« ПретходнаНастави »
by the accent, it had been an apostrophe to his child; but it was to his ass, and to the very ass we had seen dead in the road, which had occasioned La Fleur's misadventure. The man seemed to lament it much; and it instantly brought into my mind Sancho's lamentations for his; but he did it with more touches of nature.
The mourner was sitting upon a stone bench at the door, with the ass's pannel and it's bridle on one side, which he took up from time to time-then laid them down-looked at them, and shook his head. He then took his crust of bread out of his wallet again, as if to eat it; held it some time in his hand-then laid it upon the bit of his ass's bridle -looking wistfully at the little arrangement he had made -and then gave a sigh.
The simplicity of his grief drew numbers about him, and La Fleur among the rest, while the horses were getting ready : as I continued sitting in the postchaise, I could see and hear over their heads.
He said he had come last from Spain, where he had been from the farthest borders of Franconia; and had got so far on his return home, when the ass died. Every one seemed desirous to know what business could have taken so old and poor a man so far a journey from his own home.
It had pleased Heaven, he said, to bless him with three sons, the finest lads in all Germany; but having in one week lost two of them by the smallpox, and the youngest falling ill of the same distemper, he was afraid of being bereft of them all, and made a vow, if Heaven would not take him from him also, he would go in gratitude to St. Iago, in Spain.
When the mourner got thus far in his story, he stopped to pay nature her tribute-and wept bitterly.
He said Heaven had accepted the conditions; and that he had set out from his cottage with this poor creature, who had been a patient partner of his journey-that it had eaten the same bread with him all the way, and was unto him as a friend.
Every body who stood about heard the poor fellow with concern-La Fleur offered him money-The mourner said he did not want it-it was not the value of the ass-but the loss of him--The ass, he said, he was assured, loved him
and upon this told them a long story of a mischance upon their passage over the Pyrenean mountains, which had separated them from each other three days; during which time the ass had sought him as much as he had sought the ass, and that neither had scarce eaten or drank till they met.
Thou hast one comfort, friend, said I, at least, in the loss of thy poor beast; I am sure thou hast been a merciful master to him.-Alas! said the mourner, I thought so, when he was alive-but now he his dead I think otherwise-I fear the weight of myself, and my afflictions together, have been too much for him-they have shortened the poor creature's days, and I fear I have them to answer for.-Shame on the world! said I to myself-Did we but love each other as this poor soul loved his ass 'twould be something.―
WHEN states and empires have their periods of declen sion, and feel in their turns what distress and poverty is I stop not to tell the causes, which gradually brought the house of d'E**** in Britany into decay. The Marquis d'E**** had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still show to the world, some little fragments of what his ancestors had been-their indiscretion had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscurity-But he had two boys, who looked up to him for light-he thought they deserved it. He had tried his sword-it could not open the way→→→→ the mounting was too expensive-and simple economy was not a match for it-there was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France, save Britany, this was smiting the root for ever of the little tree his pride and affection wished to see reblossom-But in Britany, there being a provision for this, he availed himself of it; and taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two sons, entered the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy,
which, though seldom claimed, he said, was no less in force; he took his sword from his side-Here-said he-take it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The president accepted the marquis s sword-he staid few minutes to see it deposited in the archives of his house -and departed.
The marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlooked for bequests from distant branches of his house-returned home to reclaim his nobility, and to support it.
It was an incident of good fortune, which will never happen to any traveller but a sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of his solemn requisition; I call it solemn-it was so to me.
The marquis entered the court with his whole family; he supported his lady-his eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his mother-he put his handkerchief to his face twice
There was a dead silence. When the marquis had approached within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his family-he reclaimed his sword. His sword was given him, and the moment he got it into his hand he drew it almost out of the scabbard-it was the shining face of a friend he had once given up. He looked attentively a long time at it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the same when observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye, and bending his head down over it-I think I saw a tear fall upon the place: I could not be deceived by what followed.
"I shall find,” said he, " some other way to get it off." When the marquis had said this, he returned his sword into it's scabbard, made a bow to the guardian of it-and, with his wife and daughter, and his two sons following him, walked out.
O how I envied him his feelings!
-THEY were the sweetest notes I ever heard; and I instantly let down the fore glass to hear them more distinctly -Tis Maria, said the postillion, observing I was listening Poor Maria, continued he, (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line between us) is sitting upon a bank playing her vespers upon a pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow uttered this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four and twenty sous piece when I got to Moulines
And who is poor Maria? said I.
The love and pity of all the villages around us, said the postillion-it is but three years ago, that the sun did not shine upon so fair, so quickwitted, and amiable a maid; and better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her bans forbid by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a short pause, put the pipe to her mouth, and began the air again -they were the same notes-yet were ten times sweeter: It is the evening service to the Virgin, said the young man -but who has taught her to play it-or how she came by her pipe, no one knows: we think that Heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only consolation—she has never once had the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postillion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help deciphering something in his face above his condition, and should have sifted out his history, had not poor Maria taken such full possession of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where
Maria was sitting: she was in a thin white jacket, with her hair, all but two tresses, drawn up in a silk net, with a few olive leaves twisted a little fantastically on one side-she was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heartach, it was the moment I saw her
God help her! poor damsel! above a hundred masses, said the postillion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around for her—but without effect: we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the Virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postillion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender, and querulous, that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat, before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria looked wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat-and then at me—and then at her goat again, and so on alternately
-Well, Maria, said I softly-What resemblance do you find?
I do entreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a beast man is,—that I asked the question; and that I would not have let fall an unseasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of Misery, to be entitled to all the wit that ever Rabelais scattered.
Adieu, Maria !—adieu, poor hapless damsel!-some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lipsbut I was deceived; for that moment she took her pipe, and told me such a tale of wo with it, that I rose up, and with broken and irregular steps walked softly to my chaise.
WHEN we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar-she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bade the postillion go on with the chaise to Moulines -and La Fleur to bespeak my supper-and that I would walk after him.