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tell you his life was saved, though his liberty could not be preserved, by the energy of the gentle girl I have just described to you !"
Here the whole company became elevated with pleasure as well as curiosity, and Mr. Rivers, greatly animated, went on.
“ As soon as she heard of his capture, and of what he was accused, ignorant as she was of the world, and even of Poland, where she had never stirred from her father's house,-unaccustomed even to the sight of men (in truth but then barely eighteen), she conceived the great, the romantic design, God bless her for it,” said Rivers, with an emotion caught by all his guests, “ of appearing before the military tribunal that was to try him, with the hope to save his life.”
The company were breathless.
“ And nobly she performed it,” continued Rivers ; “though she had two hundred miles to travel; through roads full of savages, and of which she was wholly ignorant. With no male friend to protect her-nothing but a guide—she traversed her smoking country to the Russian head-quarters, and presenting herself to the general, besought him to hear her.
“I have no hope,' said the tremulous girl, in tears, that begging a brother's life, as a favour, will do; but if a trial is allowed, and proofs that he has never been in arms, I have brought them with me to throw at your feet.'
“ The astonished old Scythian to whom she addressed herself had some heart left. He looked at her, then at her papers, and then at her again; and for the first time in his life hesitated about a military execution. But the proofs were clear, and Zerlina touching: and somehow or another he felt that Zerlinsky was innocent-so he sent him to Siberia. *
“ As for Zerlina, after being allowed to embrace her brother, the same good Providence which had protected her to head-quarters protected her back again. But she found the family fortune confiscated, her house in ruins, and had nowhere to lay her head but in the cottage of her nurse, then a widow, about thirty miles off. Here she remained in safety for three months, and passed for, and dressed like, her nurse's daughter. But in vain; for the province in which she now resided had been seized by Prussia, and the good Frederick, finding a number of
* For the honour of woman let it be known that this is a story of real life,
his beloved Prussians without wives, thought it but right to provide them with that necessary comfort. He had just issued an order, therefore, for every family in which there was a marriageable girl to send her with a portion of household stuff to the husbands whom he had selected for them, on the other side of the Oder. The general who had the execution of this order had already pitched upon Zerlina.
“ There was nothing left for her but to fly, and no place to fly to but England or the Pyrenees, the old nurse's native country
“*England was too far off, and Zerlina knew not her relations ; so they flew, that is, they came in a wagon to Bagnieres, where the good nurse hoped to find her family. She found only an uncle; but he was grown old, and had retired to die in the hamlet where I met Zerlina. It was a beautiful hamlet, as I have told you; and Zerlina, who courted privacy, entreated her nurse to settle there. She had saved some ducats from the wreck of her fortune, and all her mother's jewels : and luckily the Poles are very fond of jewels. Her nurse, too, had a little hoard. So they established themselves humbly but comfortably at St. Elmo. Alas! in twelve months Zerlína lost this faithful old friend, and was glad to be received as a boarder by the respectable old lady in whose cottage I found her."
Here Mr. Rivers stopped, as if doubtful whether he had not told enough; but no one seeming to relax in his disposition to listen, he went on.
“In this sequestered spot she endeavoured to forget herself. She liked the females, and all showed her attention. Too much attention for Jacques—but hang Jacques—he did not succeed, and was so unhappy, poor fellow, that one morning he left us, with his Montero cap on his head, a long gun on his shoulder, and a leathern bottle and wallet at his back. He said he would just go and fetch us an iserre. I shall never forget his blue stockings, and red garters tied under the knee. A fine figure, sir, for a picture; and I wish I had taken him. But I never saw him afterward. He said he would only climb the mountains; but he climbed into Savoy, and never came back while I was in the village."
Here Mr. Rivers concluded, saying, “ My tale is done ; for, as you may suppose, the admiration I had conceiv for the beauty of Zerlina did not diminish by learning
her history and character. Such was the esteem kindled by these, that had she been plain I believe I should have been equally won.
As it was-
In short, I married her. Marriage usually puts an end to imagination. But it was not so with mine. What I have been telling you happened five or six years ago, and I am now about thirty; but, thank Heaven, imagination has not yet failed me. To be sure, I suppose Zerlina is not so much of a nymph as she used to be. But I cannot find it out, and the knowledge of her virtue, and the recollection of the romance which brought us together, not only point every charm, but are always new to our hearts. I have a boy who already repeats verses, and a girl who is an angel. We still dance in an orchard, and I still play the flute.”
It was late night when the friends returned to their lodgings from Rivers's supper and Rivers's story. They were both much impressed by it, and they agreed that what Wentworth in his speculation had despaired to meet with-a man full of interests unconnected with the business of life—was here found. They agreed, indeed, that most who were engaged in that business would laugh at Rivers as a madman, or at best as a very great fool. But to Wentworth, in his then frame of inind, the man of imagination seemed a person of a higher world. “ For though,” said Wentworth, "he talked a great deal of what many of us would, and not unjustly, call nonsense, yet never man was seemingly more qualified to laugh in his turn at our struggles, or tell a minister of state, ‘I want nothing of you.'
“He would at farthest,” observed De Vere, “tell the minister to stand out of his sunshine, if he were in it. He beats Bolingbroke all to nothing with his philosophy and his inscriptions."
“ He is certainly an enviable person,” proceeded Wentworth ; " and whether we may agree with him or not in the road he has taken to happiness, I never saw more sincerity in the enjoyment of it. He puts us matter-offact people to the blush. In imagining all, he possesses all."
“ He possesses the woman he loves," remarked. De Vere.
A silence of some minutes ensued, each revolving the tale they had heard according to his different notions, till they separated for the night, to think of it alone.
They passed a week or two in this country of romance, the tutelary deities of which seemed the enthusiastic Rivers and his touching little wife—both of whom became objects of their close observation. In truth, the friends expected to detect something like vacuity in their enjoyments. But no. The imagination of Rivers gilded every thing with sunshine. He was out of doors whenever the weather did not forbid; and when it did, employed himself in reading to his wife.
The friends were curious to observe the subjects he generally chose, which they concluded would be of the Ariosto school. To their surprise they found them to be history and memoirs, or those writers who have best painted the manners and follies of men. Expressing wonder at it, Rivers told them that it was this that made his liberty so sweet; for if he did not know the world, either through himself or others, he might hanker after it. Hence, in graver moments Plutarch and Horace were always his favourite authors.
De Vere particularly marked this, and said, if this were madness, there was at least method in it.
De Vere profited by Rivers’s acquaintance with the news of Poland, to extract from him both information and advice as to the despairing prospect of that ill-fated country. But Rivers was far more disposed to talk of the chasse de Ramier, or wild pigeons, than of a hopeless cause which he could not remedy; and for this purpose he led them over the mountains to Bagnieres, to see what in fact was a curiosity, and, at that time of the year, proved no unpleasant expedition. In the chasse de Ramier, peasants skilled in the art (some of them coming a hundred miles for that purpose) repaired to a high wood of cork-trees, over which flocks of these pigeons (thousands in number) regularly passed about this time, in the manner of birds of passage. The wood was lined with nets, extending perhaps three or four hundred yards. In advance were raised masts, fifty or sixty feet high, on the top of which sat a watchman, provided with machines of light wood, in the shape of a hawk with spread wings. On the approach of the birds to a proper point, these were launched in the air with great force, and the game, stooping to avoid the supposed
destruction, flew into real, by endeavouring to pass through the wood, where they were caught in the nets.
The chasse was periodical, and lasted some days. It always occasioned a sort of a holyday when it occurred; hundreds of idlers, cheerful and uncheerful, flocking from the neighbouring places (but especially Bagnieres) to behold the sport. These made a sort of fair, or rather encampment, chiefly composed of huts, which were run up in an hour or two, from boughs and branches. Here there was a universal pic-nic during the day, and many remained all night with no other bed than dry leaves. The night, however, was seldom entirely devoted to sleep: the watchers, tempted by that fine climate, beguiled the time by roaming about in companies to the sound of the guitar and tambour basque; which produced in the stillness, and especially at a distance, a delightful effect.
All this was so new, and at the same time so pleasing, both to Wentworth and De Vere, that, could the former have forgotten he had been a minister, and might be so again, and the latter not only that he had been and was still a lover, but that he meditated a more distant flight from her he loved, both would have been content to have followed Rivers's standard for a much longer time than they did.
As it was, the diversion of gloomy remembrances was much assisted, and the health of Wentworth rapidly restored, by such a way of life.
Time hath, my lord, a wallet on his back
TORRENTS and falls are delightful things to look at in fine weather; but one cannot always have fine weather. It is charming also to paint; but one cannot always be