girl. What singular conversations and outpourings of the heart! the earth and all that surrounded us, to which we must indeed have applied names, vanished from us, and our spirits as if in the innocence of Paradise lulled themselves, void of every want, but penetrated with the most innate, the most holy love. We understood each other without words, and as all that was earthly had fled, no feelings of jealousy, suspicion, or distrust arose in our souls.
"The legends, many of which express a heavenly spirit of resignation to the mysterious will of the Most High, a renunciation, nay almost an annihilation of self in fervent love of Christ, a profound mortal compassion in the endearing adoration, our inebriated enthusiasm was awakened and nourished especially by those feelings. Many of these tales are repulsive and contrary to every sentiment, these we discussed with subtle and ingenious commentaries in order to garnish them with a milder spirit. But the most beautiful that this species of tradition has preserved to us, is that, which, however, at the same time is the most misconceived by the unawakened soul of and which is found absurd and repulsive by the worldly minded. The life and history of the old hermits, there may be also much of later invention, to the mind which is once moved by spiritual things, they present a touching miracle. What shall I say of the meditations of St. Francis, of his ardent love and of the visions which arose and were present to this man in the perfect humility, the compassion, and fervour of his unfettered heart? He only who has once known the splendour of the world, the insolent strength appertaining to it, can rightly comprehend this temper of mind. We also often read the Gospel, and then a trembling, such as has been frequently observed in many enthusiasts, came over my whole body, especially when in solitude, for timidity and shame restrained me in society from exposing my deep emotions to observation. In this frame of mind, I left Euphemie one morning, some chapters of the Holy Scriptures had just been read. I threw myself down in the most retired spot in the garden, in order to give a free course to my tears. The whole world awakened feelings of pity within me, I experienced such an overflow of love in my oppressed heart, that it almost burst, in the excess of its own enjoyment; I read over again the passages in Luke, how Christ met the poor widow and the dead body of her son, and compassionately aroused the youth from death. There are no words that can describe the state of my mind. The elder Beauvais with a suite of servants was just returning from the chase. He might well be astonished at finding me in this condition, but he passed me with a mute salutation. I arose, and now as with a tremendous power it took possession of me. Verily, said I to myself, as thee no man has ever yet loved; it is the spirit of God, of the Father himself that stirs within thee to gladden to love, to sympathise with all; in these, these exalted moments I felt impressed with the eternal truth, that I myself, I was the son, the God from God,---and what should prevent me from moving these trees, these stones with the word of life, that they might change into other forms, and attest my might, shall I beckon to the angels that hover round me, visibly to appear to do my service?--Yes! let it be attempted, ventured--Then trembling and fear came over me, I was stunned and in despair; in contrite humility I cast myself down before my Creator, I felt myself undone, now that I perceived my devilish arrogance which had risen out of pure humility and love; I had experienced the most fearful apostacy from God, just at the moment when with all my faculties I felt myself nearer to him.
"This moment in which my spirit became dizzy on the verge of insanity and frenzy, has since then ever seemed to me the most terrible one in my life. I now understood myself and human nature, and also the danger of enthusiastic raptures of love. I had then indeed myself trodden the bridge over which all enthusiasts have passed, the narrow path (ever shining brightly, though hell lies beneath it) between virtue and vice, between wisdom and presumption, which leads from love and kindliness to hatred and murder, and I had now learned what an unholy spirit had moved the Anabaptists, and Adamites, and perhaps now glows and rages in many a heart among the rebels. Oh! my son, man is a most frail and pitiable being, the more is lent to him, the more has he to answer for, the brighter the spirit of love glows within him, the darker burns his reprobation; his gifts granted to him from heaven, may become his dire enemies, there is no one either that stands so fast, but that he may also fall. My legends had already taught me that, but I was doomed to feel it first in this fatal downfall."
"Therefore still hell and devil?" cried Edmond after a long pause. "However mildly you spoke and sentenced at first, the priestly condemnation follows in the end. Oh thou unfortunate Cavalier and Marion! and ye unhappy children, on whose lisping tongues Satan himself laid the name of the Lord, and the awaking to repentance."
"What then shall we call that?" said the old man mildly, "which works directly against God? We require not certainly that fearful figure, which perversity has imagined, in order to represent him personally; we need not indeed ascribe to him those tremendous attributes, which the miracle-seeking has invented, fabulously enough, but so much the worse for us, the weaker, the more powerless he in himself is: how feeble are we then to permit ourselves to be so ignominously overcome by this shadow, this delusion, this inefficiency, this nothingness? How our priests may censure these suggestions and represent them as devilish I know not, but it suffices for me, that I have experienced in myself, that such a feeling of all our energies may exist in us in divine love, which then does not proceed from God, but from his despicable adversary, and of which we must beware, because we, the image of God, through our own demerits are, as it were, only shadows of shadows."
The old man arose, and walked several times up and down the garden, to subdue the emotion, which these recollections had excited. Edmond remained behind in deep thought, and compared the narrative of the pastor with his own experience. Should he now view them in an other light, or wish them effaced from the career of his life? He would have been more satisfied, could he have heartily embittered his feelings against the old man, towards whom, however, inclination as well as the intercourse of soul in which he had spent his youth with his own parent attracted him. The pastor came back smiling, and seated himself again by the side of the subtle investigator. "It cannot be otherwise in life," recommenced he, "each sentiment, each society, each disposition and friendship has its history, all ascends, attains the highest summit and falls again. Thus had the most delightful concord in our singular intimacy already vanished, before we had been able to perceive a change. The impetuous Lacoste had conceived a violent passion for Lucy, and the gentle, pious creature felt very unhappy on that account, although she at same time became reserved towards young Beauvais. At first the latter was embarrassed at this, then vexed and irritated against Lacoste, to whom until now he had been greatly attached, whilst he thought that a secret inclination for this impetuous man had thus visibly estranged his bride from him. In this mutual constraint, the two friends avoided each other, they were however compelled to meet in company: An explicit communication and reciprocal understanding seemed impossible, so that the rancour took even deeper root, especially with Lacoste, who, after some time, made but little effort to restrain from publicly betraying his aversion to Beauvais. But the state of my own feelings was such, that I was soon disqualified from observing others around me. Euphemie's brother, the pride of his family, fell into an illness, which had all the appearance of consumption, and now the parents thought of marrying their daughter to a man of distinction, that through her their name and large fortune might be perpetuated in the world. When Euphemie first spoke to me on this subject, she was wholly unembarrassed; her voice was as firm and steady as if she were speaking of a friend. I felt as if she were relating to me a silly improbable tale, so pure, exalted, and unattainable had my fancy painted her. I could almost just as easily have persuaded myself that a scheme of marriage was projecting with the evening star. But at night, on my solitary couch, the aspect of affairs took another form: Again was I doomed to learn, and how painfully! to know myself and the world. Is she to belong to the world? I asked myself, wherefore then not first to me? To me, to whom she already belongs, as my soul dwells in hers!
"The concealed ardour, which until now had slumbered in the sweetest intoxication, burst through its bud and blossomed, and shone forth like a rare flower, which unfolded a thousand purple leaves. I felt now thoroughly, for the first time, that what until then I had considered merely earthly, was of heavenly origin. I deemed myself called upon in my pure love to renew as a real sacrament, the sublime symbol of marriage, in such holy perfection as it is seldom, perhaps never, found on earth. Euphemie was terrified at my plans, my ardent persuasions, and my enterprising spirit. The more her hesitation, her timidity increased my passion, the more did I appear to her a strange being, whom until then she had not known at all. She was to be awakened from her peaceful repose, thus my love desired it, but she was shocked at the thought of grieving her parents in any way, to oppose them was with her an unnatural sin, and all that I urged about elopement, force, and death, only confused her delicate mind, as in the roaring of the waterfall no speech can be heard. My high wrought passion grew almost to frenzy; that she did not love me, that I was hateful to her, that already she turned her affections on her bridegroom, whom I jealously cursed, menacing to kill both him and myself: to all these frantic expressions she listened with a suffering and endearing patience. Thus then was this heaven destroyed for me, and black demons grinned on me from the same places, where before my intoxicated ear had heard the flapping of angel's wings, from whence formerly a sweet smile from a radiant countenance bloomed on me like roses sparkling with dew in the rosy light of morning.
"Verily my soul becomes young again, when I think on those days. Oh! he grows not old, who lives only in the solitude of his recollections, as I do. With poor Lacoste things went on still worse than with myself. He wasted away, and wished for death. Often did he call upon it with fearful words. There was something heart-rending in his look. My friend Beauvais had also become pale, his youth was evaporating. Oh! there is nothing so terrible as to be compelled to doubt the worth of the beloved object; that gives more pain than despised affection. And in these pangs the hapless man was now perishing. Lucy was a puzzle to me also, when I was able to direct a look at her, she as well as Euphemie were constrained and timid, sought, and at the same tine avoided solitude, longed to pour out the overflowings of the heart to each other or their beloved, yet could not find the time, or perhaps, could not exert sufficient courage. All the same men, who, but a short time previously sounded in concord together like heavenly tones, now screamed in yelling discord against one another; the apparent sanctity had changed into human folly, and each understood the other as little as himself. The elder Beauvais seemed to guess a little the horrible confusion, for he frequently looked at us all with dark and penetrating glances.
"At length this twisted knot disentangled itself again. Euphemie's brother began to recover, the former projects were brought forward again, and my overwhelming passion was compelled to give place by degrees to a calm resignation. This only was the case, for I was determined to make good my supposed rights, until I perceived that the delicate Euphemie must perish in this storm; Lucy at length declared herself for Beauvais, and it was discovered, that his too intimate intercourse with Lacoste was alone the cause of her reserve towards him. The fear had risen within her, that he himself might be inclined to the free-thinking opinions of his rival. So great was her love to her church, that she had resolved, rather to sacrifice her dear betrothed than to live in the proximity of persuasions, which she considered as utterly profane. And it is true, the more zealous we were to recognise truth and divinity in one form only, the more did Lacoste seize every opportunity to express his incredulity. Indeed, however, miserable he felt within himself, he sought by a certain vanity to avail himself of every occasion to prove his strength of mind in mockery, and in violent bursts of passion, his wretchedness had given such a bitter turn to his feelings, that sometimes he stood amongst us like an inspired prophet of Atheism, used such singular similies and figurative expressions, in a language so touching and elevated, that the pious maidens turned away from him with inward terror.
"We had all ceased to weep, we were reconciled and of peaceable, quiet hearts, when Lacoste entered in the midst of our pathetic emotion and religious conversation. Beauvais made known to him what he had learned from Lucy, and that he (Lacoste) must quit our society in order that he might not disturb the happiness of the lovers and their approaching marriage, perhaps even render it impossible. This blow fell unexpectedly on the unfortunate Lacoste; his whole emaciated, care-worn frame trembled violently as if in convulsions, he was unable for a long time to find words, and when at last they flowed from his colourless lips, he tried to persuade us, that such a sentence of banishment from former friends was at least too hard, that he was not able to subdue his passion so quickly, or entirely to get rid of his persuasions, but that he combated both, and would strive against them with still greater energy in our company. But Beauvais was on this day armed with manly courage and resolution, his intercourse hitherto with Lucy had made him too unhappy; he insisted on the immediate departure of the peace-destroyer; the Abbé Aubigny sided with him, the gentle Euphemie was anxious, and Lucy herself the most decided; I also joined in this chorus, and we all unanimously declared, as with one voice, that the godless one should no longer linger near us; it was our duty, the love of Christ itself required of us to banish him, because through his intercourse with us, our religion would be sullied, perhaps even endangered. When Lacoste perceived we were firm in our religious zeal, he left off prayers and humiliations, and a tremendous fury overcame the mortified man, his eyes flashed fire, and he cursed himself and us with the bitterest execrations--that we might never find happiness, that misery might pursue us, that Beauvais might reap nothing but grief and sorrow from this marriage, and that he might live to see calamity, distress, and crime on his dearest children."
Edmond sighed deeply. "Thus," continued the priest, "did the wretched man leave us, and rushed like a madman out of the house; but a short time only was requisite to recall us to our senses, and to penetrate us with a burning shame. In the most devout temper of mind, in feelings of the purest love, as we fancied, we had been cruel towards a fellow brother, towards a friend, who deserved forbearance and compassion, although he might have strayed into the path of error. Beauvais was the first to recollect himself, and was angry with himself and all of us; he rebuked us as inquisitors, who condemn in cold blood to the stake all those that differ in opinion with them. A messenger was quickly dispatched to his residence in town, but he had already in his fury departed thence, no one knew whither. He had smashed to pieces everything in the house there, and with his gigantic strength had so ill-used a young waiter, who had attempted to appease him, that the unfortunate lad had been given up to the surgeons as dead. He had so cut his head with tables and chairs that he threw at the defenceless boy and crushed both his legs, that it was doubtful whether he would recover. If we had first been ashamed, we would now have concealed ourselves in the caverns of the earth, when we learned that this young lad, bred up in the most ordinary manner, and without any information, as soon as he had recovered his senses, during excruciating tortures from the dressing of his wounds, had prayed to God for the man, who had injured him, that he would forgive and succour the unhappy man, who must have been inexpressibly, infinitely wretched to have been prompted in his sorrow to fall upon an innocent person. Who is the true Christian? we asked ourselves, who the professor of the religion of love? Ah! we were so zealous, we thought we had learned so much, that we were able to teach the profoundest doctrine, we looked down daily with contemptuous pity on those who were less enlightened, who were not susceptible of our sublime emotions,--but now we were forced to confess to ourselves, that we were yet standing on the other side of the commencement; it was just, that we as miserable scholars, should be compelled to go for instruction to a young and ignorant waiter at an inn.
"I will conclude. Before my friend had yet celebrated his marriage, my Euphemie took the veil. On the same day, we had thus arranged it, I caused myself to be received into the bosom of her church. At first I intended to become a monk, but as I had delayed, I suffered myself to be consecrated a priest at a distance, and was transferred to this solitary part of the mountains. Since then, I have never heard of my friends, of Euphemie; I even wished to avoid ever seeing them again, that I might not renew the pains of deep, vital wounds. And yet it is but weakness, to turn away from the path of sorrow.--It had become dark, and the two friends repaired to the lighted room, to partake of the little evening meal. The young peasants who had been there before, reentered, and led with them a young and beautiful girl. The latter shewed the pastor the flowers and the ornaments, with which they intended on the morrow to adorn the image of the mother of God. 'Now, at last,' said the young and happy Caspar, 'is the time come, reverend sir, that I can lead home my Louison, my bride. You know very well how she desired to spend to-morrow's festival still as a virgin, in order that she might be able to carry our Mary, and sing too. It has been sorrow enough to me, to be compelled to defer my happiness for so long a time; but for once she has persisted in her pious obstinacy. Well, truly it is precious to have such a christian wife, such a holy treasure. All is well, that everything has been so prosperous as yet; for who can tell what evil may come between, when man places his fate on such trials as these, and binds himself to hours and days. However everything is already arranged for the wedding, and all danger and fear is surmounted.' 'How thou talkest.' said the blushing Louison, from whose eyes laughed her approaching happiness; and the fulfilment of all her wishes. 'I have been friendly to thee for two years past, but must I on that account love the mother of God less? Ah! the history as it has come down to us, is too affecting, and therefore we must be thankful towards her. Look you, my strange young gentleman, before the village stood here, there was nothing far around but field and forest. No vine, no olive-tree was to be found here. Then went a poor wood-cutter, who had come from a distance into the wild forest to cut down a tree for his trade. And as he applied his hatched to it, he heard a sigh, and as he listened, a singing. A light appeared in the gloomy forest, and above in the tree, in the oak trunk, there sat as if in a hollow the mother of God, and commanded him to build a church on that very spot. The man made known the miracle, the wood was cleared, and behind the altar of our church stands still the same old oak trunk, in which the holy virgin already dwelt from time immemorial as a testimony and a remembrance. Thus was our good church founded, thus has the village risen, and men have drawn near the beloved spot, for our Mary would not thus dwell in solitude any longer. Look Caspar, thus but for our gracious mother, there would be no house, no man here, and our dear parent's house, and I, and thou would not be in the world, and upon this spot of earth, and for all this must we be thankful to her.'
"All well and good," said Caspar, "but just because she is so amiable, she would certainly have granted us with all her heart, our happiness a long while ago. God and the saints are not like us men, who are so ambitious on one little point, that we neglect true honour." "Is it not true, Caspar," said Louison, laughing, "if thy new jacket with shining buttons had not been ready, thou wouldst willingly have deferred the wedding?" Thus laughing and jesting they withdrew again to go and seek the clerk with whom they wished to consult how best they might attach the flowers and garlands to the altar. The old man felt happy that his penitents loved to approach him with this child-like confidence, and respected him just as much as a father, while at the same time they fearlessly associated with him in play and merriment. Edmond was grave and melancholy; when it was time to separate to sleep, he abruptly asked the priest, as he grasped his hand: "Well, reverend sir, did you then afterwards in your station find that happiness of which you dreamed in your youth?"
"Happiness," said the old man, "what is it men call thus? and of what avail would their dreams be then, if it were to be met with in reality. I soon saw in the beginning, with bitter sorrow, that I was too enthusiastic, that my companions in the same calling, my superiors, did not partake of my burning zeal; disapproved of it indeed, or declared it heresy and false enthusiasm. They were too much occupied about their community, the ensuring of their condition, their influence in the world, and the binding of souls, to have kindled ardour within them, or to have sought that faith in emotions, which was so necessary to my life. Well, somewhat late, I undertook to examine the teachers of my now abandoned church, and discovered that they were not altogether so inimical to Christianity as I had fancied. I thought that I perceived more and more distinctly that many roads lead to the Lord, and that he, as he himself has promised, has prepared many dwellings in his house. What the innovators, who have split asunder the church, desire, many of the apostles and earlier teachers have already wished. I hope, this disunion will just preserve the eternity of the Word. I also perceived, that to form a spiritual state, to represent a great community, a great deal by far of that enthusiasm of solitude must be checked, if it were only to preserve the constitution pure, the strength which alone renders possible that innate spirit of love for the present as well as for the future, and prepares for it an asylum. It was granted to my desire to live here in a small commune, retired from the whole world, almost like a hermit and thus to suffice for myself. I honour the body of our church, and am not angry with it, because it has no spirit; I forgive it the letter, if sometimes it appears to annihilate the spirit, because I trust in the wisdom and love of the Almighty, who thus accomplishes all to his ends."
Thus they separated, Edmond could not sleep. How agitatingly did all this old man's words work upon him, whom he had so unexpectedly met of whom his father had so often spoken to him in his childhood. He felt troubled, and prayed fervently, that at length this rebellion, which he had been sent forth to excite, might not rage in this valley over the venerable head of this peaceful hermit. But he indeed knew best how impossible this was, how inevitable must be the dreadful event. In short slumbers, fearful dreams tormented him, and with the dawn of morning, he hastened over the mountain to Lacoste to send him off to Roland and Cavalier.
In the mean while Martin's wound, through the watchful care of his doctor, had astonishingly improved. Eveline had soon become familiarised with him, and the young man seemed even more than the father to doat on her. He exerted himself with humble devotedness to perform every little service, and was only happy when he was able to win a smile from the Lord of Beauvais. When the father now returned from the fields with his daughter, the latter said to him: "Is it not true, papa, that when I am grown up, I too shall be obliged to marry."
"Probably," answered the Lord of Beauvais, "Well then," continued she, "give me the young handsome Martin for a husband." "Does he then please thee so very much?" asked the father.
"Not merely on that account," said Eveline, "but because I should like to make a good marriage, and such, as I have heard, one does not frequently meet with. But with our Martin I should be perfectly happy, and he behaves himself already quite as if he were your son. And I, when I say to him, Martin! sit thee down here by me! Get up again! Fetch that flower there for me! Now tell me something! or, Go away, I should now like to be alone awhile! thus he does everything so exactly at a signal, as I have never before seen. Neither Martha nor Joseph, and least of all the old obstinate Frantz, that was eternally scolding, would thus have obeyed me at a word; with such a smart, well-dressed, sensible husband, the thing might turn out worse, and therefore I will choose Martin, if you will allow me." "But he is only a servant," said the Counsellor. "You have said yourself," prattled the child, "that there was something in his appearance more than ordinary. He is certainly the son of respectable people; through the rebellion we too have fallen into misery, and it may be worse with us yet, one must therefore look about by times for help."
"And if he will not have you?"
"I have already asked him this morning, then he laughed out quite loud, what I had never seen him do before, but afterwards he became quite grave again, sighed, and kissed me on the forehead. That I think is quite answer enough."
In the little garden under the trellaced bower, they found Godfred and the tall Dubois sitting at the oaken table; the wife was busy in the kitchen. They sat down by them both; the musician was at that moment in the midst of a lively performance. "Do you hear, gossip," cried he, "the sound when I press and keep it down, do you know what that means?"
"Yes," said Godfrey, "it is pretty enough." "Well, attend," said Dubois, "how I now pass over and strike the quaver, which afterwards quivers in the deep tones, and how in the mean while my hand works here in the bass. You now understand this many-voiced composition? Listen! see, that is what I call fundamental composition."
"Yes, it is pretty," said Godfred--"he can now move all his paws."
"Do not think of your stupid dog," exclaimed Dubois, "you will not often be so fortunate as to hear a sonata of Lulli. Collect your thoughts well together. Hist! now we are passing over suddenly to the flats? St! do you hear? Ah! the passage is exquisite."
"He must eat a rice mess this evening," said Godfred.
"Can you endure music, Peter Florval?" cried the musician, eagerly addressing the State Counsellor; "Many nerves are unable to support it. Now we are coming to the conclusion. Forte! forte! bound! continue! what do you think? Ah, now comes, the most difficult passage. That is a composition that requires fingering and skill. It flies right and left. Now I play over with my right hand in the bass, now the into the treble. See, now I work away crossing hands; now with all ten fingers! and again! and again! I need indeed take my elbows to help. Over, over! dispatch! Ah, it is admirably written. Do you not think so, gossip?"
"At first though he must only be allowed to run with caution," said Godfred.
"Still those doggish vagaries?" said Dubois, sullenly, "banish, I pray, those four-legged thoughts from your mind, and for once live entirely for art."
"I must afterwards though cut the divining-rod," said Godfred in a loud voice to himself.
"Stop!" cried the long musician, as he jumped up, "you here remind me of a thought, I have wished for some time to impart to you. Do you know what to do with such things?"
"So, so," said Godfred, "I discovered my well for myself by means of it, and thus served several neighbours."
"And treasures!" cried Dubois.
"Water," said the surgeon, "is sufficiently precious; I have never attempted anything else."
"You know, perhaps," continued the gossip; "It is not yet ten years ago, since Jacob Aymar, from Dauphiné discovered by means of his divining-rod, a murder that had been committed long before. The story created the greatest sensation in Paris and at Lyons at the time. I was then in Paris with my brother, the universally celebrated great doctor, and saw myself the simple peasant, who could perform such miraculous deeds. My brother, who is a very speculating philosopher, repaired hither at this extraordinary discovery, and employed all sorts of remarkable essays, so-called experiments in the presence of persons of distinction, and they succeeded admirably. But the rod must be cut from a hazel branch at midnight, at the full moon, and without uttering a word at the time."
"That is superstition," said Godfred, "any rod can answer the purpose, if the hand possesses the gift."
"What do you know," exclaimed the former, hastily, "about Philosophia Occulta? you are always on the side of the sceptics, in everything. Do you think that Moses' staff was anything else than such a divining-rod? It must discover money just as easily as water; indeed, it must guess the thoughts, and thereby ward off future crimes. Every city, every village under a reasonable government should have its priviledged rod-walker."
"Impiety," said Godfred, "sufficient calamity happens already without this superstition. The silly hazel-rod should be applied to the backs of all such fellows."
The musician made a wry face and would have answered angrily, when Eveline uttered a loud joyous "Ah!" an old peasant passed by, followed by a large dog. The Lord of Beauvais had risen, Eveline blushed, and at a sign from her father remained behind. The old peasant cast a searching glance into the bower, but the Counsellor looked a negative, without those present being able to observe it, and the peasant proceeded on his way without forming an acquaintance with the company. But not so the great dog, that no sooner had he snuffed the air, than he instantly leaped over the palings of the garden, and howling and whining with joy, jumped in a hundred playful gambols round the Counsellor and his daughter, and then lay down, placed his two paws on their persons and recommenced his frolics anew. It was in vain that Eveline cried out, "Away, away! what does this nasty strange dog want here?" she wished to pretend to be angry, but the absurd antics of the well-known Hector, forced her to burst into a loud laugh.
"Peter Florval," said Dubois, "you must be known to the dog."
"Not that I know of," replied the Counsellor, somewhat embarrassed; "he must have come from some farm in my former neighbourhood."
"It may be so," answered the musician, "but the peasant though ought to have come in here; what frightened him away from us? surely we are not such great folks."
Hector, that now heard old Frantz whistle from a distance, stood irresolute on the alert, looked inquiringly at the Counsellor, and then seemed to wait for Frantz, and danced round Eveline again; at length, however, a second loud whistle called him away. The Counsellor said, "I must go and see whether the old man is known to me, come with me daughter." They both, left the garden. "One easily becomes over cautious," observed he, after having heartily welcomed his faithful servant; "Had you only known for what we pass here, it had been better to have come in at once. But you have not yet spoken with Mr. Vila?" "It has been impossible for me to visit him yet," said Frantz, "for my journey detained me too long: an accident brings me to this village, where, indeed, I did not suppose you to be, the royalists, who in large bands keep the mountains in a state of siege, obliged me to turn away from the high road. But now, my dear master, no one can pass over the frontiers, the watches and precautions have been redoubled; every one in the country is already suspected, how much more so should he desire to quit it, even the passports from government are no longer respected."
It was agreed upon, that Franz should go to St. Hippolite to Vila, and return after some time with news, but never, as had been determined at an earlier period between the friends, to bring letter, or papers. When the Counsellor returned to his dwelling with his child, the latter said, "I should never in my life have thought Hector so stupid; he did not pay the slightest attention, I might have made signs to him as long as I liked, and yet he can hunt and perform other feats of skill, which I should never have been able to learn; but whenever indeed I have wished to tell him about the slightest fun, or when my brother was gone out and that he would soon return, he has never understood me. If it is only not the case with us human beings also. Perhaps we run thus along just like little dogs by the side of angels, who insinuate much to us, yet whose language and real meaning we can never comprehend."
"At least," said the father, "man should not dive too deeply into that, nor with daring enthusiasm desire to confine to himself that which is denied him by his Creator. But you cannot, however, understand that yet, my little girl."
"It must be glorious," answered the little one, "to understand all the thoughts which are permitted to us by God. All that he does grant to us by degrees, if we are pious and kind! What I have always with delight seen you do, when for whole hours you used to sit at your great books, of which I did not understand a single word, and you so often lifted up your eyes joyfully, and continued to reflect; you cannot think how well it looks, and what a beautiful sight it is to behold a sensible man engaged in deep meditation."
They had returned to their friendly home, and Martin with the others were waiting for them. "It is really abominable," began dame Barbara, "that the Camelsarts have become so impious, that this year no processions can go to the village, which lies only six leagues from hence. One may pass over the mountain in three hours, and I have never before spent a year in the neglect of edifying things."
"There is no church festival then now a-days?" enquired Dubois. "Well no wonder; nay, even the great annual markets have been abolished."
"The turkish great sultan and the heathenish Marrelburgh must have negociated an alliance with the rebels, that we completely fall into miserere, for one cannot know what the political conjunctive may produce to us in this year: All indicatives, said our pastor only yesterday, promise no particular property, and we may indeed be stuck fast in the mud by the new year."
"Pray, spare us Gossip," said Dubois smiling, "the learned words, in which indeed you have ever contrary wind, and you do not rightly understand the tacking about (Laviren)."
"By, expressing myself thus," rejoined Barbara impatiently, "do I then in any way squander your capital interest? I merely add thereto my own, and whenever I may require mesicaments, there stands my old man, and you need not offer me any strange Laxirung.
"Such phrases and notions are indeed not at all proper. What must my honoured cousin think? he certainly imagines we live quite freely with each other as if we had been married together. It remains a constant truth, that whoever has been once a virtoso, can never again become a simple-minded man, he is for ever lost to pomology, kindheartedness, or hormanity."
"Do not become warm about it gossip," said the musician, "I have never dreamed of offending you."
"No more," said she angrily, "to me of dreams and dreampeter stories; for they are just as unsufferable to me as your sonneteering on my table there. It too has not once dreamed, that in its old age it would serve as a finger board.--
"Peace," said Godfred, "you do not understand all that, Barbara, for the people over there are assembling: What is the matter then. Let our gossip play the harpsichord, he uses his own fingers for it and not yours, but something new must have occurred, I should like to hear, we must question our neighbours."
Thus throwing unconsciously the different conversations together, because he was curious, and yet he also wished to answer, he now demanded of one that was running by, why the neighbourhood seemed thus in an uproar. Now smart firing was heard close by. "There must be great confusion on all sides in the valley," said a country woman.
All quitted the garden, and the firing of small guns was distinctly heard as it was borne on the air.
"Ugh!" sighed Dubois, who could now climb the mountain. "One must hear it much more distinctly up there."
"I like not," said Godfred, "to have any thing to do with war and war cries. The unfortunate, beautiful, peaceful villages, until now we have heard nothing of it, except once at the very beginning, now again we receive the evil visit."
"There yonder," thought the woman, "they have the miracle-working statue of the Mother of God, that will protect them all, the rebels cannot effect any thing in opposition to that: Fire and sword, balls and blows cannot prevail against the heavenly miracle."
Detached light cavalry scoured the village. They enquired the way and desired to rejoin their companions from whom they had been cut off on the mountains.
The trumpeter approached the officer with a face of importance, while he pointed out to him a mountain road, upon which the horses, in a case of necessity, could make their way through. "I have myself had the honour to serve in the royal guards;" added he proudly. "As what?" asked the young officer. "It was granted to me," said the former, "to be first trumpeter of the regiment. How goes it, sir captain, with the rebels?" "Grant to me, trumpeter," answered the leader, "to owe you the answer until we meet again. The knaves are possessed by the devil, and it faires badly with us. If you could blow them away, we would then take you with us."
Thereupon they all galloped away, whilst the whole body raised a burst of laughter. "Service is no longer as it was formerly," observed Dubois, "the old, genuine soldier-like gallantry must give place to new fashioned boasting, and venerable age and experience are of no value among the raw striplings."
In the mean while the calamity in which Edmond took a leading part and too late repented, now burst forth. Cavalier, who this time conducted every movement of the troops, had so prudently contrived his plans; valour, and fortune were so favorable to him in their execution, and at his command on all sides, that the enemy, who thought to have hemmed him in, saw themselves surrounded. The royalists were forced to give way, and were decoyed and driven into the narrow valleys, where they could not employ their strength, the cavalry was cut off, and on whatever side the soldiers turned, they met with their adversaries, who fought from the advantageously situated heights.
In the morning, conformably to the arrangement made, the village procession was put in motion at the festive sound of bells. The church was beautifully decorated with garlands and flowers; the clerk began to play the organ, and old and young assembled on the common dressed in their holiday clothes, in order to join the young girls and follow the procession into the church. The aged priest was standing already before the altar, awaiting the congregation, when suddenly a panic seized and rendered them motionless, for a loud and reiterated firing was distinctly heard close at hand. "Jesus, Maria!" exclaimed the girls, and the chains of flowers fell from their arms, the young men spoke of weapons and defence, and the old looked at one another in alarm. The firing approached nearer, and the priest and clerk had already quitted the church. All was in fearful and anxious expectation. Psalm singing was now heard from over the steep mountain. "They are the Camisards!" shrieked all aloud and in terror; at the same moment a regiment in reserve rushed from the left into the valley. The Camisards moved from above precipitatedly, and jumped and slid down the vineyards, while they hurled stones and balls among the bewildered, stupified, and discouraged mass of soldiers. In vain the officers inspirited them, some fell with their horses, others sought to retreat towards the outlet of the valley on the right. The procession and the clergy, as well as the congregation were mingled with the combatants, before they were yet able to recover their senses. A few only succeeded in flying to their houses.
"They are beaten!" cried Catinat furiously, who mounted on a great black horse and roared, "After them! destroy them in the name of the Lord! and throw fire and sword into these cottages and idolatrous temples!" Ravanel rode on a small horse at his side and was already stained with blood, for he was ever foremost in the slaughter. Favart, Stephen, Anton, and the diminutive François had nimbly clambered down the mountain. Houses were already seen burning in the distance, the cry of murder from the inhabitants mingled with the rejoicing shouts of the victors and the clashing of arms. Stephen now attempted to take the crucifix, which the youthful Caspar, as leader of the procession carried, but the latter struck him so forcibly on the head with it, that his fair locks were smeared with blood, and the youth without drawing another breath, fell to the ground. When Anton, the shoemaker saw this, he fell furiously upon Caspar: "Tear the cruel idolaters to pieces!" screamed he, and struck Caspar with his short sword, who was on the point of using his weapons on the neck, so that in a moment he was red with a stream of blood. Louison, who saw that her beloved was lost, uttered a piercing shriek of woe, tore the short, stumpy Anton by the hair to the ground, and battered his brains out with the bar of the crucifix, which Caliper had now let fall. A murderous shout of bloodthirstiness rang fearfully through the troops of exasperated rebels, and François was the first to cut down the beautiful Louison, whereupon an indiscriminate massacre raged in every cottage, in every street, upon every little bridge, and in the already burning church, so that the gurgling brook soon rolled in blood-red waves.
In the meanwhile Edmond stood gloomy and despairingly above on the steep rock, and saw now distinctly, now obscured by the smoke the streets and houses of the village beneath him. The smoke now rolled away, the royalists had all fled, a short cry and wailing, the inhabitants were all slain, cottages burned right and left, the fire shone through all the trees, and now the flames arose in the church and the peaceful dwelling under his feet, which had hospitably sheltered him that very night, already rolled in columns of smoke, the fire shortly raised the roof, and below was a universal glow of destruction and death, reflected in the bloody, splashing brook, all like a fiery river of hell, where yesterday an Eden had bloomed. The green trees defended themselves from the fiery streams, but they were compelled to bend and yield to its force. The glowing waves burst up to the heavens over the church tower, and as a child, unconsciously smiling, plays even in death, the clock struck the hour once more, and for the last time, and then fell with the tower and the beams of the roof with a loud crash into the abyss of fire and smoke.
Edmond sat down indifferent to all, and incapable of further thought. After a while he saw a troop of his brethren ascending the heights by different routes. Bertrand appeared soon afterwards on another road mounted with several horsemen. "Are you defeated?" asked Edmond, as they assembled near him. "No," cried Bertrand, "God has given us compete victory, the valleys are strewed with the bodies of the royalists; Cavalier has advanced yonder against the fugitives; Roland has now probably beaten another column, and Solomon their third division. But, as Cavalier knows, that several horsemen have fled, he fears they might make a circuit and fall upon him in the rear, we must therefore still occupy these heights."
Edmond had not the courage to ask what had taken place in the village below, but Bertrand began of his own accord. "Now, for once, the hard hearts have been compelled to taste our vengeance, we have at length washed our hands in their blood. They will fear us, brother; the trembling of those that have escaped to-day will teach the others to tremble too. Like destroying angels, Ravanel and Catinat cut their way through them, where these stand, not one of the enemy expects mercy. I have now though been enabled to celebrate a great festival, such a jubilee as I have ever wished for. But many of our brethren, and our best lie there below. The despairing peasants have armed themselves almost in greater numbers than the soldiers. Ah! poor François, the child has been torn by the beasts, Anton, and the flute player, Stephen, have had their beads smashed, one of the villains threw my brother, when the poor fellow was already wounded, into the fire, even the wretched clerk was massacred by our Everard, whereupon I pitched the rogue head over heels directly into a deep well."
"And the aged priest?" asked Edmond, scarcely audible,
"Him," said one of the troop, "I saw for a long while standing with his prayer-book in the midst of the tumult on the common; right and left men and women were slain by his side, so that I thought, now, now this one or that must strike him. But it was as if they did not see him at all. I afterwards lost sight of him; surely he must be lying there among the dead bodies. Do you know anything of him, brother Christophe?"
A wild looking man, spotted with blood, diminutive and black, his whole face almost overgrown with bristly hair, said grinning: "The old grey-headed knave is certainly a sorcerer, for when I had already killed several of the idolaters, and that he still continued to stand quietly there, and I was vexed that none of my comrades had ever aimed at him, in my fury I advanced to hew him down; already I raised my arm, then the spectre looked quite quietly at me, and his old thin lips smiled at it, almost as if he would have wept, but I tell you, from his large blue eyes such a spell shot through my eyes into my heart, that terrified I let foil my arm and was unable to do any thing to the rascal. A long time after, wishing to rest myself a little, I perceived him still in his black garments like a dark cloud between the combatants, wandering through flame and smoke and over the slain, perfectly collected and as if no one could do him harm. I think he is gone into the burning church and will probably be burned there."
Edmond awoke from his dreams to life again at this fearful recital. "Thus, does the guest requite," said he to himself, "the hopeful son of the friend, of thy youth. Is not that called love for love? Now I am no longer indebted to thee for thy hospitable reception."
"Hollo! hollo!" shouted Christophe wildly. "Our brethren yonder are bringing the sacrificing priest of Baal. So much the better, he shall be slain here before the eyes of the all seeing God."
Edmond cast a withering glance on the wretch, then looked down and recognised already close beneath him the pastor bound, whom Favart, the swarthy Eustace and other Camisards were dragging up. "Here we bring the knave dear brethren," exclaimed Favart, just as they gained a firm footing on the level rock, and dragged up the old man with cords.
When the exhausted priest was drawn up, he cast such a look of lassitude, pity, and resignation to the will of heaven on the youth, that the hair of the latter stood on end with terror. "God greet you with your booty!" roared he to Favart and Eustace, "but woe to him among you, who approaches the old man even by a look, for such a one will I tear with my teeth." Favart and Eustace stepped back, turning pale, and Edmond loosened himself the cords of the venerable man, then pressed him in his arms, laid his grey head upon his throbbing breast, and a convulsive sobbing prevented all utterance and restrained his tears. "Why," said the aged man, "should I alone remain of all the rest? the poor shepherd, whose flock they have slaughtered?" "What is that?" vociferated Christophe, stammering with rage; "will they rob us of our property that we have purchased with our blood? we have left gold and silver to be consumed in the burning churches, but the life of the idolater is our booty. And who will take it from us? A coward, who without drawing a sword, here safe in the distance, has contemplated our life endangering labour. Away with that! Apostates are we ourselves if we bear the like from an idolater, who has not yet abandoned his former wickedness."
He would have rushed upon the holy man but Edmond intercepted him with the swiftness of lightning, and threw him with such giant strength upon the rock that all his limbs rattled, and he remained lying apparently senseless. Old Favart beheld this with anger, and Eustace, the charcoal-burner, became wrathful. Bertrand stepped wildly forward, and a group of clamorous Camisards pressed round Edmond and the priest. "Who art thou?" exclaimed Favart, "that thou darest play the master here? Wilt thou act the nobleman here?"--He seized the priest, and Eustace also laid a hand upon him. Though as Edmond stepped up to them, Eustace, from old accustomed obedience, let go his hold, and Favart was torn back by the powerful youth. "Lord, Edmond, Beauvais!" cried the man, "our king!" They struggled with each other, and Edmond hurled him down the mountain. "Our brother's neck is broken!" cried they all wildly together, and rushed upon Edmond with drawn weapons, who in this moment had been lost, if Abraham Mazel with a fresh troop had not arrived: Clary, Castanet, Marion, and Vila were among these. Through respect for Mazel they were quiet, and Edmond was enabled to lay the affair before the friends. "We would not be cruel towards the defenceless," said Mazel. Clary remembered Roland's express command to spare the priest; the eloquent Marion exhorted and persuaded the grumblers, and it was determined that the priest, while the guides should clothe themselves in the uniforms of the slaughtered, should be conducted to Florac, that he might there claim the protection of his superior. Edmond offered to take this service upon himself, and Eustace and several of the brethren would accompany him on this expedition.
Conversation and dispute were interrupted, while this scattered and cut off band advanced, whose union with the defeated soldiers Cavalier wished to prevent. The few cavalry went to meet them, the infantry placed themselves in order, and a sanguinary combat began anew on the height. Mazel led them on, and the bravery of the rebels made the military, who were already discouraged, give way. Edmond and his followers were with the young captain and his light horse, who were exposed at a distance in an obstinate combat. The horse of the young man was already killed, but he fought intrepidly and indefatigably, however little he could promise him>self a fortunate issue. Edmond advanced, and cried out, "Surrender young man; you behave gallantly, it would grieve me were you killed here uselessly. I promise you protection and good treatment until you are exchanged for some of ours taken prisoners."
"Miserable rebel!" exclaimed the captain, "dost thou think, that I would receive pardon from such a villain as thou? I know thee, Beauvais, perjurer, apostate; the executioner at Nismes awaits thee already. Look down into that valley, incendiary, and still speak of good treatment!"---He looked searchingly at the youth, glanced down on his sword and fired his pistol at Edmond, it missed, and Edmond at the same moment shot a ball through his breast, so that he fell dead. The remainder were killed in the mêlée, the sergeant, who was still mounted fled precipitately from the height down the rock, Mazel and his followers were already far distant pursuing the enemy.
Edmond descended with those who would accompany him. In a vineyard they enjoyed the repose and frugal fare which could be quickly prepared for them. The old man was revived by a few drops of wine. "Beauvais, art thou my son?" began he, as he saw himself alone with Edmond.--"I am called," said the latter, "after your baptismal name, Edmond; as a testimony how my father has ever loved you."
"Ah, thou dear friend of my youth," said the old man with a deep sigh, "why must I become acquainted with thy son under such circumstances? In this way then have the dreams of thy love, our religious inspirations been embodied? Thus are our fanatic presentiments fulfilled? To these murders and burnings, to these horrible cruelties must we awaken and call our whole youth folly and illusion? Ah! verily poor Louison, thy love to thy protectress has been badly recompensed. You were right unfortunate Caspar, that you did not know in what moment and in what sufferings your happiness would terminate. Now you lie together in a bloody embrace. Why cannot I say to myself, no, this is but a dream! Awake thou miserable old man, and find thy commune, thy children, the former tranquil repose, the sweet peace, and thy beloved church again! Woe! woe! to ye, ye poor, ye innocent! and threefold woe upon the wretches who brought this horror into these distant valleys."--He covered his head, and wept bitterly.
The twilight was extending itself. The pastor wished to visit once more the ruins of his church, and they descended the mountain. Edmond and the priest went alone among the fallen walls. All was destroyed together, the alter only still remained and the statue of the virgin was blackened, though tolerably preserved. The old man took it down and buried it at some distance. "Wherefore?" asked Edmond. "Will not the multitude," said the aged man, "cry out a miracle again, when they find this statue the only thing still nearly preserved in this heap of ashes? Who knows what horrible blood-thirstiness may be enflamed by this accident, what monstrous, insatiable vengeance attached to this wooden symbol in the name of God, in order to satisfy under pretext of eternal love, the horrible feeling, which never should be awakened in the breast of man. No, what may be an innocent amusement in times of peace and happiness, and serve as an exalting, edifying, pious institution, often becomes a banner for the human mind if once wild rebellion has swayed, it followed exultingly by all the horrors of hell. I should consider myself a murderer, if I did not bury this protectress to-day, as our neighbours will inter the poor unprotected to-morrow. Should the Eternal Decree will it otherwise, he will easily render my trouble unnecessary."
As they again issued from the ruins, they were met by the tall figure of Lacoste. "Edmond," cried he, "you and your compeers carry on a damnable trade. I have kept myself concealed the whole day, that I might not look upon the enormity. The ceremony of your worship is too severe. Your God is indulgent, for otherwise he would shew himself somewhat more rigorous in it. I thought I had already experienced every thing and understood every body; but in my present high school I still learn many new things."
How astounded were Lacoste and the priest as each found again a friend of his youth in the other. "You are then that pious, sighing, youth," exclaimed Lacoste in amazement, who in the eyes of his Euphemie would see and find the whole Empyraeum? We now wander afar over the flowers of your religious elysium. But tread firmly, for these eyes and noses no longer feel our heels, these faces are only the discarded masks, which still lie about from yesterday's gala. Yes, these masqueraders have destroyed much clothing, that can never be mended again, they have been reduced to tatters at once by extravagant insolence. Aye! aye! Edmond, your reverend cordelier, his hair is become white since then, like the yellow flowers of the meadow, which the first blast uproots. Where is Euphemie? Where Lucy, where our tears and sighs of those days? You have become a little old man in an instant: and, is it not true, that those youthful feelings appeal to you even now sometimes, but like dumb children, with their countenances? Now perform a little bit of a miracle with your superabundant love, and awaken these dead again which lie here in our way. But the question is, whether they would thank you for it, since they have once made a step to the other side, though rather in a neck-breaking manner; for if examined closely, that so called life is a cursedly tedious and base affair, and if one is to expect jokes like these every day, such as have been practised on these fellows here, then really one must be damnably sunk in bad habits, not to put an end to this miserable existence by a single gash on the throat. But thus indeed are we all.
In these conversations they passed the night. The venerable pastor replied but little. Neither did his exhaustion permit him, which was so great, that he was often compelled to rest. As the hours passed the more agitated he became and the more he wished to end quickly his days in the ruins of his beloved commune, for he did not know why he should still wish to live. Edmond talked to him filially and affectionately, as a son, and the old man heartily forgave all the evil that the youth had drawn upon him, "If I could, only see thy father once more before my death!" exclaimed he much affected, or--grief did not permit him to say more, but Edmond guessed what he meant. After they had reposed several times, with the early dawn they reached a village, which lay pleasantly among some green trees. They determined on breakfasting here, in order to be able to continue their way to Florac, Edmond felt as if his whole life and being would dissolve in dream and mist. As they arrived before a small house, in the upper story of which some men appeared, but who quickly drew back at the sight of the regimentals, Edmond said to himself, "I am on the point of becoming mad, for I now see the figures of my mind; it was indeed as if I perceived my father and Christine, and Eveline; and only because I here escort the two friends of his youth." They were going to inquire for the inn of an old man, who was gathering herbs in a small garden, when the wife came out of the house and begged of them to accompany her, since she herself had business at the inn, and that it was not so easy to find it, because it lay in another street, and in an out of the way place, where there was but very little business carried on, and had no communication with any high road.
With this information, the chatterer accompanied them to the neat little inn of the place. The people had only just risen, and were terrified when they saw the soldiers, for since the attack on the not far distant district, the whole country was filled with terror. Wine, bread, and warm drink also revived the weary travellers, and Eustace and Bertrand with some others kept watch, that they might not be unexpectedly surprised. "Who lives in the upper story of your house?" inquired Edmond of the old woman.
"Ah! good heavens!" responded she, "they are poor unfortunate people, whose property the wicked rebels have burnt. A peasant, a poor cousin of mine, has now fled to me with his daughter and his sister's son, and who knows whether the flambeau of wrath, with which the Lord of Hosts in his anger will light us home, is not already on its way to our little cottage. For where is safety, or security now a days as formerly? Verily, all is affliction and warfare, and the strangest fatality drives men here and there, as has happened only in old marvelous stories, and the troubles only increase, and suspicion becomes greater. Where one only sees a soldier, one might creep into a mole's hole, even though one should be of the very best and exact faith."
"Is your trumpeter not come back yet?"
"He must have clean disappeared," answered the old woman; "but my foolish husband grieves about the knave, and thinks that some misfortune must have happened to him in the mountains, because the long bellows was already old and broken down, and is sometimes troubled with a bad cough. As if it mattered much about such vagabonds, when so many respectable people bite the grass, who have more connexion and authority than the adventurer, who wants to play Moonseignor here."
"Aye, truly," said the landlord, "but how goes it though with the Catholics, particularly with the poor clergy, as well as with the old, venerable lord there, who has now fled likewise? Some of them are said to have already arrived at Florac yesterday. The convents too suffer. A wayfarer arrived here in the night, who brought intelligence of an attack on a castle, where several holy women had been on a visit, who may belong to Nismes or Montpellier. Crosses and misery are in the whole land. And whence has the misfortune come? Each party lays the blame on the other."
They set forward again, and those who were placed to keep watch rejoined the troop. A fiery red had spread itself over the whole heavens, as far as the eye could reach, when they emerged from the valley, the sky was illumined with the most singular and varied burning lights. From a wood, situated on an eminence on the left, rushed an aged female attendant, and cried, "Oh, God be praised, that I see royal troops! Help, my good mistress!" she ran back, and led an old nun, who appeared fainting. They approached, they revived her with wine. When the priest heard her family name called, he exclaimed, "Euphemie!" and dropped down before her. It was she, she had escaped with difficulty with her attendant from the burning castle, where she had passed the night in the greatest anguish. The old man told her his name. "Hast thou then at times thought of our youth?" asked he in a trembling voice, "Can one forget life?" replied the dying Euphemie, with closing eyes. "And thou, Edmond?"----"I lived for thee, I die with thee," spoke the aged man, and both expired exhausted by the too strong emotion caused by finding each other again so wonderfully, while the rays of morning shone like a glory on their sanctified features.
Carts which came from Florac, and whose owners heard from Edmond the brief account, conveyed the bodies to the town, that they might be interred in consecrated ground.