THADDEUS OF WARSAW
AUTHOR OF "THE SCOTTISH CHIEFS," ETC.
"Loin d'aimer la guerre, il l'abhorre; En triomphant mme il dplore Les dsastres qu'elle produit Et, couronn par la victoire, II gmit de sa propre gloire. Si la paix n'en est pas le fruit."
A NEW AND REVISED EDITION WITH NEW NOTES, ETC., BY THE AUTHOR
THE AUTHOR, TO HER FRIENDLY READERS.
Written for the new edition of "Thaddeus of Warsaw," forming one of the series called "The Standard Novels."
To such readers alone who, by the sympathy of a social taste, fall in with any blameless fashion of the day, and, from an amiable interest, also, in whatever may chance to afford them innocent pleasure, would fain know something more about an author whose works have brought them that gratification than the cold letter of a mere literary preface usually tells: to such readers this—something of an egotistical—epistle is addressed.
For, in beginning the republication of a regular series of the novels, or, as they have been more properly called, biographical romances, of which I have been the author, it has been considered desirable to make certain additions to each work, in the form of a few introductory pages and scattered notes, illustrative of the origin of the tale, of the historical events referred to in it, and of the actually living characters who constitute its personages, with some account, also, of the really local scenery described; thus giving, it is thought, a double zest to the entertainment of the reader, by bringing him into a previous acquaintance with the persons he is to meet in the book, and making him agreeably familiar with the country through which he is to travel in their company. Indeed, the social taste of the times has lately fully shown how advantageous the like conversational disclosures have proved to the recent republications of the celebrated "Waverley Novels," by the chief of novel-writers; and in the new series of the admirable naval tales by the distinguished American novelist, both of whom paid to the mother- country the gratifying tribute of making it their birthplace.
Such evidences in favor of an argument could not fail to persuade me to undertake the desired elucidating task; feeling, indeed, particularly pleased to adopt, in my turn, a successful example from the once Great Unknown—now the not less great avowed author of the Waverley Novels, in the person of Sir Walter Scott, who did me the honor to adopt the style or class of novel of which "Thaddeus of Warsaw" was the first,—a class which, uniting the personages and facts of real history or biography with a combining and illustrative machinery of the imagination, formed a new species of writing in that day, and to which Madame de Stal and others have given the appellation of "an epic in prose." The day of its appearance is now pretty far back: for "Thaddeus of Warsaw" (a tale founded on Polish heroism) and the "Scottish Chiefs" (a romance grounded on Scottish heroism) were both published in England, and translated into various languages abroad, many years before the literary wonder of Scotland gave to the world his transcendent story of Waverley, forming a most impressive historical picture of the last struggle of the papist, but gallant, branch of the Stuarts for the British throne. [Footnote: It was on the publication of these, her first two works, in the German language that the authoress was honored with being made a lady of the Chapter of St. Joachim, and received the gold cross of the order from Wirtemburg.]
"Thaddeus of Warsaw" being the first essay, in the form of such an association between fact and fancy, was published by its author with a natural apprehension of its reception by the critical part of the public. She had not, indeed, written it with any view to publication, but from an almost resistless impulse to embody the ideas and impressions with which her heart and mind were then full. It was written in her earliest youth; dictated by a fervent sympathy with calamities which had scarcely ceased to exist, and which her eager pen sought to portray; and it was given to the world, or rather to those who might feel with her, with all the simple-hearted enthusiasm which saw no impediment when a tale of virtue or of pity was to be told.
In looking back through the avenue of life to that time, what events have occurred, public and private, to the countries and to the individuals named in that tale! to persons of even as lofty names and excellences, of our own and other lands, who were mutually affected with me in admiration and regret for the virtues and the sorrows described! In sitting down now to my retrospective task, I find myself writing this, my second preface to the story of "Thaddeus of Warsaw," just thirty years from the date of its first publication. Then, I wrote when the struggle for the birthright independence of Poland was no more; when she lay in her ashes, and her heroes in their wounds; when the pall of death spread over the whole country, and her widows and orphans travelled afar.
In the days of my almost childhood,—that is, eight years before I dipped my pen in their tears,—I remember seeing many of those hapless refugees wandering about St. James's Park. They had sad companions in the like miseries, though from different enemies, in the emigrants from France; and memory can never forget the variety of wretched yet noble-looking visages I then contemplated in the daily walks which my mother's own little family group were accustomed to take there. One person, a gaunt figure, with melancholy and bravery stamped on his emaciated features, is often present to the recollection of us all. He was clad in a threadbare blue uniform great coat, with a black stock, a rusty old hat, pulled rather over his eyes; his hands without gloves; but his aspect was that of a perfect gentleman, and his step that of a military man. We saw him constantly at one hour, in the middle walk of the Mall, and always alone; never looking to the right nor to the left, but straight on; with an unmoving countenance, and a pace which told that his thoughts were those of a homeless and hopeless man—hopeless, at least, of all that life might bring him. On, on he went to the end of the Mall; turned again, and on again; and so he continued to do always, as long as we remained spectators of his solitary walk: once, indeed, we saw him crossing into St. Martin's Lane. Nobody seemed to know him, for he spoke to none; and no person ever addressed him, though many, like ourselves, looked at him, and stopped in the path to gaze after him. We often longed to be rich, to follow him wherever his wretched abode might have been, and then silently to send comforts to him from hands he knew not of. We used to call him, when speaking of him to ourselves, Il Penseroso; and by that name we yet not unfrequently talk of him to each other, and never without recurrence to the very painful, because unavailing, sympathy we then felt for that apparently friendless man. Such sympathy is, indeed, right; for it is one of the secondary means by which Providence conducts the stream of his mercies to those who need the succor of their fellow-creatures; and we cannot doubt that, though the agency of such Providence was not to be in our hands, there were those who had both the will and the power given, and did not, like ourselves, turn and pity that interesting emigrant in vain.
Some time after this, General Kosciusko, the justly celebrated hero of Poland, came to England, on his way to the United States; having been released from his close imprisonment in Russia, and in the noblest manner, too, by the Emperor Paul, immediately on his accession to the throne. His arrival caused a great sensation in London, and many of the first characters of the times pressed forward to pay their respects to such real patriotic virtue in its adversity. An old friend of my family was amongst them; his own warm heart encouraging the enthusiasm of ours, he took my brother Robert to visit the Polish veteran, then lodging at Sablonire's Hotel, in Leicester Square. My brother, on his return to us, described him as a noble looking man, though not at all handsome, lying upon a couch in a very enfeebled state, from the effects of numerous wounds he had received in his breast by the Cossacks' lances after his fall, having been previously overthrown by a sabre stroke on his head. His voice, in consequence of the induced internal weakness, was very low, and his speaking always with resting intervals. He wore a black bandage across his forehead, which covered a deep wound there; and, indeed, his whole figure bore marks of long suffering.
Our friend introduced my brother to him by name, and as "a boy emulous of seeing and following noble examples." Kosciusko took him kindly by the hand, and spoke to him words of generous encouragement, in whatever path of virtuous ambition he might take. They never have been forgotten. Is it, then, to be wondered at, combining the mute distress I had so often contemplated in other victims of similar misfortunes with the magnanimous object then described to me by my brother, that the story of heroism my young imagination should think of embodying into shape should be founded on the actual scenes of Kosciusko's sufferings, and moulded out of his virtues!
To have made him the ostensible hero of the tale, would have suited neither the modesty of his feelings nor the humbleness of my own expectation of telling it as I wished. I therefore took a younger and less pretending agent, in the personification of a descendant of the great John Sobieski.
But it was, as I have already said, some years after the partition of Poland that I wrote, and gave for publication, my historical romance on that catastrophe. It was finished amid a circle of friends well calculated to fan the flame which had inspired its commencement some of the leading heroes of the British army just returned from the victorious fields of Alexandria and St. Jean d'Acre; and, seated in my brother's little study, with the war-dyed coat in which the veteran Abercrombie breathed his last grateful sigh, while, like Wolfe, he gazed on the boasted invincible standard of the enemy, brought to him by a British soldier,—with this trophy of our own native valor on one side of me, and on the other the bullet-torn vest of another English commander of as many battles,—but who, having survived to enjoy his fame, I do not name here,—I put my last stroke to the first campaigns of Thaddeus Sobieski.
When the work was finished, some of the persons near me urged its being published. But I argued, in opposition to the wish, its different construction to all other novels or romances which had gone before it, from Richardson's time-honored domestic novels to the penetrating feeling in similar scenes by the pen of Henry Mackenzie; and again, Charlotte Smith's more recent, elegant, but very sentimental love stories. But the most formidable of all were the wildly interesting romances of Anne Radcliffe, whose magical wonders and mysteries were then the ruling style of the day. I urged, how could any one expect that the admiring readers of such works could consider my simply-told biographical legend of Poland anything better than a dull union between real history and a matter-of-fact imagination?
Arguments were found to answer all this; and being excited by the feelings which had dictated my little work, and encouraged by the corresponding characters with whom I daily associated, I ventured the essay. However, I had not read the sage romances of our older times without turning to some account the lessons they taught to adventurous personages of either sex; showing that even the boldest knight never made a new sally without consecrating his shield with some impress of acknowledged reverence. In like manner, when I entered the field with my modern romance of Thaddeus of Warsaw, I inscribed the first page with the name of the hero of Acre. That dedication will be found through all its successive editions, still in front of the title-page; and immediately following it is a second inscription, added, in after years, to the memory of the magnanimous patriot and exemplary man, Thaddeus Kosciusko, who had first filled me with ambition to write the tale, and who died in Switzerland, A. D. 1817, fuller of glory than of years. Yet, if life be measured by its vicissitudes and its virtues, we may justly say, "he was gathered in his ripeness."
After his visit to old friends in the United States,—where, in his youth, he had learned the art of war, and the science of a noble, unselfish independence, from the marvel of modern times, General Washington,—Kosciusko returned to Europe, and abode a while in France, but not in its capital. He lived deeply retired, gradually restoring his shattered frame to some degree of health by the peace of a resigned mind and the occupation of rural employments. Circumstances led him to Switzerland; and the country of William Tell, and of simple Christian fellowship, could not but soon be found peculiarly congenial to his spirit, long turned away from the pageants and the pomp of this world. In his span he had had all, either in his grasp or proffered to him. For when nothing remained of all his military glory and his patriotic sacrifices but a yet existing fame, and a conscious sense within him of duty performed, he was content to "eat his crust," with that inheritance alone; and he refused, though with an answering magnanimity of acknowledgment, a valuable property offered to him by the Emperor of Russia, as a free gift from a generous enemy, esteeming his proved, disinterested virtues. He also declined the yet more dazzling present of a crown from the then master of the continent, who would have set him on the throne of Poland—but, of a truth, under the vassalage of the Emperor of the French! Kosciusko was not to be consoled for Poland by riches bestowed on himself, nor betrayed into compromising her birthright of national independence by the casuistry that would have made his parental sceptre the instrument of a foreign domination.
Having such a theme as his name, and the heroes his co-patriots, the romance of "Thaddeus of Warsaw" was no sooner published than it overcame the novelty of its construction, and became universally popular. Nor was it very long before it fell into General Kosciusko's hands, though then in a distant land; and he kindly and promptly lost no time in letting the author know his approbation of the narrative, though qualified with several modest expressions respecting himself. From that period she enjoyed many treasured marks of his esteem; and she will add, though with a sad satisfaction, that amongst her several relics of the Great Departed who have honored her with regard, she possesses, most dearly prized, a medal of Kosciusko and a lock of his hair. About the same time she received a most incontestable proof of the accuracy of her story from the lips of General Gardiner, the last British minister to the court of Stanislaus Augustus. On his reading the book, he was so sure that the facts it represented could only have been learned on the spot, that he expressed his surprise to several persons that the author of the work, an English lady, could have been at Warsaw during all the troubles there and he not know it. On his repeating this observation to the late Duke of Roxburgh, his grace's sister-in-law, who happened to overhear what was said, and knew the writer, answered him by saying, "The author has never been in Poland." "Impossible!" replied the general; "no one could describe the scenes and occurrences there, in the manner it is done in that book, without having been an eyewitness." The lady, however, convinced the general of the fact being otherwise, by assuring him, from her own personal knowledge, that the author of "Thaddeus of Warsaw" was a mere school-girl in England at the time of the events of the story.
How, then, it has often been asked, did she obtain such accurate information with regard to those events? and how acquire her familiar acquaintance with the palaces and persons she represents in the work? The answer is short. By close questioning every person that came in her way that knew anything about the object of her interest; and there were many brave hearts and indignant lips ready to open with the sad yet noble tale. Thus every illustrious individual she wished to bring into her narrative gradually grew upon her knowledge, till she became as well acquainted with all her desired personages as if they were actually present with her; for she knew their minds and their actions; and these compose the man. The features of the country, also, were learned from persons who had trodden the spots she describes: and that they were indeed correct pictures of their homes and war-fields, the tears and bursting enthusiasm of many of Poland's long expatriated sons have more than once borne testimony to her.
As one instance, out of the number I might repeat, of the inextinguishable love of those noble wanderers from their native country, I shall subjoin the copy of a letter addressed to me by one of those gallant men, then holding a high military post in a foreign service, and who, I afterwards learned, was of the family of Kosciusko, whose portrait he sent to me: for the letter was accompanied with a curiously-wrought ring of pure gold, containing a likeness of that hero. The letter was in French, and I transcribe it literally in the words of the writer:—
"Un inconnu ose addresser la parole l'auteur immortel de Thaddeus de Warsaw; attach par tent de liens l'hros que vous avez chant, je m'enhardis distraire pour un moment vos nobles veilles.
"Qu'il me soit permis de vous offrir, madame, l'hommage de mon admiration la plus exalte, en vous prsentant la bague qui contient le buste du Gnral Kosciusko:—elle a servi de signe de ralliment aux patriots Polonois, lorsque, en 1794, ils entreprirent de scouer leur joug.
"Les anciens dposoient leurs offrandes sur l'autel de leurs divinits tutlaires;—je ne fais qu'imiter leur exemple. Vous tes pour tous les Polonois cette divinit, qui la premire ait leve sa voix, du fond de l'impriale, Albion, en leur faveur.
"Un jour viendra, et j'ose conserver dans mon coeur cet espoir, que vos accens, qui ont retenti dans le coeur de l'Europe sensible, produiront leur efft clestial, en ressuscitant l'ombre sanglante de ma chre patrie.
"Daignez agrer, madame, l'hommage respectueuse d'un de vos serviteurs le plus dvou, &c. &c."
Probably the writer of the above is now returned to his country, his vows having been most awfully answered by one of the most momentous struggles she has ever had, or to which the nations around have ever yet stood as spectators; for the balance of Europe trembles at the turning of her scale.
Thus, then, it cannot but be that in the conclusion of this my, perhaps, last introductory preface to any new edition of "Thaddeus of Warsaw," its author should offer up a sincerely heartfelt prayer to the King of kings, the Almighty Father of all mankind, that His all- gracious Spirit may watch over the issue of this contest, and dictate the peace of Poland!
ESHER, May, 1831.
DEDICATION TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THADDEUS OF WARSAW
is inscribed to
SIR SIDNEY SMITH;
in the hope that, as
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
did not disdain to write a romance,
SIR SIDNEY SMITH
will not refuse to read one.
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY CONSIGNED HIS EXCELLENT WORK TO THE AFFECTION OF A SISTER.
I CONFIDE MY ASPIRING ATTEMPT TO THE URBANITY OF THE BRAVE; TO THE MAN OF TASTE, OF FEELING, AND OF CANDOR;
TO HIM WHOSE FRIENDSHIP WILL BESTOW THAT INDULBENCE ON THE AUTHOR WHICH HIS JUDGMENT MIGHT HAVE DENIED TO THE BOOK;
TO HIM OF WHOM FUTURE AGES WILL SPEAK WITH HONOR AND THE PRESENT TIMES BOAST AS THEIR GLORY!
SIR SIDNEY SMITH,
I SUBMIT THIS HUMBLE TRIBUTE OF THE HIGHEST RESPECT WHICH CAN BE OFFERED BY A BRITON, OR ANIMATE THE HEART OF HIS SINCERE FRIEND,
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
Having attempted a narrative of the intended description, but written, in fact, from the mere impulse of sympathy with its subject still fresh in my own and every pitying memory, it is natural that, after having made up my mind to assent to its publication, in which much time and thought has been expended in considering the responsibility of so doing, from so unpractised a pen, I should feel an increase of anxiety respecting its ultimate fate.
Therefore, before the reader favors the tale itself with his attention, I beg leave to offer him a little account of the principles that actuated its composition, and in regard to which one of the most honored heads in the author's family urged her "not to withhold it from the press;" observing, in his persuasions, that the mistakes which many of my young contemporaries of both sexes continually make in their estimates of human character, and of the purposes of human life, require to have a line of difference between certain splendid vices and some of the brilliant order of virtues to be distinctly drawn before them. "And," he remarked, "it appeared to be so done in the pages of my Polish manuscript. Therefore," added he, "let Thaddeus of Warsaw speak openly for himself!"
This opinion decided me. Though with fear and trembling, yet I felt an encouraging consciousness that in writing the manuscript narrative for my own private enjoyment only, and the occasional amusement of those friends dearest around me, I had wished to portray characters whose high endowments could not be misled into proud ambitions, nor the gift of dazzling social graces betray into the selfish triumphs of worldly vanity,—characters that prosperity could not inflate, nor disappointments depress, from pious trust and honorable action. The pure fires of such a spirit declare their sacred origin; and such is the talisman of those achievements which amaze everybody but their accomplisher. The eye fixed on it is what divine truth declares it to be "single!" There is no double purpose in it; no glancing to a man's own personal aggrandizement on one side and on professing services to his fellow-creatures on the other; such a spirit has only one aim— Heaven! and the eternal records of that wide firmament include within it "all good to man."
What flattered Alexander of Macedon into a madman, and perverted the gracious-minded Julius Caesar into usurpation and tyranny, has also been found by Christian heroes the most perilous ordeal of their virtue; but, inasmuch as they are Christian heroes, and not pagan men, worshippers of false gods, whose fabled examples inculcated all these deeds of self-absorbing vain-glory, our heroes of a "better revelation" have no excuse for failing under their trial, and many there be who pass through it "pure and undefiled." Such were the great Alfred of England, Gustavus Vasa of Sweden, and his greater successor in true glory, Gustavus Adolphus,—all champions of immutable justice and ministers of peace. And though these may be regarded as personages beyond the sphere of ordinary emulations, yet the same principles, or their opposites, prevail in every order of men from the prince to the peasant; and, perhaps, at no period of the world more than the present were these divers principles in greater necessity to be considered, and, according to the just conclusion, be obeyed. On all sides of us we see public and private society broken up, as it were by an earthquake: the noblest and the meanest passions of the human bosom at contention, and the latter often so disguised, that the vile ambuscade is not even suspected till found within the heart of the fortress itself. We have, however, one veritable touchstone, that of the truest observation, "ye shall know a tree by its fruits." Let us look round, then, for those which bear "good fruits," wholesome to the taste as well as pleasant to the sight, whether they grow on high altitudes or in the humbler valleys of the earth; let us view men of all degrees in life in their actions, and not in their pretensions,—such men as were some of the Sobieski race in Poland, in every change of their remarkable lives. When placed at the summit of mortal fame, surrounded by greatness and glory, and consequent power, they evinced neither pride to others nor a sense of self-aggrandizement in themselves; and, when under a reverse dispensation, national misfortunes pursued them, and family sorrows pierced their souls, the weakness of a murmur never sunk the dignity of their sustaining fortitude, nor did the firmness of that virtue harden the amiable sensibilities of their hearts.
To exhibit so truly heroic and endearing a portrait of what every Christian man ought to be,—for the law of God is the same to the poor as to the rich,—I have chosen one of that illustrious and, I believe, now extinct race for the subject of my sketch; and the more aptly did it present itself, it being necessary to show my hero amidst scenes and circumstances ready to exercise his brave and generous propensities, and to put their personal issues to the test on his mind. Hence Poland's sadly-varying destinies seemed to me the stage best calculated for the development of any self-imposed task.
There certainly were matters enough for the exhibition of all that human nature could suffer and endure, and, alas! perish under, in the nearly simultaneous but terrible regicidal revolution of France; but I shrunk from that as a tale of horror, the work of demons in the shapes of men. It was a conflict in which no comparisons, as between man and man, could exist; and may God grant that so fearful a visitation may never be inflicted on this world again. May the nations of this world lay its warnings to their hearts!
It sprung from a tree self-corrupted, which only could produce such fruits: the demon hierarchy of the French philosophers, who had long denied the being of that pure and Almighty God, and who, in the arrogance of their own deified reason, and while in utter subjection to the wildest desires of their passions, published their profane and polluted creed amongst all orders of the people, and the natural and terrible consequences ensued. Ignorant before, they became like unto their teachers, demons in their unbelief,—demons in one common envy and hatred of all degrees above them, or around them, whose existence seemed at all in the way of even their slightest gratification: mutual spoliation and destruction covered the country. How often has the tale been told me by noble refugees, sheltered on our shores from those scenes of blood, where infamy triumphed and truth and honor were massacred; but such narratives, though they never can be forgotten, are too direful for the hearer to contemplate in memory.
Therefore, when I sought to represent the mental and moral contest of man with himself, or with his fellow-men, I did not look for their field amongst human monsters, but with natural and civilized man; inasmuch as he is seen to be influenced by the impulses of his selfish passions—ambition, covetousness, and the vanities of life, or, on the opposite side, by the generous amenities of true disinterestedness, in all its trying situations; and, as I have said, the recent struggle in Poland, to maintain her laws and loyal independence, against the combined aggressions of the three most powerful states in Europe, seemed to afford me the most suitable objects for my moral aim, to interest by sympathy, while it taught the responsible commission of human life.
I have now described the plan of my story, its aim and origin.
If it be disapproved, let it be at once laid aside; but should it excite any interest, I pray its perusal may be accompanied with an indulgent candor, its subjects being of so new, and therefore uncustomary, a character in a work of the kind. But if the reader be one of my own sex, I would especially solicit her patience while going through the first portion of the tale, its author being aware that war and politics are not the most promising themes for an agreeable amusement; but the battles are not frequent, nor do the cabinet councils last long. I beg the favor, if the story is to be read at all, that no scene may be passed over as extraneous, for though it begin like a state-paper, or a sermon, it always terminates by casting some new light on the portrait of the hero. Beyond those events of peril and of patriotic devotedness, the remainder of the pages dwell generally with domestic interests; but if the reader do not approach them regularly through the development of character opened in the preceding troubled field, what they exhibit will seem a mere wilderness of incidents, without interest or end; indeed I have designed nothing in the personages of this narrative out of the way of living experience. I have sketched no virtue that I have not seen, nor painted any folly from imagination. I have endeavored to be as faithful to reality in my pictures of domestic morals, and of heroic duties, as a just painter would seek to be to the existing objects of nature, "wonderful and wild, or of gentlest beauty!" and on these grounds I have steadily attempted to inculcate "that virtue is the highest proof of understanding, and the only solid basis of greatness; that vice is the natural consequence of grovelling thoughts, which begin in mistake and end in ignominy."
* * * * * * *
POSTCRIPT TO A SUBSEQUENT EDITION.
After so many intervening years have passed since the author of Thaddeus of Warsaw wrote the foregoing preface, to introduce a work so novel in its character to the notice and candid judgment of the British public, it was her intention to take the present occasion of its now perfectly new republication, at the distance of above forty years from its earliest appearance and so continued editions, to express her grateful sense of that public's gratifying sympathies and honoring testimonies of approbation, from its author's youth to age; but even in the hour she sits down to perform the gracious task, she feels a present incapability to undertake it. The very attempt has too sensibly recalled to her heart events that have befallen her since she lived amongst the models of her tale; and she has also more recently been in many of the places it describes; and circumstances, both of joys and sorrows, having occurred to her there to influence the whole future current of her mortal life, she finds it impossible to yet touch on those times and scenes connected with the subjects of her happy youth, which would now only reverberate notes of sadness it is her duty to repress. Hence, though while revising the work itself she experiences a calm delight in the occupation, being a kind of parting duty, also, to the descendants of her earliest, readers, she would rather defer any little elucidations she may have met with regarding the objects of her pen to a few pages in the form of an Appendix at the end of the work; all, indeed, bringing her observations, whether by weal or woe, to the one great and guiding conclusion. "Man is formed for two states of existence—a mortal and an immortal being;" in the Holy Scriptures authoritatively declared, "For the life that now is, and for that which is to come."
BRISTOL, November, 1844.
I. II. The Mill of Mariemont. III. The Opening of the Campaign. IV. The Pass of Volunna. V. The Banks of the Vistula. VI. Society in Poland. VII. The Diet of Poland. VIII. Battle of Brzesc—The Tenth of October. IX. The Last Days of Villanow. X. Sobieski's Departure from Warsaw. XI. The Baltic. XII. Thaddeus's First Day in England. XIII. The Exile's Lodgings. XIV. A Robbery and its Consequences. XV. The Widow's Family. XVI. The Money-Lender. XVII. The Meeting of Exiles. XVIII. The Veteran's Narrative. XIX. Friendship a Staff in Human Life. XX. Woman's Kindness. XXI. Fashionable Sketches from the Life. XXII. Honorable Resources of an Exile. XXIII. XXIV. Lady Tinemouth's Boudoir. XXV. The Countess of Tinemouth's Story. XXVI. The Kindredship of Minds. XXVII. Such Things Were. XXVIII. Mary Beaufort and her Venerable Aunt. XXIX. Hyde Park. XXX. Influences of Character. XXXI. The Great and the Small of Society. XXXII. The Obduracy of Vice—The Inhumanity of Folly. XXXIII. Passion and Principle. XXXIV. Requiescat in Pace. XXXV. Deep are the Purposes of Adversity. XXXVI. An English Prison. XXXVII. XXXVIII. Zeal is Power. XXXIX. The Vale of Grantham—Belvoir. XL. Somerset Castle. XLI. The Maternal Heart. XLII. Harrowby Abbey. XLIII. The Old Village Hotel. XLIV. Letters of Farewell. XLV. Deerhurst. XLVI. The Spirit of Peace. XLVII. An Avowal. XLVIII. A Family Party. XLIX. L. APPENDIX.
The large and magnificent palace of Villanow, whose vast domains stretch along the northern bank of the Vistula, was the favorite residence of John Sobieski, King of Poland. That monarch, after having delivered his country from innumerable enemies, rescued Vienna and subdued the Turks, retired to this place at certain seasons, and thence dispensed those acts of his luminous and benevolent mind which rendered his name great and his people happy.
When Charles the Twelfth of Sweden visited the tomb of Sobieski, at Cracow, he exclaimed, "What a pity that so great a man should ever die!" [Footnote: In the year 1683, this hero raised the siege of Vienna, then beleagured by the Turks; and driving them out of Europe, saved Christendom from a Mohammedan usurpation.] Another generation saw the spirit of this lamented hero revive in the person of his descendant, Constantine, Count Sobieski, who, in a comparatively private station, as Palatine of Masovia, and the friend rather than the lord of his vassals, evinced by his actions that he was the inheritor of his forefather's virtue as well as of his blood.
He was the first Polish nobleman who granted freedom to his peasants. He threw down their mud hovels and built comfortable villages; he furnished them with seed, cattle, and implements of husbandry, and calling their families together, laid before them the deed of their enfranchisement; but before he signed it, he expressed a fear that they would abuse this liberty of which they had not had experience, and become licentious.
"No," returned a venerable peasant; "when we were ignorant men, and possessed no property of our own except these staffs in our hands, we were destitute of all manly motives for propriety of conduct; but you have taught us to read out of the Holy Book, how to serve God and honor the king. And shall we not respect laws which thus bestow on us, and ensure to us, the fruits of our labors and the favor of Heaven!"
The good sense and truth of this answer were manifested in the event. On the emancipation of these people, they became so prosperous in business and correct in behavior, that the example of the palatine was speedily followed by the Chancellor Zamoiski [Footnote: This family had ever been one of the noblest and most virtuous in Poland. And had its wisdom been listened to in former years by certain powerful and wildly ambitious lords that once great kingdom would never have exchanged its long line of hereditary native-princes for an elective monarchy—that arena of all political mischiefs.] and several of the principal nobility. The royal Stanislaus's beneficent spirit moved in unison with that of Sobieski, and a constitution was given to Poland to place her in the first rank of free nations.
Encircled by his happy tenantry, and within the bosom of his family, this illustrious man educated Thaddeus, the only male heir of his name, to the exercise of all the virtues which ennoble and endear the possessor.
But this reign of public and domestic peace was not to continue. Three formidable and apparently friendly states envied the effects of a patriotism they would not imitate; and in the beginning of the year 1792, regardless of existing treaties, broke in upon the unguarded frontiers of Poland, threatening with all the horrors of a merciless war the properties, lives, and liberties of the people.
The family of Sobieski had ever been foremost in the ranks of their country; and at the present crisis its venerable head did not hang behind the youngest warrior in preparations for the field.
On the evening of an anniversary of the birthday of his grandson, the palatine rode abroad with a party of friends, who had been celebrating the festival with their presence. The countess (his daughter) and Thaddeus were left alone in the saloon. She sighed as she gazed on her son, who stood at some distance, fitting to his youthful thigh a variety of sabres, which his servant a little time before had laid upon the table. She observed with anxiety the eagerness of his motion, and the ardor that was flashing from his eyes.
"Thaddeus," said she, "lay down that sword; I wish to speak with you." Thaddeus looked gayly up. "My dear Thaddeus!" cried his mother, and tears started to her eyes. The blush of enthusiasm faded from his face; he threw the sabre from him, and drew near the countess.
"Why, my dear mother, do you distress yourself? When I am in battle, shall I not have my grandfather near me, and be as much under the protection of God as at this moment?"
"Yes, my child," answered she, "God will protect you. He is the protector of the orphan, and you are fatherless." The countess paused—"Here, my son," said she, giving him a sealed packet, "take this; it will reveal to you the history of your birth and the name of your father. It is necessary that you should know a painful fact, which has hitherto been concealed from you by the wish and noble judgment of your grandfather." Thaddeus received it, and stood silent with surprise. "Read it, my love," continued she, "but go to your own apartments; here you may be interrupted."
Bewildered by the manner of the countess, Thaddeus, without answering, instantly obeyed. Shutting himself within his study, he impatiently opened the papers, and soon found his whole attention absorbed in the following recital.
"TO MY DEAR SON, THADDEUS CONSTANTINE SOBIESKI.
"You are now, my Thaddeus, at the early age of nineteen, going to engage the enemies of your country. Ere I resign my greatest comfort to the casualties of war; ere I part with you, perhaps forever, I would inform you who your father really was—that father whose existence you have hardly known and whose name you have never heard. You believe yourself an orphan, your mother a widow; but, alas! I have now to tell you that you were made fatherless by the perfidy of man, not by the dispensation of Heaven.
"Twenty-three years ago, I accompanied my father in a tour through Germany and Italy. Grief for the death of my mother had impaired his health, and the physicians ordered him to reside in a warmer climate; accordingly we fixed ourselves near the Arno. During several visits to Florence, my father met in that city with a young Englishman of the name of Sackville. These frequent meetings opened into intimacy, and he was invited to our villa.
"Mr. Sackville was not only the most interesting man I had ever seen, but the most accomplished, and his heart seemed the seat of every graceful feeling. He was the first man for whose society I felt a lively preference. I used to smile at this strange delight, or sometimes weep; for the emotions which agitated me were undefinable, but they were enchanting, and unheedingly I gave them indulgence. The hours which we passed together in the interchange of reciprocal sentiments, the kind beaming of his looks, the thousand sighs that he breathed, the half-uttered sentences, all conspired to rob me of myself.
"Nearly twelve months were spent in these delusions. During the last three, doubts and anguish displaced the blissful reveries of an infant tenderness. The attentions of Mr. Sackville died away. From being the object of his constant search, he then sedulously sought to avoid me. When my father withdrew to his closet, he would take his leave, and allow me to walk alone. Solitary and wretched were my rambles. I had full leisure to compare my then disturbed state of mind with the comparative peace I had enjoyed in my own country. Immured within the palace of Villanow, watching the declining health of my mother, I knew nothing of the real world, the little I had learned of society being drawn from books; and, uncorrected by experience, I was taught to believe a perfection in man which, to my affliction, I since found to be but a poet's dream. When my father took me to Italy, I continued averse to public company. In such seclusion, the presence of Sackville, being almost my only pleasure, chased from my mind its usual reserve, and gradually and surely won upon the awakened affections of my heart. Artless and unwarned, I knew not the nature of the passion which I cherished until it had gained an ascendancy that menaced my life.
"On the evening of one of those days in which I had been disappointed of seeing this too-dearly-prized companion, I strolled out, and, hardly conscious of my actions, threw myself along the summit of a flight of steps in our garden that led down to the Arno. My head rested against the base of a statue which, because of its resemblance to me, Sackville had presented to my father. Every recollected kindness of his now gave me additional torment; and clinging to the pedestal as to the altar of my adoration, in the bitterness of disappointment I addressed the insensible stone: 'O! were I pale as thou art, and this breast as cold and still, would Sackville, when he looked on me, give one sigh to the creature he had destroyed? My sobs followed this adjuration, and the next moment I felt myself encircled in his arms. I struggled, and almost fainting with shame at such utter weakness, implored to be released. He did release me, and, in an agony of emotion, besought my pardon for the misery I had endured. 'Now, Therese,' cried he, 'all is as it ought to be! you are my only hope. Consent to be mine, or the world has no hold on me!' His voice was hurried and incoherent. Raising my eyes to his, I beheld them wild and bloodshot. Terrified at his look, and overcome by my own distracted thoughts, my head sunk on the marble. With increased violence he exclaimed, 'Have I deceived myself here too? Therese, did you not prefer me? Did you not love me? Speak now, I conjure you, by your own happiness and mine! Do you reject me?' He clasped my hands with a force that made me tremble, and I hardly articulated, 'I will be yours.' At these words he hurried me down a dark vista, which led out of the gardens to the open country. A carriage stood at the gate. I fearfully asked what he intended. 'You have given yourself to me,' cried he; 'and by that vow, written in heaven, no power shall separate us until you are mine beyond the reach of man!' Unnerved in body and weak in mind, I yielded to his impetuosity, and suffering him to lift me into the chariot, was carried to the door of the nearest monastery, where in a few minutes we were married.
"I am thus particular in the relation of every incident, in the hope that you, my dear son, will find some excuse for my great imprudence,—in the circumstances of my youth, and in the influence which a man who seemed all excellence had gained over my heart. However, my fault went not long unpunished.
"The ceremony past, my husband conducted me in silence back to the carriage. My full bosom discharged itself in abundance of tears, while Sackville sat by me, without any movement, and mute. Two or three times I raised my eyes, in hopes of discerning in his some consolation for my hasty compliance. But no; his gaze, vacant and glaring, was fixed on the window, and his brow became heavily clouded, as if he had been forced into an alliance with one he hated, rather than had just made a voluntary engagement with the woman he loved. My soul shuddered at this commencement of a contract which I had dared to make unsanctioned by my father's consent. At length my sighs seemed to startle my husband; and suddenly turning round, he cried, 'Therese, this marriage must not be told to the palatine. I have been precipitate. It would ruin me with my family. Refrain, only for one month, and then I will publicly acknowledge you.' The agitation of his features and the feverish burning of his hand, which then held mine, alarmed me. Trembling from head to foot, I answered, 'Sackville! I have already erred enough in consenting to this stolen marriage. I will not transgress further by concealing it. I will instantly throw myself at my father's feet, and confess all.' His countenance darkened again. 'Therese,' said he, 'I am your husband. You have sworn to obey me, and till I allow you, divulge this marriage at your peril!' This last stern sentence, and the sterner look that accompanied it, pierced me to the heart, and I fell senseless on the seat.
"When I recovered, I found myself at the foot of that statue beneath which my unfortunate destiny had been fixed. My husband was leaning over me. He raised me with tenderness from the ground, and conjured me, in the mildest accents, to be comforted; to pardon the severity of those words, which had arisen from a fear that, by an imprudent avowal on my part, I should risk both his happiness and my own. He informed me that he was heir to one of the first families in England; and before he set out for the continent, he had pledged his honor to his father never to enter into any matrimonial engagement without first acquainting him with the particulars of the lady and her family. Should he omit this duty, his father declared that, though she were a princess, he would disinherit him, and never again admit him to his presence.
"'Consider this, my dear Therese,' continued he; 'could you endure to behold me an outcast, and stigmatized with a parent's curse, when a little forbearance on your part would make all right? I know I have been hasty in acting as I have done, but now I cannot remedy my error. To-morrow I will write to my father, describe your rank and merits, and request his consent to our immediate union. The moment his permission arrives, I will cast myself on the palatine's friendship, and reveal what has passed.' The tenderness of my husband blinded my reason, and with many tears, I sealed his forgiveness and pledged my faith on his word.
"My dear deceived parent little suspected the perfidy of his guest. He detained him as his visitor, and often rallied himself on the hold which this distinguished stranger's accomplishments had taken on his heart. Sackville's manner to me in public was obliging and free; it was in private only that I found the tender, the capricious, the unkind husband. Night after night I have washed the memory of my want of duty to my father with bitter tears; but my husband was dear to me—he was more precious than my life! One affectionate look from him, one fond word, would solace every pain, and make me wait the arrival of his father's letter with all the sanguine anticipations of youth and love.
"A fortnight passed away. A month—a long and lingering month. Another month, and a packet of letters was presented to Sackville. He was conversing with us. At sight of the superscription, he tore open the paper, ran his eyes over a few lines, and then, flushed and agitated, started from his seat and left the room. My emotions were almost uncontrollable. I had already half risen from my chair to follow him, when the palatine exclaimed, 'What can be in that letter? Too plainly I see some afflicting tidings.' And without observing me, or waiting for a reply, he hurried out after him. I hastened to my chamber, where, throwing myself on my bed, I tried, by all the delusions of hope, to obtain some alleviation from the pangs of my suspense.
"The dinner-bell roused me from my reverie. Dreading to excite suspicion, and anxious to read in the countenance of my husband the denunciation of our fate, I obeyed the summons and descended to the dining-room. On entering it, my eyes irresistibly wandered round to fix themselves on Sackville. He was leaning against a pillar, his face pale as death. My father looked grave, but immediately took his seat, and tenderly placed his friend beside him. I sat down in silence. Little dinner was eaten, and few words spoken. As for myself, my agitation almost choked me. I felt that the first words I should attempt to pronounce must give them utterance, and that their vehemence would betray our fatal secret.
"When the servants had withdrawn, Sackville rose, and said, in a faltering voice, 'Count, I must leave you.' 'Nay,' replied the palatine; 'you are unwell—disturbed—stay till to-morrow.' 'I thank your excellency,' answered he, 'but I must go to Florence to-night. You shall see me again before to-morrow afternoon; all will then, I hope, be settled to my wish.' My husband took his hat. Motionless, and incapable of speaking, I sat fixed to my chair, in the direct way that he must pass. His eye met mine. He stopped and looked at me, abruptly snatched my hand; then as abruptly quitting it, darted out of the room. I never saw him more.
"I had not the power to dissemble another moment. I fell back into the arms of my father. He did not, even by this imprudence, read what I almost wished him to guess, but, with all the indulgence of perfect confidence, lamented the distress of Sackville, and the sensibility of my nature, which sympathized so painfully with his friend. I durst not ask what was the distress of his friend. Abashed at my duplicity to my father, and overwhelmed with a thousand dreads, I obtained his permission to retire to my chamber.
"The next day I met him with calmness, for I had schooled my heart to endure the sufferings it had deserved. He did not remark my recovered tranquillity, so entirely was his generous heart occupied in conjecturing the cause of Sackville's grief, who had acknowledged having received a great shock, but would not reveal the occasion. This double reserve to my father surprised and distressed me, and to all his suppositions I said little. My soul was too deeply interested in the subject to trust to the faithfulness of my lips.
"The morning crept slowly on, and the noon appeared to stand still. I anxiously watched the declining sun, as the signal for my husband's return. Two hours had elapsed since his promised time, and my father grew so impatient that he went out to meet him. I eagerly wished that they might miss each other. I should then see Sackville a few minutes alone, and by one word be comforted or driven to despair.
"I was listening to every footstep that sounded under the colonnade, when my servant brought me a letter which had just been left by one of Mr. Sackville's grooms. I broke open the seal, and fell senseless on the floor ere I had read half the killing contents."
Thaddeus, with a burning cheek, and a heart all at once robbed of that elastic spring which till now had ever made him the happiest of the happy, took up the letter of his father. The paper was worn, and blistered with his mother's tears. His head seemed to swim as he contemplated the handwriting, and he said to himself, "Am I to respect or to abhor him?" He proceeded in the perusal.
"TO THERESE, COUNTESS SOBIESKI.
"How, Therese, am I to address you? But an attempt to palliate my conduct would be to no purpose; indeed it is impossible. You cannot conceive a viler opinion of me than I have of myself. I know that I forfeit all claim to honor, in the most delicate point of your noble and trusting heart!—that I have sacrificed your tenderness to my distracted passions; but you shall no more be subject to the caprices of a man who cannot repay your innocent love with his own. You have no guilt to torture you; and you possess virtues which will render you tranquil under every calamity. I leave you to your own purity, and, therefore, peace of mind. Forget the ceremony which has passed between us; my wretched heart disclaims it forever. Your father is happily ignorant of it; pray spare him the anguish of knowing that I was so utterly unworthy of his kindness; I feel that I am more than ungrateful to you and to him. Therese, your most inveterate hate cannot more strongly tell me than I can tell myself that to you I have been a villain. But I cannot retract. I am going where all search will be vain; and I now bid you an eternal farewell. May you be happier than ever can be the self-abhorring.
"R. S———." "FLORENCE."
Thaddeus, after a brief pause, went on with his mother's narrative.
"When my senses returned, I was lying on the floor, holding the half- perused paper in my hand. Grief and horror had locked up the avenues of complaint, and I sat as one petrified to stone. My father entered. At the sight of me, he started as if he had been a spectre. His well- known features opened at once my agonized heart. With fearful cries I cast myself at his feet, and putting the letter into his hand, clung, almost expiring, to his knees.
"When he had read it, he flung it from him, and dropping into a chair, covered his face with his hands. I looked up imploringly, for I could not speak. My father stooped forward, and raising me in his arms, pressed me to his bosom. 'My Therese,' said he, 'it is I who have done this. Had I not harbored this villain, he never could have had an opportunity of ruining the peace of my child.' In return for the unexampled indulgence of this speech, and his repeated assurances of forgiveness, I promised to forget a man who could have had so little respect for truth and gratitude, and his own honor. The palatine replied that he expected such a resolution, in consequence of the principles my exemplary mother had taught me; and to show me how far dearer to him was my real tranquillity than any false idea of impossible restitution, he would not remove even from one principality to another, were he sure by that means to discover Mr. Sackville and to avenge my wrongs. My understanding assented to the justice and dignity of all he said; but long and severe were my struggles before I could erase from my soul the image of that being who had been the lord of all my young hopes.
"It was not until you, my dear Thaddeus, were born that I could repay the goodness of my father with the smiles of cheerfulness. And he would not permit me to give you any name which could remind him or myself of the faithless husband who knew not even of your existence; and by his desire I christened you Thaddeus Constantine, after himself, and his best beloved friend General Kosciusko. You have not yet seen that illustrious Polander; his prescient watchfulness for his country keeps him so constantly employed on the frontiers. He is now with the army at Winnica, whither you must soon go; and in him you may study one of the brightest models of patriotic and martial virtue that ever was presented to mankind. It is well said of him 'that he would have shone with distinguished lustre in the ages of chivalry.' Gallant, generous, and strictly just, he commands obedience by the reverence in which he is held, and attaches the troops to his person by the affability of his manners and the purity of his life. He teaches them discipline, endurance of fatigue, and contempt of danger, by his dauntless example, and inspires them with confidence by his tranquillity in the tumult of action and the invincible fortitude with which he meets the most adverse stroke of misfortune. His modesty in victory shows him to be one of the greatest among men, and his magnanimity under defeat confirms him to be a Christian hero.
"Such is the man whose name you share. How bitterly do I lament that the one to which nature gave you a claim was so unworthy to be united with it, and that of my no less heroic father!
"On our return to Poland, the story which the palatine related, when questioned about my apparently forlorn state, was simply this:—'My daughter was married and widowed in the course of two months. Since then, to root from her memory as much as possible all recollection of a husband who was only given to be taken away, she still retains my name; and her son, as my sole heir, shall bear no other.' This reply satisfied every one; the king, who was my father's only confidant, gave his sanction to it, and no further inquiries were ever made.
"You are now, my beloved child, entering on the eventful career of life. God only knows, when the venerable head of your grandfather is laid in dust, and I, too, have shut my eyes upon you in this world, where destiny may send you! perhaps to the country of your father. Should you ever meet him—but that is unlikely; so I will be silent on a thought which nineteen years of reflection have not yet deprived of its sting.
"Not to embitter the fresh spring of your youth, my Thaddeus, with the draught that has poisoned mine: not to implant in your breast hatred of a parent whom you may never behold, have I written this; but to inform you in fact from whom you sprung. My history is made plain to you, that no unexpected events may hereafter perplex your opinion of your mother, or cause a blush to rise on that cheek for her, which from your grandfather can derive no stain. For his sake as well as for mine, whether in peace or in war, may the angels of heaven guard my boy! This is the unceasing prayer of thy fond mother,
"THERESE, COUNTESS SOBIESKI.
"VILLANOW, March, 1792."
When he finished reading, Thaddeus held the papers in his hand; but, unable to recover from the shock of their contents, he read them a second time to the end; then laying them on the table, against which he rested his now aching head, he gave vent to the fulness of his heart in tears.
The countess, anxious for the effect which her history might have made on her son, at this instant entered the room. Seeing him in so dejected an attitude, she approached, and pressing him to her bosom, silently wept with him. Thaddeus, ashamed of his emotions, yet incapable of dissembling them, struggled a moment to release himself from her arms. The countess, mistaking his motive, said in a melancholy voice, "And do you, my son, despise your mother for the weakness which she has revealed? Is this the reception that I expected from a child on whose affection I reposed my confidence and my comfort?"
"No, my mother" replied Thaddeus; "it is your afflictions which have distressed me. This is the first unhappy hour I ever knew, and can you wonder I should be affected? Oh! mother," continued he, laying his hand on his father's letter, "whatever were his rank, had my father been but noble in mind, I would have gloried in bearing his name; but now, I put up my prayers never to hear it more."
"Forget him," cried the countess, hiding her eyes with her handkerchief.
"I will," answered Thaddeus, "and allow my memory to dwell on the virtues of my mother only."
It was impossible for the countess or her son to conceal their agitation from the palatine, who now opened the door. On his expressing alarm at a sight so unusual, his daughter, finding herself incapable of speaking, put into his hand the letter which Thaddeus had just read. Sobieski cast his eye over the first lines; he comprehended their tendency, and seeing the countess had withdrawn, he looked towards his grandson. Thaddeus was walking up and down the room, striving to command himself for the conversation he anticipated with his grandfather.
"I am sorry, Thaddeus," said Sobieski, "that your mother has so abruptly imparted to you the real country and character of your father. I see that his villany has distressed a heart which Heaven has made alive to even the slightest appearance of dishonor. But be consoled, my son! I have prevented the publicity of his conduct by an ambiguous story of your mother's widowhood. Yet notwithstanding this arrangement, she has judged it proper that you should not enter general society without being made acquainted with the true events of your birth. I believe my daughter is right. And cheer yourself, my child! ever remembering that you are one of the noblest race in Poland! and suffer not the vices of one parent to dim the virtues of the other."
"No, my lord," answered his grandson; "you have been more than a parent to me; and henceforward, for your sake as well as my own, I shall hold it my duty to forget that I draw my being from any other source than that of the house of Sobieski."
"You are right," cried the palatine, with an exulting emotion; "you have the spirit of your ancestors, and I shall live to see you add glory to the name!" [Footnote: John Sobieski, King of Poland, was the most renowned sovereign of his time. His victories over the Tartars and the Turks obtained for him the admiration of Europe. Would it might be said, "the gratitude also of her posterity!" For his signal courage and wondrous generalship on the field of Vienna, against the latter Mohammedan power, rescued Austria, and the chief part of Christendom at that time, from their ruinous grasp. Where was the memory of these things, when the Austrian emperor marched his devastating legions into Poland, in the year 1793?]
The beaming eyes and smiling lips of the young count declared that he had shaken sorrow from his heart. His grandfather pressed his hand with delight, and saw in his recovered serenity the sure promise of his fond prophecy.
THE MILL OF MARIEMONT.
The fearful day arrived when Sobieski and his grandson were to bid adieu to Villanow and its peaceful scenes.
The well-poised mind of the veteran bade his daughter farewell with a fortitude which imparted some of its strength even to her. But when Thaddeus, ready habited for his journey, entered the room, at the sight of his military accoutrements she shuddered; and when, with a glowing countenance, he advanced, smiling through his tears, towards her, she clasped him in her arms, and riveted her lips to that face the very loveliness of which added to her affliction. She gazed at him, she wept on his neck, she pressed him to her bosom. "Oh! how soon might all that beauty be mingled with the dust! how soon might that warm heart, which then beat against hers, be pierced by the sword—be laid on the ground, mangled and bleeding, exposed and trampled on!" These thoughts thronged upon her soul, and deprived her of sense. She was borne away by her maids, while the palatine compelled Thaddeus to quit the spot.
It was not until the lofty battlements of Villanow blended with the clouds that Thaddeus could throw off his melancholy. The parting grief of his mother hung on his spirits; and heavy and frequent were his sighs while he gazed on the rustic cottages and fertile fields, which reminded him that he was yet passing through the territories of his grandfather. The picturesque mill of Mariemont was the last spot on which his sight lingered. The ivy that mantled its sides sparkled with the brightness of a shower which had just fallen; and the rays of the setting sun, gleaming on its shattered wall, made it an object of such romantic beauty, that he could not help pointing it out to his fellow-travellers.
Whilst the eyes of General Butzou, who was in the carriage, followed the direction of Thaddeus, the palatine observed the heightening animation of the old man's features; and recollecting at the same time the transports which he himself had enjoyed when he visited that place more than twenty years before, he put his hand on the shoulder of the veteran, and exclaimed, "General, did you ever relate to my boy the particulars of that mill?"
"No, my lord."
"I suppose," continued the palatine, "the same reason deterred you from speaking of it, uncalled for, as lessened my wish to tell the story? We are both too much the heroes of the tale to have volunteered the recital."
"Does your excellency mean," asked Thaddeus, "the rescue of our king from this place?"
"I have an indistinct knowledge of the affair," continued his grandson, "from I forget who, and should be grateful to hear it clearly told me, while thus looking on the very spot."
"But," said the palatine, gayly, whose object was to draw his grandson from melancholy reflections, "what will you say to me turning egotist?"
"I now ask the story of you," returned Thaddeus, smiling; "besides, as soldiers are permitted by their peaceful hearth to 'fight their battles o'er again,' your modesty, my dear grandfather, cannot object to repeat one to me on the way to more."
"Then, as a preliminary," said the palatine, "I must suppose it is unnecessary to tell you that General Butzou was the brave soldier who, at the imminent risk of his own life, saved our sovereign."
"Yes, I know that!" replied the young count, "and that you too had a share in the honor: for when I was yesterday presented to his majesty, amongst other things which he said, he told me that, under Heaven, he believed he owed his present existence to General Butzou and yourself."
"So very little to me," resumed the palatine, "that I will, to the best of my recollection, repeat every circumstance of the affair. Should I err, I must beg of you, general" (turning to the veteran), "to put me right."
Butzou, with a glow of honest exultation, nodded assent; and Thaddeus bowing in sign of attention, his smiling grandsire began.
"It was on a Sunday night, the 3d of September, in the year 1771, that this event took place. At that time, instigated by the courts of Vienna and Constantinople, a band of traitorous lords, confederated together, were covertly laying waste the country, and perpetrating all kinds of unsuspected outrage on their fellow-subjects who adhered to the king.
"Amongst their numerous crimes, a plan was laid for surprising and taking the royal person. Casimir Pulaski was the most daring of their leaders; and, assisted by Lukawski, Strawenski, and Kosinski, three Poles unworthy of their names, he resolved to accomplish his design or perish. Accordingly, these men, with forty other conspirators, in the presence of their commander swore with the most horrid oaths to deliver Stanislaus alive or dead into his hands.
"About a month after this meeting, these three parricides of their country, at the head of their coadjutors, disguised as peasants, and concealing their arms in wagons of hay, which they drove before them, entered the suburbs of Warsaw undetected.
"It was about ten o'clock P. M., on the 3d of September, as I have told you, they found an apt opportunity to execute their scheme. They placed themselves, under cover of the night, in those avenues, of the city through which they knew his majesty must pass in his way from Villanow, where he had been dining with me. His carriage was escorted by four of his own guards, besides myself and some of mine. We had scarcely lost sight of Villanow, when the conspirators rushed out and surrounded us, commanding the coachman to stop, and beating down the serving men with the butt ends of their muskets. Several shots were fired into the coach. One passed through my hat as I was getting out, sword in hand, the better to repel an attack the motive of which I could not then divine. A cut across my right leg with a sabre laid me under the wheels; and whilst in that situation, I heard the shot pouring into the coach like hail, and felt the villains stepping over my body to finish the murder of their sovereign.
"It was then that our friend Butzou (who at that period was a private soldier in my service) stood between his majesty and the rebels, parrying many a stroke aimed at the king; but at last, a thrust from a bayonet into his gallant defender's breast cast him weltering in his blood upon me. By this time all the persons who had formed the escort were either wounded or dispersed, and George Butzou, our friend's only brother, was slain. So dropped one by one the protectors of our trampled bodies and of our outraged monarch. Secure then of their prey, one of the assassins opened the carriage door, and with shocking imprecations seizing the king, discharged his pistol so near his majesty's face, that he felt the heat of the flash. A second villain cut him on the forehead with a sabre, whilst the third, who was on horseback, laying hold of the king's collar, dragged him along the ground through the suburbs of the city.
"During the latter part of this murderous scene, some of our affrighted people, who had fled, returned with a detachment, and seeing Butzou and me apparently lifeless, carried us to the royal palace, where all was commotion and distraction. But the foot-guards followed the track which the conspirators had taken. In one of the streets they found the king's hat dyed in blood, and his pelisse also. This confirmed their apprehensions of his death; and they came back filling all Warsaw with dismay.
"The assassins, meanwhile, got clear of the town. Finding, however, that the king, by loss of blood, was not likely to exist much longer by dragging him towards their employer, and that delay might even lose them his dead body, they mounted him, and redoubled their speed. When they came to the moat, they compelled him to leap his horse across it. In the attempt the horse fell and broke its leg. They then ordered his majesty, fainting as he was, to mount another and spur it over. The conspirators had no sooner passed the ditch, and saw their king fall insensible on the neck of his horse, than they tore from his breast the ribbon of the black eagle, and its diamond cross. Lukawski was so foolishly sure of his prisoner, dead or alive, that he quitted his charge, and repaired with these spoils to Pulaski, meaning to show them as proofs of his success. Many of the other plunderers, concluding that they could not do better than follow their leader's example, fled also, tired of their work, leaving only seven of the party, with Kosinski at their head, to remain over the unfortunate Stanislaus, who shortly after recovered from his swoon.
"The night was now grown so dark, they could not be sure of their way; and their horses stumbling at every step, over stumps of trees and hollows in the earth, increased their apprehensions to such a degree, that they obliged the king to keep up with them on foot. He literally marked his path with his blood; his shoes having been torn off in the struggle at the carriage. Thus they continued wandering backward and forward, and round the outskirts of Warsaw, without any exact knowledge of their situation. The men who guarded him at last became so afraid of their prisoner's taking advantage of these circumstances to escape, that they repeatedly called on Kosinski for orders to put him to death. Kosinski refused; but their demands growing more imperious, as the intricacies of the forest involved them completely, the king expected every moment to find their bayonets in his breast.
"Meanwhile," continued the palatine, "when I recovered from my swoon in the palace, my leg had been bound up, and I felt able to stir. Questioning the officers who stood about my couch, I found that a general panic had seized them. They knew not how to proceed; they shuddered at leaving the king to the mercy of the confederates, and yet were fearful, by pursuing him further, to incense them through terror or revenge to massacre their prisoner, if he were still alive. I did all that was in my power to dispel this last dread. Anxious, at any rate, to make another attempt to preserve him, though I could not ride myself, I strenuously advised an immediate pursuit on horseback, and insisted that neither darkness nor apprehension of increasing danger should be permitted to impede their course. Recovered presence of mind in the nobles restored hope and animation to the terrified soldiers, and my orders were obeyed. But I must add, they were soon disappointed, for in less than half an hour the detachment returned in despair, showing me his majesty's coat, which they had found in the fosse. I suppose the ruffians tore it off when they rifled him. It was rent in several places, and so wet with blood that the officer who presented it to me concluded they had murdered the king there, and drawn away his body, for by the light of the torches the soldiers could trace drops of blood to a considerable distance.
"Whilst I was attempting to invalidate this new evidence of his majesty's being beyond the reach of succor, he was driven before the seven conspirators so far into the wood of Bielany, that, not knowing whither they went, they came up with one of the guard-houses, and, to their extreme terror, were accosted by a patrol. Four of the banditti immediately disappeared, leaving two only with Kosinski, who, much alarmed, forced his prisoner to walk faster and keep a profound silence. Notwithstanding all this precaution, scarce a quarter of an hour afterwards they were challenged by a second watch; and the other two men taking flight, Kosinski, full of indignation at their desertion, was left alone with the king. His majesty, sinking with pain and fatigue, besought permission to rest for a moment; but Kosinski refused, and pointing his sword towards the king, compelled him to proceed.
"As they walked on, the insulted monarch, who was hardly able to drag one limb after the other, observed that his conductor gradually forgot his vigilance, until he was thoroughly given up to thought. The king conceived some hope from this change, and ventured to say 'I see that you know not how to proceed. You cannot but be aware that the enterprise in which you are engaged, however it may end, is full of peril to you. Successful conspirators are always jealous of each other. Pulaski will find it as easy to rid himself of your life as it is to take mine. Avoid that danger, and I will promise you none on my account. Suffer me to enter the convent of Bielany: we cannot be far from it; and then, do you provide for your own safety.' Kosinski, though rendered desperate by the circumstances in which he was involved, replied, 'No; I have sworn, and I would rather sacrifice my life than my honor.'
"The king had neither strength nor spirits to urge him further, and they continued to break their way through the bewildering underwood, until they approached Mariemont. Here Stanislaus, unable to stir another step, sunk down at the foot of the old yew-tree, and again implored for one moment's rest. Kosinski no longer refused. This unexpected humanity encouraged his majesty to employ the minutes they sat together in another attempt to soften his heart, and to convince him that the oath which he had taken was atrocious, and by no means binding to a brave and virtuous man.
"Kosinski heard him with attention, and even showed he was affected. 'But,' said he, 'if I should assent to what you propose, and reconduct you to Warsaw, what will be the consequence to me? I shall be taken and executed.' 'I give you my word,' answered the king, 'that you shall not suffer any injury. But if you doubt my honor, escape while you can. I shall find some place of shelter, and will direct your pursuers to take the opposite road to that which you may choose.' Kosinski, entirely overcome, threw himself on his knees before his majesty, and imploring pardon from Heaven for what he had done, swore that from this hour he would defend his king against all the conspirators, and trust confidently in his word for future preservation. Stanislaus repeated his promise of forgiveness and protection, and directed him to seek refuge for them both in the mill near which they were discoursing. Kosinski obeyed. He knocked, but no one gave answer. He then broke a pane of glass in the window, and through it begged succor for a nobleman who had been waylaid by robbers. The miller refused to come out, or to let the applicants in, expressing his belief that they were robbers themselves, and if they did not go away he would fire on them.
"This dispute had continued some time, when the king contrived to crawl up close to the windows and spoke. 'My good friend,' said he, 'if we were banditti, as you suppose, it would be as easy for us, without all this parley, to break into your house as to break this pane of glass; therefore, if you would not incur the shame of suffering a fellow-creature to perish for want of assistance, give us admittance.' This plain argument had its weight upon the man, and opening the door, he desired them to enter. After some trouble, his majesty procured pen and ink, and addressing a few lines to me at the palace, with difficulty prevailed on one of the miller's sons to carry it, so fearful were they of falling in with any of the troop who they understood had plundered their guests.
"My joy at the sight of this note I cannot describe. I well remember the contents; they were literally these:—
"'By the miraculous hand of Providence I have escaped from the hands of assassins. I am now at the mill of Mariemont. Send immediately and take me hence. I am wounded, but not dangerously.'
"Regardless of my own condition, I instantly got into a carriage, and followed by a detachment of horse, arrived at the mill. I met Kosinski at the door, keeping guard with his sword drawn. As he knew my person, he admitted me directly. The king had fallen into a sleep, and lay in one corner of the hovel on the ground, covered with the miller's cloak. To see the most virtuous monarch in the world thus abused by a party of ungrateful subjects pierced me to the heart. Kneeling down by his side, I took hold of his hand, and in a paroxysm of tears, which I am not ashamed to confess, I exclaimed, 'I thank thee, Almighty God, that I again see our true-hearted sovereign still alive!' It is not easy to say how these words struck the simple family. They dropped on their knees before the king, whom my voice had awakened, and besought his pardon, for their recent opposition to give him entrance. The good Stanislaus soon quieted their fears, and graciously thanking them for their kindness, told the miller to come to the palace the next day, when he would show him his gratitude in a better way than by promises.
"The officers of the detachment then assisted his majesty and myself into the carriage, and accompanied by Kosinski, we reached Warsaw about six in the morning."
"Yes," interrupted Butzou; "I remember my tumultuous joy when the news was brought to me in my bed that my brave brother had not died in vain for his sovereign; it almost deprived me of my senses; and besides, his majesty visited me, his poor soldier, in my chamber. Does not your excellency recollect how he was brought into my room on a chair, between two men? and how he thanked me, and shook hands with me, and told me my brother should never be forgotten in Poland? It made me weep like a child."
"And he never can!" cried Thaddeus, hardly recovering from the deep attention with which he had listened to this recital. [Footnote: The king had his brave defender buried with military honors, and caused a noble monument to be raised over him, with an inscription, of which the following is a translation:—
"Here lieth the respected remains of George Butzou, who, on the 3d of September, 1771, opposing his own breast to shield his sovereign from the weapons of national parricides, was pierced with a mortal wound, and triumphantly expired. Stanislaus the king, lamenting the death of so faithful a subject, erects this monument as a tribute to him and an example of heroic duty to others."] "But what became of Kosinski? For doubtless the king kept his word."
"He did indeed," replied Sobieski; "his word is at all times sacred. Yet I believe Kosinski entertained fears that he would not be so generous, for I perceived him change color very often while we were in the coach. However, he became tranquillized when his majesty, on alighting at the palace in the midst of the joyous cries of the people, leaned upon his arm and presented him to the populace as his preserver. The great gate was ordered to be left open; and never whilst I live shall I again behold such a scene! Every loyal soul in Warsaw, from the highest to the lowest, came to catch a glimpse of their rescued sovereign. Seeing the doors free, they entered without ceremony, and thronged forward in crowds to get near enough to kiss his hand, or to touch his clothes; then, elated with joy, they turned to Kosinski, and loaded him with demonstrations of gratitude, calling him the 'saviour of the king.' Kosinski bore all this with surprising firmness; but in a day or two, when the facts became known, he feared he might meet with different treatment from the people, and therefore petitioned his majesty for leave to depart. Stanislaus consented—and he retired to Semigallia, where he now lives on a handsome pension from the king."
"Generous Stanislaus!" exclaimed the general; "you see, my dear young count, how he has rewarded me for doing that which was merely my duty. He put it at my option to become what I pleased about his person, or to hold an officer's rank in his body-guard. Love ennobles servitude; and attached as I have ever been to your family, under whom all my ancestors have lived and fought, I vowed in my own mind never to quit it, and accordingly begged permission of my sovereign to remain with the Count Sobieski. I did remain; but see," cried he, his voice faltering, "what my benefactors have made of me. I command those troops amongst whom it was once my greatest pride to be a private soldier."
Thaddeus pressed the hand of the veteran between both his, and regarded him with respect and affection, whilst the grateful old man wiped away a gliding tear from his face. [Footnote: Lukawski and Strawenski were afterwards both taken, with others of the conspirators. At the king's entreaty, those of inferior rank were pardoned after condemnation; but the two noblemen who had deluded them were beheaded. Pulaski, the prime ring-leader, escaped, to the wretched life of an outlaw and an exile, and finally died in America, in 1779.]
"How happy it ought to make you, my son," observed Sobieski, "that you are called out to support such a sovereign! He is not merely a brave king, whom you would follow to battle, because he will lead you to honor; the hearts of his people acknowledge him in a superior light; they look on him as their patriarchal head, as being delegated of God to study what is their greatest good, to bestow it, and when it is attacked, to de-fend it. To preserve the life of such a sovereign, who would not sacrifice his own?"
"Yes," cried Butzou; "and how ought we to abhor those who threaten his life! How ought we to estimate those crowned heads who, under the mask of amity, have from the year sixty-four, when he ascended the throne, until now, been plotting his overthrow or death! Either calamity, O Heaven, avert! for his death, I fear, will be a prelude to the certain ruin of our country."
"Not so," interrupted Thaddeus, with eagerness; "not whilst a Polander has power to lift an arm in defence of a native king, and an hereditary succession, can she be quite lost! What was ever in the hearts of her people that is not now there? For one, I can never forget how her sons have more than once rolled back on their own lands legions of invaders, from those very countries now daring to threaten her existence!"
Butzou applauded his spirit, and was warmly seconded by the palatine, who (never weary of infusing into every feeling of his grandson an interest for his country) pursued the discourse, and dwelt minutely on the happy tendency of the glorious constitution of 1791, in defence of which they were now going to hazard their lives. As Sobieski pointed out its several excellences, and expatiated on the pure spirit of freedom which animated its revived laws, the soul of Thaddeus followed his eloquence with all the fervor of youth, forgetting his late domestic regrets in the warm aspirations of patriotic hopes; and at noon on the third day, with smiling eyes he saw his grandfather put himself at the head of his battalions and commence a rapid march.
THE OPENING OF THE CAMPAIGN.
The little army of the palatine passed by the battlements of Chelm, crossed the Bug into the plains of Volhinia, and impatiently counted the leagues over those vast tracts until it reached the borders of Kiovia.
When the column at the head of which Thaddeus was stationed descended the heights of Lininy, and the broad camp of his countrymen burst upon his sight, his heart heaved with an emotion quite new to him. He beheld with admiration the regular disposition of the intrenchments, the long intersected tented streets, and the warlike appearance of the soldiers, whom he could descry, even at that distance, by the beams of a bright evening sun which shone upon their arms.
In half an hour his troops descended into the plain, where, meeting those of the palatine and General Butzou, the three columns again united, and Thaddeus joined his grandfather in the van.
"My lord," cried he, as they met, "can I behold such a sight and despair of the freedom of Poland!"
Sobieski made no reply, but giving him one of those expressive looks of approbation which immediately makes its way to the soul, commanded the troops to advance with greater speed. In a few minutes they reached the outworks of the camp, and entered the lines. The eager eyes of Thaddeus wandered from object to object. Thrilling with that delight with which youth beholds wonders, and anticipates more, he stopped with the rest of the party before a tent, which General Butzou informed him belonged to the commander-in-chief. They were met in the vestibule by an hussar officer of a most commanding appearance. Sobieski and he having accosted each other with mutual congratulations, the palatine turned to Thaddeus, took him by the hand, and presenting him to his friend, said with a smile,
"Here, my dear Kosciusko, this young men is my grandson; he is called Thaddeus Sobieski, and I trust that he will not disgrace either of our names!"
Kosciusko embraced the young count, and with a hearty pressure of his hand, replied, "Thaddeus, if you resemble your grandfather, you can never forget that the only king of Poland who equalled our patriotic Stanislaus was a Sobieski; and as becomes his descendant, you will not spare your best blood in the service of your country." [Footnote: Kosciusko, noble of birth, and eminently brave in spirit, had learnt the practice of arms in his early youth in America. During the contest between the British colonies there and the mother country, the young Pole, with a few of his early compeers in the great military college at Warsaw, eager to measure swords in an actual field, had passed over seas to British America, and offering their services to the independents, which were accepted, the extraordinary warlike talents of Kosciusko were speedily honored by his being made an especial aid-de-camp to General Washington. When the war ended, in the peace of mutual concessions between the national parent and its children on a distant land, the Poles returned to their native country, where they soon met circumstances which caused them to redraw their swords for her. But to what issue, was yet behind the floating colors of a soldier's hope.]