THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. VII FICTION
Table of Contents
PEACOCK, THOMAS LOVE Headlong Hall Nightmare Abbey
PORTER, JANE Scottish Chiefs
PUSHKIN The Captain's Daughter
RABELAIS Gargantua and Pantagruel
READE, CHARLES Hard Cash Never Too Late to Mend The Cloister and the Hearth
RICHARDSON, SAMUEL Pamela Clarissa Harlowe Sir Charles Grandison
RICHTER, JEAN PAUL Hesperus Titan
ROSEGGER, PETER Papers of the Forest Schoolmaster
ROUSSEAU, JEAN JACQUES New Heloise
SAINT PIERRE, BERNARDIN DE Paul and Virginia
SAND, GEORGE Consuelo Mauprat
SCOTT, MICHAEL Tom Cringle's Log
SCOTT, SIR WALTER Antiquary Guy Mannering Heart of Midlothian Ivanhoe Kenilworth Old Mortality Peveril of the Peak (SCOTT: Continued in Vol. VIII.)
Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX
* * * * *
THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK
The novels of Thomas Love Peacock still find admirers among cultured readers, but his extravagant satire and a certain bookish awkwardness will never appeal to the great novel-reading public. The son of a London glass merchant, Peacock was born at Weymouth on October 18, 1785. Early in life he was engaged in some mercantile occupation, which, however, he did not follow up for long. Then came a period of study, and he became an excellent classical scholar. His first ambition was to become a poet, and between 1804 and 1806 he published two slender volumes of verse, which attracted little or no attention. Yet Peacock was a poet of considerable merit, his best work in this direction being scattered at random throughout his novels. In 1812 he contracted a friendship with Shelley, whose executor he became with Lord Byron. Peacock's first novel, "Headlong Hall," appeared in 1816, and is interesting not so much as a story pure and simple, but as a study of the author's own temperament. His personalities are seldom real live characters; they are, rather, mouthpieces created for the purposes of discussion. Peacock died on January 23, 1866.
The ambiguous light of a December morning, peeping through the windows of the Holyhead mail, dispelled the soft visions of the four insides, who had slept, or seemed to sleep, through the first seventy miles of the road.
A lively remark that the day was none of the finest having elicited a repartee of "quite the contrary," the various knotty points of meteorology were successively discussed and exhausted; and, the ice being thus broken, in the course of conversation it appeared that all four, though perfect strangers to each other, were actually bound to the same point, namely, Headlong Hall, the seat of the ancient family of the Headlongs, of the vale of Llanberris, in Carnarvonshire.
The present representative of the house, Harry Headlong, Esquire, was, like all other Welsh squires, fond of shooting, hunting, racing, drinking, and other such innocent amusements. But, unlike other Welsh squires, he had actually suffered books to find their way into his house; and, by dint of lounging over them after dinner, he became seized with a violent passion to be thought a philosopher and a man of taste, and had formed in London as extensive an acquaintance with philosophers and dilettanti as his utmost ambition could desire. It now became his chief wish to have them all together in Headlong Hall, arguing over his old Port and Burgundy the various knotty points which puzzled him. He had, therefore, sent them invitations in due form to pass their Christmas at Headlong Hall, and four of the chosen guests were now on their way in the four corners of the Holyhead mail.
These four persons were Mr. Foster, the optimist, who believed in the improvement of mankind; Mr. Escot, the pessimist, who saw mankind constantly deteriorating; Mr. Jenkison, who thought things were very well as they were; and the Reverend Doctor Gaster, who, though neither a philosopher nor a man of taste, had won the squire's fancy by a learned dissertation on the art of stuffing a turkey.
In the midst of an animated conversation the coach stopped, and the coachman, opening the door, vociferated: "Breakfast, gentlemen," a sound which so gladdened the ears of the divine, that the alacrity with which he sprang from the vehicle distorted his ankle, and he was obliged to limp into the inn between Mr. Escot and Mr. Jenkison, the former observing that he ought to look for nothing but evil and, therefore, should not be surprised at this little accident; the latter remarking that the comfort of a good breakfast and the pain of a sprained ankle pretty exactly balanced each other.
The morning being extremely cold, the doctor contrived to be seated as near the fire as was consistent with his other object of having a perfect command of the table and its apparatus, which consisted not only of the ordinary comforts of tea and toast, but of a delicious supply of new-laid eggs and a magnificent round of beef; against which Mr. Escot immediately pointed all the artillery of his eloquence, declaring the use of animal food, conjointly with that of fire, to be one of the principal causes of the present degeneracy of mankind.
"The natural and original man," said he, "lived in the woods; the roots and fruits of the earth supplied his simple nutriment; he had few desires, and no diseases. But, when he began to sacrifice victims on the altar of superstition, to pursue the goat and the deer, and, by the pernicious invention of fire, to pervert their flesh into food, luxury, disease, and premature death were let loose upon the world. From that period the stature of mankind has been in a state of gradual diminution, and I have not the least doubt that it will continue to grow small by degrees, and lamentably less, till the whole race will vanish imperceptibly from the face of the earth."
"I cannot agree," said Mr. Foster, "in the consequences being so very disastrous, though I admit that in some respects the use of animal food retards the perfectibility of the species."
"In the controversy concerning animal and vegetable food," said Mr. Jenkison, "there is much to be said on both sides. I content myself with a mixed diet, and make a point of eating whatever is placed before me, provided it be good in its kind."
In this opinion his two brother philosophers practically coincided, though they both ran down the theory as highly detrimental to the best interests of man.
The discussion raged for some time on the question whether man was a carnivorous or frugivorous animal.
"I am no anatomist," said Mr. Jenkison, "and cannot decide where doctors disagree; in the meantime, I conclude that man is omnivorous, and on that conclusion I act."
"Your conclusion is truly orthodox," said the Reverend Doctor Gaster; "indeed, the loaves and fishes are typical of a mixed diet; and the practise of the church in all ages shows——"
"That it never loses sight of the loaves and fishes," said Mr. Escot.
"It never loses sight of any point of sound doctrine," said the reverend doctor.
The coachman now informed them their time was elapsed.
"You will allow," said Mr. Foster, as soon as they were again in motion, "that the wild man of the woods could not transport himself over two hundred miles of forest with as much facility as one of these vehicles transports you and me."
"I am certain," said Mr. Escot, "that a wild man can travel an immense distance without fatigue; but what is the advantage of locomotion? The wild man is happy in one spot, and there he remains; the civilised man is wretched in every place he happens to be in, and then congratulates himself on being accommodated with a machine that will whirl him to another, where he will be just as miserable as ever."
II.—The Squire and his Guests
Squire Headlong, in the meanwhile, was superintending operations in four scenes of action at the Hall—the cellar, the library, the picture-gallery, and the dining-room-preparing for the reception of his philosophical visitors. His myrmidon on this occasion was a little, red-nosed butler, who waddled about the house after his master, while the latter bounced from room to room like a cracker. Multitudes of packages had arrived by land and water, from London, and Liverpool, and Chester, and Manchester, and various parts of the mountains; books, wine, cheese, mathematical instruments, turkeys, figs, soda-water, fiddles, flutes, tea, sugar, eggs, French horns, sofas, chairs, tables, carpets, beds, fruits, looking-glasses, nuts, drawing-books, bottled ale, pickles, and fish sauce, patent lamps, barrels of oysters, lemons, and jars of Portugal grapes. These, arriving in succession, and with infinite rapidity, had been deposited at random—as the convenience of the moment dictated—sofas in the cellar, hampers of ale in the drawing-room, and fiddles and fish-sauce in the library. The servants unpacking all these in furious haste, and flying with them from place to place, tumbled over one another upstairs and down. All was bustle, uproar, and confusion; yet nothing seemed to advance, while the rage and impetuosity of the squire continued fermenting to the highest degree of exasperation, which he signified, from time to time, by converting some newly-unpacked article, such as a book, a bottle, a ham, or a fiddle, into a missile against the head of some unfortunate servant.
In the midst of this scene of confusion thrice confounded, arrived the lovely Caprioletta Headlong, the squire's sister, whom he had sent for to do the honours of his house, beaming like light on chaos, to arrange disorder and harmonise discord. The tempestuous spirit of her brother became as smooth as the surface of the lake of Llanberris, and in less than twenty-four hours after her arrival, everything was disposed in its proper station, and the squire began to be all impatience for the appearance of his promised guests.
The first visitor was Marmaduke Milestone, Esq., a picturesque landscape gardener of the first celebrity, who promised himself the glorious achievement of polishing and trimming the rocks of Llanberris.
A postchaise brought the Reverend Doctor Gaster, and then came the three philosophers.
The next arrival was that of Mr. Cranium and his lovely daughter, Miss Cephalis Cranium, who flew to the arms of her dear friend Caprioletta. Miss Cephalis blushed like a carnation at the sight of Mr. Escot, and Mr. Escot glowed like a corn-poppy at the sight of Miss Cephalis.
Mr. Escot had formerly been the received lover of Miss Cephalis, till he incurred the indignation of her father by laughing at a very profound dissertation which the old gentleman delivered.
Next arrived a postchaise containing four insides. These personages were two very profound critics, Mr. Gall and Mr. Treacle, and two very multitudinous versifiers, Mr. Nightshade and Mr. McLaurel.
The last arrivals were Mr. Cornelius Chromatic, the most scientific of all amateurs of the fiddle, with his two blooming daughters, Miss Tenorina and Miss Graziosa; Sir Patrick O'Prism, a dilettante painter of high renown, and his maiden aunt, Miss Philomela Poppyseed, a compounder of novels written for the express purpose of supporting every species of superstition and prejudice; and Mr. Panscope, the chemical, botanical, geological, astronomical, critical philosopher, who had run through the whole circle of the sciences and understood them all equally well.
Mr. Milestone was impatient to take a walk round the grounds, that he might examine how far the system of clumping and levelling could be carried advantageously into effect; and several of the party supporting the proposition, with Squire Headlong and Mr. Milestone leading the van, they commenced their perambulation.
III.—The Tower and the Skull
The result of Mr. Milestone's eloquence was that he and the squire set out again, immediately after breakfast next morning, to examine the capabilities of the scenery. The object that most attracted Mr. Milestone's admiration was a ruined tower on a projecting point of rock, almost totally overgrown with ivy. This ivy, Mr. Milestone observed, required trimming and clearing in various parts; a little pointing and polishing was necessary for the dilapidated walls; and the whole effect would be materially increased by a plantation of spruce fir, the present rugged and broken ascent being first converted into a beautiful slope, which might be easily effected by blowing up a part of the rock with gunpowder, laying on a quantity of fine mould, and covering the whole with an elegant stratum of turf.
Squire Headlong caught with avidity at this suggestion, and as he had always a store of gunpowder in the house, he insisted on commencing operations immediately. Accordingly, he bounded back to the house and speedily returned, accompanied by the little butler and half a dozen servants and labourers with pickaxes and gunpowder, a hanging stove, and a poker, together with a basket of cold meat and two or three bottles of Madeira.
Mr. Milestone superintended the proceedings. The rock was excavated, the powder introduced, the apertures strongly blockaded with fragments of stone; a long train was laid to a spot sufficiently remote from the possibility of harm, and the squire seized the poker, and applied the end of it to the train.
At this critical moment Mr. Cranium and Mr. Panscope appeared at the top of the tower, which, unseeing and unseen, they had ascended on the opposite side to that where the squire and Mr. Milestone were conducting their operations. Their sudden appearance a little dismayed the squire, who, however, comforted himself with the reflection that the tower was perfectly safe, and that his friends were in no probable danger but of a knock on the head from a flying fragment of stone.
The explosion took place, and the shattered rock was hurled into the air in the midst of fire and smoke. The tower remained untouched, but the influence of sudden fear had so violent an effect on Mr. Cranium, that he lost his balance, and alighted in an ivy bush, which, giving way beneath him, transferred him to a tuft of hazel at its base, which consigned him to the boughs of an ash that had rooted itself in a fissure about halfway down the rock, which finally transmitted him to the waters of the lake.
Squire Headlong anxiously watched the tower as the smoke rolled away; but when the shadowy curtain was withdrawn, and Mr. Panscope was discovered, alone, in a tragical attitude, his apprehensions became boundless, and he concluded that a flying fragment of rock had killed Mr. Cranium.
Mr. Escot arrived at the scene of the disaster just as Mr. Cranium, utterly destitute of the art of swimming, was in imminent danger of drowning. Mr. Escot immediately plunged in to his assistance, and brought him alive and in safety to a shelving part of the shore. Their landing was hailed with a shout from the delighted squire, who, shaking them both heartily by the hand, and making ten thousand lame apologies to Mr. Cranium, concluded by asking, in a pathetic tone, "How much water he had swallowed?" and without waiting for his answer, filled a large tumbler with Madeira, and insisted on his tossing it off, which was no sooner said than done. Mr. Panscope descended the tower, which he vowed never again to approach within a quarter of a mile.
The squire took care that Mr. Cranium should be seated next to him at dinner, and plied him so hard with Madeira, to prevent him, as he said, from taking cold, that long before the ladies sent in their summons to coffee, the squire was under the necessity of ringing for three or four servants to carry him to bed, observing, with a smile of great satisfaction, that he was in a very excellent way for escaping any ill consequences that might have resulted from his accident.
The beautiful Cephalis, being thus freed from his surveillance, was enabled, during the course of the evening, to develop to his preserver the full extent of her gratitude.
Mr. Escot passed a sleepless night, the ordinary effect of love, according to some amatory poets, and arose with the first peep of day. He sallied forth to enjoy the balmy breeze of morning, which any but a lover might have thought too cool; for it was an intense frost, the sun had not risen, and the wind was rather fresh from the north-east. But a lover is supposed to have "a fire in his heart and a fire in his brain," and the philosopher walked on, careless of whither he went, till he found himself near the enclosure of a little mountain chapel. Passing through the wicket, and peeping through the chapel window, he could not refrain from reciting a verse in Greek aloud, to the great terror of the sexton, who was just entering the churchyard.
Mr. Escot at once decided that now was the time to get extensive and accurate information concerning his theory of the physical deterioration of man.
"You have been sexton here," said Mr. Escot, in the language of Hamlet, "man and boy, forty years."
The sexton turned pale; the period named was so nearly the true.
"During this period you have, of course, dug up many bones of the people of ancient times. Perhaps you can show me a few."
The sexton grinned a ghastly smile.
"Will you take your Bible oath you don't want them to raise the devil with?"
"Willingly," said Mr. Escot. "I have an abstruse reason for the inquiry."
"Why, if you have an obtuse reason," said the sexton, "that alters the case."
So saying, he led the way to the bone-house, from which he began to throw out various bones and skulls, and amongst them a skull of very extraordinary magnitude, which he swore by St. David was the skull of Cadwallader.
"How do you know this to be his skull?" said Mr. Escot.
"He was the biggest man that ever lived, and he was buried here; and this is the biggest skull I ever found. You see now——"
"Nothing could be more logical," said Mr. Escot. "My good friend, will you allow me to take away this skull with me?"
"St. Winifred bless us!" exclaimed the sexton. "Would you have me haunted by his ghost for taking his blessed bones out of consecrated ground? For, look you, his epitaph says:
"'He that my bones shall ill bestow, Leek in his ground shall never grow.'"
"But you will well bestow them in giving them to me," said Mr. Escot. "I will have this illustrious skull bound with a silver rim and filled with wine, for when the wine is in the brain is out."
Saying these words, he put a dollar into the hand of the sexton, who instantly stood spellbound, while Mr. Escot walked off in triumph with the skull of Cadwallader.
The Christmas ball, when relatives and friends assembled from far and wide, was the great entertainment given at Headlong Hall from time immemorial, and it was on the morning after the ball that Miss Brindle-Mew Tabitha Ap-Headlong, the squire's maiden aunt, took her nephew aside, and told him it was time he was married if the family was not to become extinct.
"Egad!" said Squire Headlong. "That is very true. I'll marry directly. A good opportunity to fix on someone now they are all here, and I'll pop the question without further ceremony. I'll think of somebody presently. I should like to be married on the same day with Caprioletta. She is going to be married to my friend Mr. Foster, the philosopher."
"Oh!" said the maiden aunt, "that a daughter of our ancient family should marry a philosopher!"
"It's Caprioletta's affair, not mine," said Squire Headlong. "I tell you the matter is settled, fixed, determined, and so am I, to be married on the same day. I don't know, now I think of it, whom I can choose better than one of the daughters of my friend Chromatic."
With that the squire flew over to Mr. Chromatic, and, with a hearty slap on the shoulder, asked him "How he should like him for a son-in-law?"
Mr. Chromatic, rubbing his shoulder, and highly delighted with the proposal, answered, "Very much indeed"; but, proceeding to ascertain which of his daughters had captivated the squire, the squire was unable to satisfy his curiosity.
"I hope," said Mr. Chromatic, "it may be Tenorina, for I imagine Graziosa has conceived a penchant for Sir Patrick O'Prism."
"Tenorina, exactly!" said Squire Headlong; and became so impatient to bring the matter to a conclusion that Mr. Chromatic undertook to communicate with his daughter immediately. The young lady proved to be as ready as the squire, and the preliminaries were arranged in little more than five minutes.
Mr. Chromatic's words concerning his daughter Graziosa and Sir Patrick O'Prism were not lost on the squire, who at once determined to have as many companions in the scrape as possible; and who, as soon as he could tear himself from Mrs. Headlong elect, took three flying bounds across the room to the baronet, and said, "So, Sir Patrick, I find you and I are going to be married?"
"Are we?" said Sir Patrick. "Then sure, won't I wish you joy, and myself too, for this is the first I have heard of it."
"Well," said Squire Headlong, "I have made up my mind to it, and you must not disappoint me."
"To be sure, I won't, if I can help it," said Sir Patrick. "And pray, now, who is that I am to be turning into Lady O'Prism?"
"Miss Graziosa Chromatic," said the squire.
"Och violet and vermilion!" said Sir Patrick; "though I never thought of it before, I dare say she will suit me as well as another; but then you must persuade the ould Orpheus to draw out a few notes of rather a more magical description than those he is so fond of scraping on his crazy violin."
"To be sure, he shall," said the squire; and immediately returning to Mr. Chromatic, concluded the negotiation for Sir Patrick as expeditiously as he had done for himself.
The squire next addressed himself to Mr. Escot: "Here are three couples of us going to throw off together, with the Reverend Doctor Gaster for whipper in. Now I think you cannot do better than to make the fourth with Miss Cephalis."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Escot. "Nothing would be more agreeable to both of us than such an arrangement; but the old gentleman since I first knew him has changed like the rest of the world, very lamentably for the worse.".
"I'll settle him," said Squire Headlong; and immediately posted up to Mr. Cranium, informing him that four marriages were about to take place by way of a merry winding up of the Christmas festivities. "In the first place," said the squire, "my sister and Mr. Foster; in the second, Miss Graziosa Chromatic and Sir Patrick O'Prism; in the third, Miss Tenorina Chromatic and your humble servant; and in the fourth, to which, by the by, your consent is wanted, your daughter——"
"And Mr. Panscope," said Mr. Cranium.
"And Mr. Escot," said Squire Headlong. What would you have better? He has ten thousand virtues."
"So has Mr. Panscope. He has ten thousand a year."
"Virtues?" said Squire Headlong.
"Pounds," said Mr. Cranium.
"Who fished you out of the water?" said Squire Headlong..
"What is that to the purpose?" said Mr. Cranium. "The whole process of the action was mechanical and necessary. He could no more help jumping into the water than I could help falling into it."
"Very well," said the squire. "Your daughter and Mr. Escot are necessitated to love one another."
Mr. Cranium, after a profound reverie, said, "Do you think Mr. Escot would give me that skull?"
"Skull?" said Squire Headlong.
"Yes," said Mr. Cranium. "The skull of Cadwallader."
"To be sure he will. How can you doubt it?"
"I simply know," said Mr. Cranium, "that if it were once in my possession I would not part with it for any acquisition on earth, much less for a wife."
The squire flew over to Mr. Escot. "I told you," said he, "I would settle him; but there is a very hard condition attached to his compliance. Nothing less than the absolute and unconditional surrender of the skull of Cadwallader."
"I resign it," said Mr. Escot.
"The skull is yours," said the squire, skipping over to Mr. Cranium.
"I am perfectly satisfied," said Mr. Cranium.
"The lady is yours," said the squire, skipping back to Mr. Escot.
"I am the happiest man alive," said Mr. Escot, and he flew off as nimbly as Squire Headlong himself, to impart the happy intelligence to his beautiful Cephalis.
The departure of the ball visitors then took place, and the squire did not suffer many days to elapse before the spiritual metamorphosis of eight into four was effected by the clerical dexterity of the Reverend Doctor Gaster.
* * * * *
"Nightmare Abbey" is perhaps the most extravagant of all Peacock's stories, and, with the exception of "Headlong Hall," it obtained more vogue on its publication in 1818 than any of his other works. It is eminently characteristic of its author—the eighteenth century Rabelaisian pagan who prided himself on his antagonism towards religion, yet whose likes and dislikes were invariably inspired by hatred of cant and enthusiasm for progress. The hero of the story is easily distinguishable as the poet Shelley. On the whole the characters are more life-like presentations of humanity than those of "Headlong Hall." Simple and weak though the plot is, the reader is carried along to the end through a brilliant maze of wit and satire; underneath which outward show of irresponsible fun there pervades a gloomy note of tragedy.
I.—Mr. Glowry and His Son
Nightmare Abbey, a venerable family mansion in a highly picturesque state of semi-dilapidation, in the county of, Lincoln, had the honour to be the seat of Christopher Glowry, Esquire, a gentleman much troubled with those phantoms of indigestion commonly called "blue devils."
Disappointed both in love and friendship, he had come to the conclusion that there was but one good thing in the world, videlicet, a good dinner; and remained a widower, with one only son and heir, Scythrop.
This son had been sent to a public-school, where a little learning was painfully beaten into him, and thence to the university, where it was carefully taken out of him, and he finished his education to the high satisfaction of the master and fellows of his college. He passed his vacations sometimes at Nightmare Abbey, and sometimes in London, at the house of his uncle, Mr. Hilary, a very cheerful and elastic gentleman. The company that frequented his house was the gayest of the gay. Scythrop danced with the ladies and drank with the gentlemen, and was pronounced by both a very accomplished, charming fellow.
Here he first saw the beautiful Miss Emily Girouette, and fell in love; he was favourably received, but the respective fathers quarrelled about the terms of the bargain, and the two lovers were torn asunder, weeping and vowing eternal constancy; and in three weeks the lady was led a smiling bride to the altar, leaving Scythrop half distracted. His father, to comfort him, read him a commentary on Ecclesiastes, of his own composition; it was thrown away upon Scythrop, who retired to his tower as dismal and disconsolate as before.
The tower which Scythrop inhabited stood at the south-eastern angle of the abbey; the south-western was ruinous and full of owls; the north-eastern contained the apartments of Mr. Glowry; the north-eastern tower was appropriated to the servants, whom Mr. Glowry always chose by one of two criterions—a long face or a dismal name. The main building was divided into room of state, spacious apartments for feasting, and numerous bedrooms for visitors, who, however, were few.
Occasional visits were paid by Mr. and Mrs. Hilary, but another visitor, much more to Mr. dowry's taste, was Mr. Flosky, a very lachrymose and morbid gentleman, of some note in the literary world, with a very fine sense of the grim and the tearful.
But the dearest friend of Mr. Glowry, and his most welcome guest, was Mr. Toobad, the Manichean Millenarian. The twelfth verse of the twelfth chapter of Revelations was always in his mouth: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea, for the devil is come among you, having great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time." He maintained that this precise time was the point of the plenitude of the power of the Evil Principle; he used to add that by and by he would be cast down, and a happy order of things succeed, but never omitted to add "Not in our time," which last words were always echoed by Mr. Glowry, in doleful response.
Shortly after Scythrop's disappointment Mr. Glowry was involved in a lawsuit, which compelled his attendance in London, and Scythrop was left alone, to wander about, with the "Sorrows of Werter" in his hand.
He now became troubled with the passion for reforming the world, and meditated on the practicability of reviving a confederacy of regenerators. He wrote and published a treatise in which his meanings were carefully wrapped up in the monk's hood of transcendental technology, but filled with hints of matters deep and dangerous, which he thought would set the whole nation in a ferment, and awaited the result in awful expectation; some months after he received a letter from his bookseller, informing him that only seven copies had been sold, and concluding with a polite request for the balance.
"Seven copies!" he thought. "Seven is a mystical number, and the omen is good. Let me find the seven purchasers, and they shall be the seven golden candlesticks with which I shall illuminate the world."
Scythrop had a certain portion of mechanical genius, and constructed models of cells and recesses, sliding panels and secret passages, which would have baffled the skill of the Parisian police. In his father's absence, he smuggled a dumb carpenter into his tower, and gave reality to one of these models. He foresaw that a great leader of regeneration would be involved in fearful dilemmas, and determined to adopt all possible precautions for his own preservation.
In the meantime, he drank Madeira and laid deep schemes for a thorough repair of the crazy fabric of human nature.
Mr. Glowry returned with the loss of his lawsuit, and found Scythrop in a mood most sympathetically tragic. His friends, whom we have mentioned, availed themselves of his return to pay him a simultaneous visit, and at the same time arrived Scythrop's friend and fellow-collegian, the Hon. Mr. Listless, a young gentleman devoured with a gloomy and misanthropical nil curo.
Mr. and Mrs. Hilary brought with them an orphan niece, Miss Marionetta Celestina O'Carroll, a blooming and accomplished young lady, who exhibited in her own character all the diversities of an April sky. Her hair was light brown, her eyes hazel, her features regular, and her person surpassingly graceful. She had some coquetry, and more caprice, liking and disliking almost in the same moment, and had not been three days in the abbey before she threw out all the lures of her beauty and accomplishments to make a prize of her cousin Scythrop's heart.
Scythrop's romantic dreams had given him many pure anticipated cognitions of combinations of beauty and intelligence, which, he had some misgivings, were not realised by Marionetta, but he soon became distractedly in love, which, when the lady perceived, she altered her tactics and assumed coldness and reserve. Scythrop was confounded, but, instead of falling at her feet begging explanation, he retreated to his tower, seated himself in the president's chair of his imaginary tribunal, summoned Marionetta with terrible formalities, frightened her out of her wits, disclosed himself, and clasped the beautiful penitent to his bosom.
While he was acting this reverie, his study door opened, and the real Marionetta appeared.
"For heaven's sake, Scythrop," said she, "what is the matter?"
"For heaven's sake, indeed!" said Scythrop, "for your sake, Marionetta, and you are my heaven! Distraction is the matter. I adore you, and your cruelty drives me mad!" He threw himself at her feet, and breathed a thousand vows in the most passionate language of romance.
With a very arch look, she said: "I prithee, deliver thyself like a man of the world." The levity of this quotation jarred so discordantly on the romantic inamorato that he sprang to his feet, and beat his forehead with his clenched fist. The young lady was terrified, and, taking his hand in hers, said in her tenderest tone: "What would you have, Scythrop?"
Scythrop was in heaven again.
"What but you, Marionetta! You, for the companion of my studies, the auxiliary of my great designs for mankind."
"I am afraid I should be but a poor auxiliary, Scythrop. What would you have me do?"
"Do as Rosalia does with Carlos, Marionetta. Let us each open a vein in the other's arm, mix our blood in a bowl, and drink it as a sacrament of love; then we shall see visions of transcendental illumination."
Marionetta disengaged herself suddenly, and fled with precipitation. Scythrop pursued her, crying, "Stop, stop Marionetta—my life, my love!" and was gaining rapidly on her flight, when he came into sudden and violent contact with Mr. Toobad, and they both plunged together to the foot of the stairs, which gave the young lady time to escape and enclose herself in her chamber.
This was witnessed by Mr. Glowry, and he determined on a full explanation. He therefore entered Scythrop Tower, and at once said:
"So, sir, you are in love with your cousin."
Scythrop, with as little hesitation, answered, "Yes, sir."
"That is candid, at least. It is very provoking, very disappointing. I could not have supposed that you could have been infatuated with such a dancing, laughing, singing, careless, merry hearted thing as Marionetta—and with no fortune. Besides, sir, I have made a choice for you. Such a lovely, serious creature, in a fine state of high dissatisfaction with the world! Sir, I have pledged my honour to the contract, and now, sir, what is to be done?"
"Indeed, sir, I cannot say. I claim on this occasion that liberty of action which is the co-natal prerogative of every rational being."
"Liberty of action, sir! There is no such thing, and if you do not comply with my wishes, I shall be under the necessity of disinheriting you, though I shall do so with tears in my eyes."
He immediately sought Mrs. Hilary, and communicated his views to her. She straightway hinted to her niece, whom she loved as her own child, that dignity and decorum required them to leave the abbey at once. Marionetta listened in silent submission, but when Scythrop entered, and threw himself at her feet in a paroxysm of grief, she threw her arms round his neck, and burst into tears.
Scythrop snatched from its repository his ancestor's skull, filled it with Madeira, and presenting himself before Mr. Glowry, threatened to drink off the contents, if he did not promise that Marionetta should not leave the abbey without her own consent. Mr. Glowry, who took the Madeira to be some deadly brewage, gave his promise in dismal panic. Scythrop returned to Marionetta with a joyful heart, and drank the Maderia by the way, leaving his father much disturbed, for he had set his heart on marrying his son to the daughter of his friend, Mr. Toobad.
Mr. Toobad, too much accustomed to the intermeddling of the devil in all his affairs to be astonished at this new trace of his cloven claw, yet determined to outwit him, for he was sure there could be no comparison between his daughter and Marionetta in the mind of anyone who had a proper perception of the fact that seriousness and solemnity are the characteristics of wisdom. Therefore he set off to meet her in London, that he might lose no time in bringing her to Nightmare Abbey. After the first joy of meeting was over, he told his daughter he had a husband ready for her. The young lady replied very gravely she should take the liberty of choosing for herself.
"Have I not a fortune in my own right, sir?" said Celinda.
"The more is the pity," said Mr. Toobad. "But I can find means, miss—I can find means."
They parted for the night with the expression of opposite resolutions, and in the morning the young lady's chamber was empty, and what was become of her, Mr. Toobad had no clue to guess. He declared that when he should discover the fugitive, she should find "that the devil was come unto her, having great wrath," and continued to investigate town and country, visiting and revisiting Nightmare Abbey at intervals to consult Mr. Glowry.
Notwithstanding the difficulties that surrounded her, Marionetta could not debar herself from the pleasure of tormenting her lover, whom she kept in a continual fever, sometimes meeting him with unqualified affection, sometimes with chilling indifference, softening him to love by eloquent tenderness, or inflaming him to jealousy by coquetting with the Hon. Mr. Listless. Scythrop's schemes for regenerating the world and detecting his seven golden candlesticks went on very slowly.
On retiring to his tower one day Scythrop found it pre-occupied. A stranger, muffled to the eyes in a cloak, rose at his entrance, and looked at him intently for a few minutes in silence, then saying, "I see by your physiognomy you are to be trusted," dropped the cloak, and revealed to the astonished Scythrop a female form and countenance of dazzling grace and beauty, with long, flowing hair of raven blackness.
"You are a philosopher," said the lady, "and a lover of liberty. You are the author of a treatise called 'Philosophical Gas?'"
"I am," said Scythrop, delighted at this first blossom of his renown.
She then informed him that she was under the necessity of finding a refuge from an atrocious persecution, and had determined to apply to him (on reading his pamphlet, and recognising a kindred mind) to find her a retreat where she could be concealed from the indefatigable search being made for her.
Doubtless, thought Scythrop, this is one of my seven golden candlesticks, and at once offered her the asylum of his secret apartments, assuring her she might rely on the honour of a transcendental eleutherarch.
"I rely on myself," said the lady. "I act as I please, and let the whole world say what it will. I am rich enough to set it at defiance. They alone are subject to blind authority who have no reliance on their own strength."
Stella took possession of the recondite apartments. Scythrop intended to find another asylum; but from day to day postponed his intention, and by degrees forgot it. The young lady reminded him from day to day, till she also forgot it.
Scythrop had now as much mystery about him as any romantic transcendentalist could desire. He had his esoterical and his exoterical love, and could not endure the thought of losing either of them. His father's suspicions were aroused by always finding the door locked on visiting Scythrop's study; and one day, hearing a female voice, and, on the door being opened, finding his son alone, he looked around and said:
"Where is the lady?"
Scythrop invited him to search the tower, but Mr. Glowry was not to be deceived. Scythrop talked loudly, hoping to drown his father's voice, in vain.
"I, say, sir, when you are so shortly to be married to your cousin Marionetta——"
The bookcase opened in the middle, and the beautiful Stella appeared, exclaiming:
"Married! Is he going to be married? The profligate!"
"Really, madam," said Mr. Glowry, "I do not know what he is going to do, or what anyone is going to do, for all this is incomprehensible."
"I can explain it all," said Scythrop, "if you will have the goodness to leave us alone."
Stella threw herself into a chair and burst into a passion of tears. Scythrop took her hand. She snatched it away, and turned her back upon him. Scythrop continued entreating Mr. Glowry to leave them alone, but he was obstinate, and would not go.
A tap at the door, and Mr. Hilary entered. He stood a few minutes in silent surprise, then departed in search of Marionetta.
Scythrop was now in a hopeless predicament.
Mr. Hilary made a hue and cry, summoning his wife and Marionetta, and they hastened in consternation to Scythrop's apartments. Mr. Toobad saw them, and judging from their manner that the devil had manifested his wrath in some new shape, followed, and intercepted Stella's flight at the door by catching her in his arms.
"Celinda!" he exclaimed.
"Papa!" said the young lady disconsolately.
"The devil is come among you!" said Mr. Toobad. "How came my daughter here?"
Marionetta, who had fainted, opened her eyes and fixed them on Celinda. Celinda, in turn, fixed hers on Marionetta. Scythrop was equi-distant between them, like Mahomet's coffin.
"Celinda," said Mr. Toobad, "what does this mean? When I told you in London that I had chosen a husband for you, you thought proper to run away from him; and now, to all appearance, you have run away to him."
"How, sir? Was that your choice?"
"Precisely; and if he is yours, too, we shall both be of a mind, for the first time in our lives."
"He is not my choice, sir. This lady has a prior claim. I renounce him."
"And I renounce him!" said Marionetta.
Scythrop knew not what to do. He therefore retreated into his stronghold, mystery; maintained an impenetrable silence, and contented himself with deprecating glances at each of the objects of his idolatry.
The Hon. Mr. Listless, Mr. Flosky, and other guests had been attracted by the tumult, multitudinous questions, and answers en masse, composed a charivari, which was only terminated by Mrs. Hilary and Mr. Toobad retreating with the captive damsels. The whole party followed, leaving Scythrop carefully arranged in a pensive attitude.
He was still in this position when the butler entered to announce that dinner was on the table. He refused food, and on being told that the party was much reduced, everybody had gone, requested the butler to bring him a pint of port and a pistol. He would make his exit like Werter, but finally took Raven's advice—to dine first, and be miserable afterwards.
He was sipping his Madeira, immersed in melancholy musing, when his father entered and requested a rational solution of all this absurdity.
"I will leave it in writing for your satisfaction. The crisis of my fate is come. The world is a stage, and my direction is exit."
"Do not talk so, sir; do not talk so, Scythrop! What would you have?"
"I would have my love."
"And pray, sir, who is your love?"
"Both! That may do very well in a German tragedy, but it will not do in Lincolnshire. Will you have Miss Toobad?"
"And renounce Marionetta?"
"But you must renounce one."
"And you cannot have both. What is to be done?"
"I must shoot myself!"
"Don't talk so, Scythrop! Be rational, Scythrop! Consider, and make a cool, calm choice, and I will exert myself on your behalf."
"Well, sir, I will have—no, sir, I cannot renounce either. I cannot choose either, and I have no resource but a pistol."
"Scythrop—Scythrop, if one of them should come to you, what then? Have but a little patience, a week's patience, and it shall be."
"A week, sir, is an age; but to oblige you, as a last act of filial duty, I will live another week. It is now Thursday evening, twenty-five minutes past seven. At this hour next Thursday love and fate shall smile on me, or I will drink my last pint of port in this world."
Mr. Glowry ordered his travelling chariot, and departed from the abbey.
* * * * *
On the morning of the eventful Thursday, Scythrop ascended the turret with a telescope and spied anxiously along the road, till Raven summoned him to dinner at five, when he descended to his own funeral feast. He laid his pistol between his watch and his bottle. Scythrop rang the bell. Raven appeared.
"Raven," said he, "the clock is too fast."
"No, indeed," said Raven. "If anything it is too slow——"
"Villain," said Scythrop, pointing the pistol at him, "it is too fast!"
"Yes, yes—too fast, I meant!" said Raven, in fear.
"Put back my watch!" said Scythrop.
Raven, with trembling hand, was putting back the watch, when the rattle of wheels was heard; and Scythrop, springing down the stairs three steps together, was at the door in time to hand either of the young ladies from the carriage; but Mrs. Glowry was alone.
"I rejoice to see you!" said he. "I was fearful of being too late, for I waited till the last moment in the hope of accomplishing my promise; but all my endeavours have been vain, as these letters will show."
The first letter ended with the words: "I shall always cherish a grateful remembrance of Nightmare Abbey, for having been the means of introducing me to a true transcendentalist, and shall soon have the pleasure of subscribing myself
The other, from Marionetta, wished him much happiness with Miss Toobad, and finished with: "I shall always be happy to see you in Berkely Square, when, to the unalterable designation of your affectionate cousin, I shall subjoin the signature of
Scythrop tore both the letters to atoms, and railed in good, set terms against the fickleness of women.
"Calm yourself, my dear Scythrop," said Mr. Glowry. "There are yet maidens in England; and besides, the fatal time is past, for it is now almost eight."
"Then that villain Raven deceived me when he said the clock was too fast; but I have just reflected these repeated crosses in love qualify me to take a very advanced degree in misanthropy. There is therefore, good hope that I may make a figure in the world."
Raven appeared. Scythrop looked at him very fiercely, and said, "Bring some Madeira!"
* * * * *
The Scottish Chiefs
Jane Porter was born at Durham in 1776, but at the age of four she went to Edinburgh with her family, was brought up in Scotland, and had the privilege of knowing Sir Walter Scott. Her first romance, "Thaddeus of Warsaw," was published in 1803, soon after she had removed from Edinburgh to London. Her next romance, "The Scottish Chiefs," did not appear until 1810. It won an immediate popularity, which survived even the formidable rivalry of the "Waverley Novels," and the book remained a favourite, especially in Scotland, during most of the last century. The story abounds in historical inaccuracies, and the characters are addicted to conversing in the dialect of melodrama-but these blemishes did not abate the vogue of this exciting and spirited work with the reading public. Miss Porter remained a prominent figure in London literary society until her death on May 24, 1850.
I.—The Lady Marion
Sir William Wallace made his way swiftly along the crags and across the river to the cliffs which overlooked the garden of Ellerslie. As he approached he saw his newly-wedded wife, the Lady Marion, leaning over the couch of a wounded man. She looked up, and, with a cry of joy, threw herself into his arms. Blood dropped from his forehead upon her bosom.
"O my Wallace, my Wallace!" cried she in agony.
"Fear not, my love, it is a mere scratch. How is the wounded stranger?"
It was Wallace who had saved the stranger's life. That day he had been summoned to Douglas Castle, where he had received in secret from Sir John Monteith an iron box entrusted to him by Lord Douglas, then imprisoned in England; he had been charged to cherish the box in strictness, and not to suffer it to be opened until Scotland was again free. Returning with his treasure through Lanark, he had seen a fellow countryman wounded, and in deadly peril at the hands of a party of English. Telling two of his attendants to carry the injured man to Ellerslie, he had beaten off the English and slain their leader—Arthur Heselrigge, nephew of the Governor of Lanark.
"Gallant Wallace!" said the stranger, "it is Donald, Earl of Mar, who owes you his life."
"Then blest be my arm," exclaimed Wallace, "that has preserved a life so precious to my country!"
"Armed men are approaching!" cried Lady Marion. "Wallace, you must fly. But oh! whither?"
"Not far, my love; I must seek the recesses of the Cartlane Crags. But the Earl of Mar—we must conceal him."
They found a hiding-place for the wounded earl, and Wallace went away, promising to be near at hand. Hardly had he gone when the door was burst open by a band of soldiers, and Lady Wallace was confronted by the governor of Lanark.
"Woman!" cried he, "on your allegiance to King Edward, answer me—where is Sir William Wallace, the murderer of my nephew?"
She was silent.
"I can reward you richly," he went on, "if you speak the truth. Refuse, and you die!"
She stretched her hands to heaven.
"Blessed Virgin, to thee I commit myself."
"Speak!" cried the governor, drawing his sword. She sank to the ground. "Kneel not to me for mercy!"
"I kneel to heaven alone," she said firmly, "and may it ever preserve my Wallace!"
"Blasphemous wretch!" cried the governor, and he plunged the sword through her heart.
A shudder of horror ran through the English soldiers.
"My friends," said Heselrigge, "I reward your services with the plunder of Ellerslie."
"Cursed be he who first carries a stick from its walls!" exclaimed a veteran.
"Amen!" murmured all the soldiers.
But next day the governor, with a body of soldiers who had not witnessed his infamous deed, plundered Ellerslie and burnt it to the ground. During the day Lord Mar was brought from his hiding-place, and taken to Bothwell Castle; but the English seized him and his wife, and they were placed in strict confinement among the English garrison on the Rock of Dumbarton.
An aged retainer carried the awful news of the murder to Wallace in his concealment. For long he was overpowered with agony. Then a desperate determination arose in his mind. "The sun must not again rise upon Heselrigge!" was his thought. He called his followers, and told them of the deed. "From this hour," he cried, "may Scotland date her liberty, or Wallace return no more!"
"Vengeance! vengeance!" was the cry.
That night the English garrison of Lanark was surprised, and Wallace's sword was buried in the body of his wife's murderer.
"So fall the enemies of Sir William Wallace!" shouted his men exultantly.
"Rather so fall the enemies of Scotland!" cried he. "Henceforth Wallace has neither love nor resentment but for her. From now onwards I devote myself to the winning of my country's freedom, or to death in her cause."
II.—Wallace the Liberator
Band after band of Scottish patriots flocked to the banner of Wallace— the banner that bore the legend "God armeth the patriot," and in which was embroidered a tress of Lady Marion's hair. The making of it had been the labour of Lady Helen Mar, daughter of the earl; admiration for Wallace's prowess, and sympathy with his misfortune had aroused in her—although she had never seen him—an eager devotion to him as the man who had dared to strike at tyranny and fight for his country's freedom.
When her parents had been seized, Helen had escaped to the Priory of St. Fillans. But she was persuaded to leave the priory by a trick of the traitor Scottish Lord Soulis, whom she hated, and whose quest of her hand had the secret approval of Lady Mar. When the ruffian laid hold upon her, he carried her away with threats and violence; but as Soulis and his band were crossing the Leadhill moors, a small party of men fell suddenly upon them. Soulis was forced to relinquish his prey, and was carried away by his men covered with wounds; while Helen found herself in the presence of a gentle and courteous Scottish warrior, who conveyed her to a hermit's cell near at hand. Without revealing his name he passed on his way, declaring that he went to arouse a few brave spirits to arms. Brief as the interview had been, Helen knew when it was ended that she had given her heart to the unknown knight.
As her father and mother lay one dark night in Dumbarton Castle, a fearful uproar arose without their prison—the clashing of swords, the thud of falling bodies, the groans of wounded.
"There is an attack," cried the earl.
"Nay, who would venture to attack such a fortress as this?" answered Lady Mar.
"Hark! it is the slogan of Sir William Wallace. Oh, for a sword!" exclaimed the earl.
A voice was heard begging for mercy—the voice of De Valence, the governor.
"You shall die!" was the stern answer.
"Nay, Kirkpatrick, I give him life." The accents were Wallace's.
A battering-ram broke down the prison-door. There stood Wallace and his men, their weapons and armour covered with blood. De Valence, evading the clutch of Kirkpatrick, thrust his dagger into Wallace's side and fled.
"It is nothing," said Wallace, as he staunched the wound with his scarf.
"So is your mercy rewarded," muttered the grim Kirkpatrick.
"So am I true to my duty," returned Wallace, "though De Valence is a traitor to his."
The Countess of Mar looked for the first time upon Wallace's countenance. He was the enemy of her kinsmen of the house of Cummin; unknown to her husband, she had sought to betray him to one of these kinsmen; and now, as this beautiful woman beheld the man she had tried to injure, a sense of shame, accompanied by a strange fascination, entered her bosom.
"How does my soul seem to pour itself out to this man!" she said to herself. "Hardly have I seen this William Wallace, and yet my very being is lost in his!"
Love mingled with ambition in her uneasy mind. Her husband was old and wounded; his life would not be long. Wallace had the genius of a conqueror. Might he not be proclaimed king of Scotland? She threw herself assiduously into his company during the days that followed. At last, with tears in eyes, she confessed her love, thinking, in her folly, that she could move the heart of one who had consecrated himself to the service of Scotland and the memory of Marion.
"Your husband, Lady Mar," he said with gentleness, "is my friend; had I even a heart to give to women, not one sigh should arise in it to his dishonour. But I am deaf to women, and the voice of love sounds like the funeral knell of her who will never breathe it to me more."
He rose, and ere the countess could reply, a messenger entered with news from Ayr. Eighteen Scottish chiefs had been treacherously put to death, and others were imprisoned and awaiting execution. Wallace and his men marched straight to the castle of Ayr, surprised it while the English lords were feasting within, and set it afire. Those who escaped the flames either fell by Scottish steel, or yielded themselves prisoners.
Castle and fortalice opened their gates before Wallace as he marched from Ayr to Berwick; but at Berwick he encountered stout resistance from a noble foeman, the Earl of Gloucester, who with his garrison yielded only to starvation. Wallace, touched with their valour, permitted them to march out with all the honours of war, and with the chivalrous earl he formed a friendship that was never dimmed by the enmity of the nations to which they belonged.
Soon there came a summons to Stirling. By a dishonourable stratagem of De Valence's, Lord and Lady Mar and Helen had been seized and carried to Stirling Castle, where Lord Mar was in danger of immediate death. Helen was in the power of De Valence, who pressed his hateful suit upon her. Wallace and his men marched hastily, and captured the town; once more De Valence begged Wallace's mercy, and once more, unworthy as he was, obtained it. But the ruthless Cressingham, commanding the castle, placed Lord Mar on the battlements with a rope round his neck, and declared that unless the attack ceased the earl and his whole family would instantly die. Wallace's reply was to bring forward De Valence, pale and trembling. "The moment Lord Mar dies, De Valence shall instantly perish," he declared.
Cressingham agreed to an armistice, hoping to gain time until De Warenne, with the mighty English host then advancing from the border, had reached Stirling. Next morning this great army in its pride poured across the bridge of the Forth; but the Scottish warriors, rushing down from the hillsides, with Wallace at their head, swept all before them. It was rather a carnage than a battle. Those who escaped the steel of Wallace's men were thrust into the river, and land and water were burdened with English dead.
That evening Stirling Castle surrendered, the Scottish prisoners were released, and their places were taken by the commanders of the enemy's host.
III.—Wallace the Regent
When the victorious chiefs were gathering in the hall of the castle, Helen looked upon each one with anxious eyes. Would the gentle knight who rescued her be in Wallace's train? Lady Mar turned a restless glance upon her step-daughter. "Wallace will behold these charms," she cried to herself, "and then, where am I?"
Amid a crowd of knights in armour the conqueror entered; and as Helen raised her eyes she saw that the knight of her dream, the man who had saved her from worse than death, was Wallace himself!
"Scots, behold the Lord's anointed!" cried the patriot Bishop of Dunkeld, drawing from his breast a silver dove of sacred oil, and pouring it upon Wallace's head.
Every knee was bent, and every voice cried "Long live King William!"
"Rise, lords!" exclaimed Wallace. "Kneel not to me—I am but your fellow soldier. Bruce lives; God has yet preserved to you a lawful monarch."
Eagerly they sought to persuade him, but in vain. He consented to hold the kingdom for the rightful sovereign, under the name of regent, but the crown he would not accept. He found a nation waiting on his nod—the hearts of half a million people offered to his hand.
On the night before the English prisoners were to start on their journey southwards to be exchanged with Scottish nobles—an exchange after which, by England's will, the war was to continue—Lady Mar, whose husband was now governor of Stirling Castle, gave a banquet in honour of the departing knights. The entertainment was conducted with that chivalric courtesy which a noble conqueror always pays to the vanquished.
But the spirit of Wallace was sad amid the gaiety; seeking quiet, he wandered along a darkened passage that led to the chapel, unobserved save by his watchful enemy De Valence—whose hatred had been intensified by the knowledge that Helen, whose hand he had again demanded in vain, loved the regent. He had guessed her secret, and she had guessed his—the design he had of murdering the foe who had twice spared his life.
As Wallace entered the chapel and advanced towards the altar, he saw a woman kneeling in prayer. "Defend him, Heavenly Father!" she cried. "Guard his unshielded breast from treachery!" It was Helen's voice.
Wallace stepped from the shadow; Helen was transfixed and silent. "Continue to offer up these prayers for me," he said gently, "and I shall yet think, holy maid, that I have a Marion to pray for me on earth, as well as in heaven."
"They are for your life," she said in agitation, "for it is menaced."
"I will inquire by whom," answered he, "when I have first paid my duty at this altar. Pray with me, Lady Helen, for the liberty of Scotland."
As they were praying together, Helen rose with a shriek and flung her arms around Wallace. He felt an assassin's steel in his back, and she fell senseless on his breast. Her arm was bleeding; she had partly warded off the blow aimed at him, and had saved his life. He took her up in his arms, and bore her from the chapel to the hall.
"Who has done this?" cried Mar, in anguish.
"I know not," replied Wallace, "but I believe some villain who aimed at my life." With a gasp he sank back unconscious on the bench.
Helen was the first to recover, and while they were staunching the blood that flowed from Wallace's wound, Lady Mar turned to her step-daughter.
"Will you satisfy this anxious company," said she sneeringly, "how it happened that you should be alone with the regent? May I ask our noble friends to withdraw, and leave this delicate investigation to my own family?"
Wallace, recovering his senses, rose hastily.
"Do not leave this place, my lords, till I explain how I came to disturb the devotions of Lady Helen;" Straightforwardly and with dignity, he told the story of what had happened, and the jealous Lady Mar was silenced.
"But who was the assassin?" they asked.
"I shall name him to Sir William Wallace alone," said Helen.
But the dagger, found in the chapel, revealed the truth. The chiefs clamoured for De Valence's death, Wallace again granted him life. Next morning, as the cavalcade of southern knights was starting, Wallace rode up and handed the dagger to De Valence.
"The next time that you draw this dagger," said he, "let it be with a more knightly aim than assassination."
De Valence, careless of the looks of horror and contempt cast upon him by his fellow countrymen, broke it asunder, and, throwing the fragments in the air, said to the shivered weapon, "You shall not betray me again!"
"Nor you betray our honours, Lord de Valence," said De Warenne sternly. "As lord warden of this realm, I order you under arrest until we pass the Scottish lines."
After the exchange of prisoners had been effected, Wallace invaded the enemy's country, and brought rich stores from the barns of Northumberland to the starving people of desolated Scotland. The reduction followed of all the fortresses held by the English in Northern Scotland. King Edward himself was now advancing; but a greater peril menaced the regent than that of the invader.
Many of the nobles, headed by the Earls of Athol, Buchan, and March, were bitterly jealous of the ascendancy of a low-born usurper—for so they called Scotland's deliverer—and conspired to restore the sovereignty of Edward. Their chance of treachery came when Wallace faced the English host at Falkirk. When the battle was joined, Athol, Buchan, and all the Cummins, crying, "Long live King Edward!" joined the English, and flung themselves upon their fellow-countrymen. Grievous was the havoc of Scot on Scot; and beside the English king throughout the battle stood Bruce, the rightful monarch, aiding in the destruction of his nation's liberties.
But on the night of that disastrous day, a young stranger in splendid armour came secretly to Wallace. It was Robert Bruce, seeking to offer his services to his country and to wipe out the stigma that his father had cast upon his name.
None fought more fiercely than Robert Bruce in the attack made by Wallace's men upon the English on the banks of the Carron, and the traitor, Earl of March, fell by the young warrior's own hand. But treason, smitten on the field of battle, was rampant at Stirling; and when Wallace returned there, bowed with grief at the death of Lord Mar, he found the Cummin faction—Lady Mar's kinsmen—in furious revolt against the "upstart." His resolution was quickly made; he would not be a cause of civil strife to his country.
"Should I remain your regent," said he to the assembled people, "the country would be involved in ruinous dissensions. I therefore quit the regency; and I bequeath your liberty to the care of the chieftains. But should it be again in danger, remember that, while life breathes in this heart, the spirit of Wallace will be with you still!" With these words he mounted his horse, and rode away, amidst the cries and tears of the populace.
Lady Mar, whose secret hopes had been stirred afresh by the death of her husband, heard with consternation of Wallace's departure. But he went away without a thought of her; his mission was the rescue of Helen, to which he had pledged himself by the death-bed of Lord Mar. Helen had been kidnapped by De Valence, and carried off by him to his castle in Guienne.
Wallace disguised himself as a minstrel, and travelled to Durham, where King Edward held his court, and where young Bruce, taken captive, was now confined. By making himself known to the Earl of Gloucester, Wallace was able to gain access to Bruce, whose father was now dead, and to lay his plans before him. These were that Bruce should escape from Durham, that the two should travel to Guienne and rescue Helen, and that they should then, as unknown strangers, offer their services to Scotland.
The plans were fulfilled. Bruce escaped, De Valence was once more deprived of his prey—he did not suspect the identity of the two knights until after Helen had been delivered from his clutches—and the pair fought as Frenchmen in the wars of Scotland. To few was the truth revealed, and only one discovered it—a knight wearing a green plume, who refused to divulge his name until Wallace proclaimed his own on the day of victory.
But the secret could not be kept for ever, and it was Wallace himself who cast off the disguise. At the battle of Rosslyn the day seemed lost; an overwhelming mass of English bore down the Scots; men were turning to fly. The fate of Wallace's country hung on an instant. Taking off his helmet, he waved it in the air with a shout, and, having thus drawn all eyes upon him, exclaimed: "Scots, follow William Wallace to victory!" The cry of "Wallace!" turned the fugitives; new courage was diffused in every breast; defeat was straightway changed into triumph.
Soon after this declaration the knight of the green plume came to Wallace, tore off the disguise of knighthood, and stood before him the bold and unblushing Countess of Mar. It was unconquerable love, she said, that had induced her to act thus. Wallace told her once more that his love was buried in the grave, and entreated her to refrain from guilty passion. Angered, she thrust a dagger at his breast; he wrenched the weapon from her hand, and bade her go in peace.
Ere sunset next evening he heard that he had been accused of treason to Scotland, and that his accuser was the Countess of Mar.
He faced the false charge, and repudiated it. But such was the hatred of the Cummins and their supporters that it was plainly impossible for him to serve Scotland, now that his name was known, without causing distraction in the country's ranks. He wandered forth, alone save for his ever-faithful follower, Edwin Ruthven, a price set upon his head by the relentless Edward, leaving his enemies to rejoice, and his friends to despair of Scotland's liberty.
V.—Tragedy and Triumph
As Wallace journeyed in the regions made sacred to him by Marion's memory, he was met by Sir John Monteith, who offered to conduct him to Newark-on-the-Clyde, where he might embark on a vessel about to sail. Wallace gladly accepted the offer, little guessing that his old and trusted friend Monteith was in the pay of England.
As he and Edwin reposed in a barn near Newark, a force of savages from the Irish island of Rathlin burst in upon them. Wallace, with a giant's strength, dispersed them as they advanced. But a shout was heard from the door. Monteith himself appeared, and an arrow pierced Edwin's heart. Wallace threw himself on his knees beside the dying boy. They sprang upon him, and bound him. Wallace was Edward's prisoner.
As he lay in the Tower of London awaiting death, a page-boy entered nervously, and turned pale when he cast his eyes upon him. He started; he recognised the features of her who alone had ever shared his meditations with Marion.
"Lady Helen," he cried, "has God sent you hither to be His harbinger of consolation?"
"Will you not abhor me for this act of madness?" said Helen, in deep agitation. "And yet, where should I live or die but at the feet of my benefactor?"
"Oh, Helen," exclaimed Wallace, "thy soul and Marion's are indeed one; and as one I love ye!"
At that moment the Earl of Gloucester entered, and to this true friend Wallace expressed his wish that he and Helen should be united by the sacred rites of the church. Gloucester retired, and returned with a priest; the pair were joined as man and wife.
Two days later Wallace stood on the scaffold. The executioner approached to throw the rope over the neck of his victim. Helen, with a cry, rushed to his bosom. Clasping her to him, he exclaimed in a low voice: "Helen, we shall next meet to part no more. May God preserve my country, and—" He stopped—he fell. Gloucester bent to his friend and spoke, but all was silent. He had died unsullied by the rope of Edward.
"There," said Gloucester, in deepest grief, "there broke the noblest heart that ever beat in the breast of man."
* * * * *
It was the evening after Bannockburn. The English hosts were in panic-stricken flight; Scotland at last was free. Robert Bruce, king and conquerer, entered the Abbey of Cambuskenneth with his betrothed, Isabella, and stood before the bier of Wallace.
Helen, wan and fragile, was borne on a litter from the adjoining nunnery. In her presence Bruce and Isabella were wedded; her trembling hands were held over them in blessing; then she threw herself prostrate on the coffin.
At the foot of Wallace's bier stood the iron box that the dead chieftain had so faithfully cherished. "Let this mysterious coffer be opened," said the Abbot of Inchaffray, "to reward the deliverer of Scotland according to its intent" Bruce unclasped the lock, and the regalia of Scotland was discovered!
"And thus Wallace crowns thee!" said the Bishop of Dunkeld, taking the diadem from its coffer and setting it on Brace's head.
But Helen lay motionless. They raised her, and looked upon a clay-cold face. Her soul had fled.
* * * * *
ALEXANDER SERGEYEVITCH PUSHKIN
The Captain's Daughter
Alexander Sergeyevitch Pushkin was born at Moscow on June 7, 1799. He came of an ancient family, a strange ancestor being a favourite negro ennobled by Peter the Great, who bequeathed to him a mass of curly hair and a somewhat darker skin than usually falls to the lot of the ordinary Russian. Early in life a daring "Ode to Liberty" brought him the displeasure of the court, and the young poet narrowly escaped a journey to Siberia by accepting an official post at Kishineff, in Southern Russia. But on the accession of Tsar Nicholas in 182s, Pushkin was recalled and appointed imperial historiographer. His death, which occurred on February 10, 1837, was the result of a duel fought with his brother-in-law. Pushkin's career was one of almost unparallelled brilliancy. As a poet, he still remains the greatest Russia has produced; and although his prose works do not rise to the high standard of his verse, yet they are of no inconsiderable merit. "The Captain's Daughter, a Russian Romance," was written about 1831, and published under the nom de plume of Ivan Byelkin. It is a story of the times of Catherine II., and is not only told with interest and charm, but with great simplicity and reality, and with a due sense of drama. Others of his novels are "The Pistol Shot," "The Queen of Spades," and "The Undertaker," the last-named a grim story in a style that has been familiarised to English readers by Edgar Allan Poe.
I.—I Join the Army
My father, after serving in the army, had retired with the rank of senior major. Since that time he had always lived on his estate, where he married the eldest daughter of a poor gentleman in the neighbourhood. All my brothers and sisters died young, and it was decided that I should enter the army.
When I was nearly seventeen, instead of being sent to join the guards' regiment at Petersburg, my father told me I was going to Orenburg. "You will learn nothing at Petersburg but to spend money and commit follies," he said. "No, you shall smell powder and become a soldier, not an idler."
It seemed horrible to me to be doomed to the dullness of a savage and distant province, and to lose the gaiety I had been looking forward to; but there was nothing for it but to submit.
The morning arrived for my departure, the travelling carriage was at the door, and our old servant Saveluetch was in attendance to accompany me.
Two days later, when we were nearing our destination, a snowstorm overtook us. We might have perished in the snow, for all traces of the road were lost, but for a stranger who guided us to a small and lonely inn, where we passed the night. In the morning, to the sorrow of Saveluetch, I insisted on giving our guide, who was but thinly clad, one of my cloaks—a hare-skin touloup.
"Thanks, your excellency," said the vagrant, "and may heaven reward you. As long as I live I shall never forget your kindness."
I soon forgot the snowstorm, the guide, and my hare-skin touloup, and on arrival at Orenburg hasted to wait on the general, an old comrade-in-arms of my father's. The general received me kindly, examined my commission, told me there was nothing for me to do in Orenburg, and sent me on to Fort Belogorsk to serve under Commander Mironoff. Belogorsk lay about thirty miles beyond Orenburg, on the frontier of the Kirghiz Kaisak Steppes, and it was to this outlandish place I was banished.
I expected to see high bastions, a wall and a ditch, but there was nothing at Belogorsk but a little village, surrounded by a wooden palisade. An old iron cannon was near the gateway, the streets were narrow and crooked, and the commandant's house to which I had been driven was a wooden erection.
Vassilissa Ignorofna, the commandant's wife, received me with simple kindness, and treated me at once as one of the family. An old army pensioner and Palashka, the one servant, laid the cloth for dinner; while in the square, near the house, the commandant, a tall and hale old man, wearing a dressing-gown and a cotton nightcap, was busy drilling some twenty elderly men—all pensioners.
Chvabrine, an officer who had been dismissed from the guards for fighting a duel, and Marya, a young girl of sixteen, with a fresh, round face, the commandant's daughter, were also at dinner.
Mironoff pleaded in excuse for being late for dinner that he had been busy drilling his little soldiers, but his wife cut him short ruthlessly.
"Nonsense," she said, "you're only boasting; they are past service, and you don't remember much about the drill. Far better for you to stay at home and say your prayers." Vassilissa Ignorofna never seemed to stop talking, and overwhelmed me with questions.
In the course of a few weeks I found that she not only led her husband completely, but also directed all military affairs, and ruled the fort as completely as she did the household. This really suited Ivan Mironoff very well, for he was a good-hearted, uneducated man, staunch and true, who had been raised from the ranks, and was now grown lazy. Both husband and wife were excellent people, and I soon became attached to them, and to the daughter Marya, an affectionate and sensible girl.
As for Chvabrine, he at first professed great friendship for me; but being in love with Marya, who detested him, he began to hate me when he saw a growing friendliness between Marya and myself.
I was now an officer, but there was little work for me to do. There was no drill, no mounting guard, no reviewing of troops. Sometimes Captain Mironoff tried to drill his soldiers, but he never succeeded in making them know the right hand from the left.
All seemed peace, in spite of my quarrels with Chvabrine. Every day I was more and more in love with Marya, and the notion that we might be disturbed at Fort Belogorsk by any repetition of the riots and revolts which had taken place in the province of Orenburg the previous year was not entertained. Danger was nearer than we had imagined. The Cossacks and half-savage tribes of the frontier were again already in revolt.
II.—The Rebel Chief
One evening early in October, 1773, Captain Mironoff called Chvabrine and me to his house. He had received a letter from the general at Orenburg with information that a fugitive Cossack named Pugatchef had taken the name of the late Czar, Peter III., and, with an army of robbers, was rousing the country, destroying forts and committing murder and theft. The news spread quickly, and then came a disquieting report that a neighbouring fort some sixteen miles away had been taken by Pugatchef, and its officers hanged.
Neither Mironoff nor Vassilissa showed any fear, and the latter declined to leave Belogorsk, though willing that Marya should be sent to Orenburg for safety. An insolent proclamation from Pugatchef, inviting us to surrender on peril of death, and the treachery of our Cossacks and of Chvabrine, who went over at once to the rebels, only made the commandant and his wife more resolute.
"The scoundrel!" cried Vassilissa. "He has the impudence to invite us to lay our flag at his feet, and he doesn't know we have been forty years in the service!"
It was the same when Pugatchef was actually at our door, and the assault had actually begun. Old Ivan Mironoff blessed his daughter, and embraced his wife, and then faced death. There was no fight in the poor old pensioners who made up our garrison, and both Mironoff and myself were soon captured, bound with ropes, and led before Pugatchef.
The commandant indignantly refused to swear fidelity to the robber chief, and was hanged there and then in the market square; an old one-eyed lieutenant was soon swinging by his side. Then came my turn, and I gave the same answer as my captain had done. The rope was round my neck, when Pugatchef shouted out "Stop!" and ordered my release. A few minutes later, and poor old Vassilissa, who had come in search of her husband, was lying dead in the market square, cut down by a Cossack's sword. Pugatchef's arrival had prevented Marya's escape to Orenburg, and she was now lying too ill to be moved, in the house of Father Garassim, the parish priest.
Pugatchef gave me leave to depart in safety, but before Saveluetch and I left the fort, the rebel bade me come and see him. He laughed aloud when I presented myself.
"Who would have thought," he said, "that the man who guided you to a lodging on that night of the snowstorm was the great tzar himself? But you shall see better things; I will load you with favours when I have recovered my empire."
Then he invited me again and again to enter his service, but I told him I had sworn fidelity to the crown; and finally he let me go, saying: "Either entirely punish or entirely pardon. Tell the officers at Orenburg they may expect me in a week."
It hurt me to leave Marya behind, especially as Pugatchef had made Chvabrine commandant of the fort, but there was no help for it. Father Garassim and his wife bade me good-bye. "Except you, poor Marya has no longer any protector or comforter," said the priest's wife.
At Orenburg I was in safety, but the town was soon besieged, and I could not persuade the general to sally out and attack the rebels. All through those dreary weeks of the siege I was wondering anxiously about Marya, and then one day when we had been driving off a party of cossacks, one of the rebels, whom I recognised a former soldier at Belogorsk, lingered to give me a letter. It was from Marya, and she told me that she was now in the house of Chvabrine, who threatened to kill her or hand her over to the robber camp if she did not marry him, and that she had but three days left before her fate would be sealed. Death would be easier, she said, than to be the wife of a man like Chvabrine.
I rushed off at once to the general, and implored him to give me a battalion of soldiers, and let me march on Belogorsk; but the general only shook his head, and said the expedition was unreasonable.
I decided to go alone and appeal to Pugatchef, but the faithful Saveluetch insisted on accompanying me, and together we arrived at the rebel camp.
Pugatchef received me quite cordially, and I told him the truth, that I was in love with Marya, and that Chvabrine was persecuting her. He flared up indignantly at Chvabrine's presumption, and declared he would take me at once to Belogorsk, and attend my wedding. But on our arrival Chvabrine mentioned that Marya was the daughter of Mironoff, and immediately the countenance of the robber chief clouded over.
"Listen," I said, knowing Pugatchef was well disposed towards me. "Do not ask of me anything against my honour or my conscience. Let me go with this unhappy orphan whither God shall direct, and whatever befall we will pray every day to God to watch over you."
It seemed as if Pugatchef's fierce heart was touched. "Be it as you wish," he answered. "Either entirely punish or entirely pardon is my motto. Take your pretty one where you like, and may God give you love and wisdom."
A safe-conduct pass was given us, and I made up my mind to take Marya to my parents' house. I knew my father would think it a duty and an honour to shelter the daughter of a veteran who had died for his country. But Marya said she would never be my wife unless my parents approved of the marriage. We set off, and as we started I saw Chvabrine standing at the commandant's window, with a face of dark hatred.
I parted from Marya two days later, and entrusted her to Saveluetch, who promised me to escort her faithfully to my parents. My reason for this was that we had fallen in with a detachment of the army, and the officer in charge persuaded me to join him, and it seemed to me I was bound in honour to serve the tzarina.
So all that winter, and right on till the spring came, we pursued the rebels; and still Pugatchef remained untaken; and this war with the robbers went on to the destruction of the countryside.
At last Pugatchef was taken, and the war was at an end. A few days later I should have been in the bosom of my family, when an unforeseen thunderbolt struck me. I was ordered to be arrested and sent to Khasan, to the commission of inquiry appointed to try Pugatchef and his accomplices.
No sooner had I arrived in Khasan than I was lodged in prison, and irons were placed on my ankles. It was a bad beginning, but I was full of hope and courage, and believed that I could easily explain my dealings with Pugatchef.
The next day I was summoned to appear before the commission, and asked how long I had been in Pugatchef's service.
I replied indignantly that I had never been in his service; and then when I was asked how it was he had spared my life and given me a safe-conduct pass I told the story of the guide in the snowstorm and the hair-skin touloup.
Then came the question how was it I had left Orenburg, and gone straight to the rebel camp?
I felt I could not bring in Marya's name, and expose her as a witness to the cross-examination of the commission, and so I stammered and became silent.
The officer of the guard then requested that I should be confronted with my principal accuser, and Chvabrine was brought into court. A great change had come over him. He was pale and thin, and his hair had already turned grey. In a feeble but clear voice Chvabrine went through his story against me; that I had been Pugatchef's spy in Orenburg, and that after leaving that town I had done all I could to aid the rebels. I was glad of one thing, some spark of feeling kept him from mentioning Marya's name.
I told the judges I could only repeat my former statement that I was entirely innocent of any part in the rebellion; and then I was taken back to prison, and underwent no further examination.
Several weeks passed, and then my father was informed that the tzarina had condescended to pardon his criminal son, and remit the capital punishment, condemning him instead to exile for life in the heart of Siberia.
The unexpected blow nearly killed my father. He had heard of my arrest, and both Saveluetch and Marya had assured him of my complete innocence. Now he broke out into bitter lament.
"What!" he kept on saying. "What! My son mixed up in the plots of Pugatchef! Just God! What have I lived to see! The tzarina grants him life, but does that make it easier for me to bear? It is not the execution which is horrible. My ancestors have perished on the scaffold for conscience sake; but that an officer should join with robbers and felons! Shame on our race for ever!"
In vain my mother endeavoured to comfort him by talking of the injustice of the verdict. My father was inconsolable.
IV.—The Captain's Daughter to the Rescue
From the first Marya had been received with the warm-hearted hospitality that belonged to old-fashioned country people. The opportunity of giving a home to a poor orphan seemed to them a favour from God. In a very short time they were sincerely attached to her, for no one could know Marya without loving her, and both my father and my mother looked forward to the union of their son Peter with the captain's daughter.
My trial and condemnation plunged all three into misery; and Marya, believing that I could have justified myself had I chosen, and suspecting the motive which had kept me silent, and holding herself the sole cause of my misfortune, determined to save me.
All at once she informed my parents that she was obliged to start for Petersburg, and begged them to give her the means to do so.
"Why must you go to Petersburg?" said my mother, in distress. "You, too—are you also going to forsake us?"
Marya answered that she was going to seek help from people in high position for the daughter of a man who had fallen a victim to his fidelity.
My father could only bow his head. "Go," he said. "I do not wish to cast any obstacles between you and your happiness. May God grant you an honest man, and not a convicted traitor, for husband."
To my mother alone Marya confided her plans, and then, with her maid Palashka and the faithful Saveluetch—who, parted from me, consoled himself by remembering he was serving my betrothed—set out for the capital.
Arrived at Sofia, Marya learnt that the court was at the summer palace of Tzarskoe-Selo, and at once resolved to stop there. She was able to get a lodging at the post-house, and the postmaster's wife, who was a regular gossip, began to tell her all the routine of the palace, at what hour the tzarina rose, had her coffee, and walked in the gardens.
Next morning, very early, Marya dressed herself and went to the imperial gardens. She saw a lady seated on a little rustic bench near the large lake, and went and seated herself at the other end of the bench. The lady wore a cap and a white morning gown, and a light cloak. She appeared to be about fifty years old, and the repose and gravity of her face, and the sweetness of her blue eyes and her smile, all attracted Marya and inspired confidence. The lady was the first to speak.
"You do not belong to this place?"
"No, madame. I only arrived yesterday from the country."
"You came with your parents?"
"No, madame, alone. I have neither father nor mother."
"You are very young to travel by yourself. You have come on business?"
"Yes, madame. I have come to present a petition to the tzarina."
"You are an orphan. It is some injustice or wrong you complain of? What is your name?"
"I am the daughter of Captain Mironoff, and it is for mercy I have come to ask."
"Captain Mironoff? He commanded one of the forts in the Orenburg district?"
The lady seemed moved.
"Forgive me," she said, speaking even more gently, "if I meddle in your affairs; but I am going to court. Perhaps if you explain to me what it is you want, I may be able to help you."
Marya rose and curtsied; then she took from her pocket a folded paper, and handed it to her protectress, who read it over. Suddenly the gentleness turned to hardness in the face of the unknown lady.
"You plead for Peter Grineff!" she said coldly. "The tzarina cannot grant him mercy. He passed over to this rebel not in ignorance, but because he is depraved."
"It is not true!" cried Marya. "Before God it is not true! I know all; I will tell you everything. It was only on my account that he exposed himself to the misfortunes which have overtaken him. And if he did not vindicate himself before the judges, it was because he did not wish me to be mixed up in the affair."
And Marya went on to relate all that had taken place at Belogorsk.
When she had finished, the lady asked her where she lodged, and told her she would not have to wait long for an answer to the letter.
Marya went back to the post-house full of hope, and presently, to the consternation of her hostess, a lackey in the imperial livery entered and announced that the tzarina condescended to summon to her presence the daughter of Captain Mironoff.
"Good heavens!" cried the postmaster's wife. "The tzarina summons you to court! And I'm sure you don't even know how to walk in court fashion. Shall I send for a dressmaker I know who will lend you her yellow gown with flounces? I think I ought to take you."
But the lackey explained that the tzarina wanted Marya to come alone, and in the dress she should happen to be wearing. There was nothing for it but to obey, and, with a beating heart, Marya got into the carriage and was driven to the palace. Presently she was ushered into the boudoir of the tzarina, and recognised the lady of the garden.
The tzarina spoke graciously to her, telling Marya that it was a happiness to grant her prayer.
"I have had it all looked into, and I am convinced of the innocence of your betrothed. Here is a letter for your father-in-law. Do not be uneasy about the future. I know you are not rich, but I owe a debt to the daughter of Captain Mironoff."
Marya, all in tears, fell at the feet of the tzarina, who raised her and kissed her forehead. The tzarina almost overwhelmed the orphan before she dismissed her.
That same day Marya hastened back to my father's house in the country, without even having the curiosity to see the sights of Petersburg.
I was released from captivity at the end of the year 1774, and, as it happened, I was present in Moscow when Pugatchef was executed in the following year. The famous robber chief recognised me as I stood in the crowd, and bade me farewell with a silent movement of his head. A few moments later and the executioner held up the lifeless head for all the people to look upon.
Chvabrine I never saw again after the day I was confronted with him at my trial.
Soon after Pugatchef's death, Marya and I were married from my father's house.
An autograph letter from the tzarina, Catherine II., framed and glazed, is carefully preserved. It is addressed to the father of Peter Grineff, and contains, with the acquittal of his son, many praises of the intelligence and good heart of the daughter of Captain Mironoff.
* * * * *
Gargantua and Pantagruel
Francois Rabelais was born at Seuille in Touraine, France, about 1483. Brought up in a Franciscan convent, he was made a priest in 1520. During his monastic career he conceived a deep and lasting contempt for monkish life, and he obtained permission from the Pope to become a secular priest. He then studied medicine, and became a physician. After wandering about France for many years, he was appointed parish priest of Meudon in 1551, and he died at Paris in 1553. "The Great and Inestimable Chronicles of the Grand and Enormous Giant Gargantua" ("Les Grandes et Inestimables Chroniques du Grande et Enorme Geant Gargantua"), and its sequel, "Pantagruel," appeared between 1533 and 1564. Had these appeared during Rabelais' life, his career would probably have been shorter than it was, for the work is, with all its humour, a very bitter satire against both the Roman Church and the Calvinistic. Rabelais is one of the very great French writers and humourists whose work is closely connected with English literature. But what he borrowed from Sir Thomas More, he generously repaid to Shakespeare, Swift, and Sterne. The famous Abbey of Thelema is inspired by More's "Utopia"; on the other hand, Shakespeare's praise of debt is taken from the speech of Panurge—the most humorous character in French literature, and worthy to stand beside Falstaff.
I.—The Very Horrific Life of the Great Gargantua
Grangousier was a right merry fellow in his time, and he had as great a love as any man living in the world for neat wine and salt meat. When he came to man's estate he married Gargamelle, daughter to the king of the Parpaillons, a jolly wench and good looking, who died in giving birth to a son.
They had gone out with their neighbours in a hurl to Willow Grove, and there on the thick grass they danced so gallantly that it was a heavenly sport to see them so frolic. Then began flagons to go, gammons to trot, goblets to fly, and glasses to rattle. "Draw, reach, fill, mix. Give it to me—without water; so my friend. Whip me off this bowl gallantly. Bring me some claret, a full glass running over. A truce to thirst! By my faith, gossip, I cannot get in a drinking humour! Have you caught a cold, gammer? Let's talk of drinking. Which was first, thirst or drinking? Thirst, for who would have drunk without thirst in the time of innocence? I do, as I am a sinner. I drink to prevent thirst. I drink for the thirst to come. Let's have a song, a catch; let us sing a round. Drink for ever, and you shall never die! When I am not drinking I am as good as dead. Drink, or I'll—The appetite comes with eating and the thirst goes with drinking. Nature abhors a vacuum. Swallow it down, it is wholesome medicine!"
It was at this moment that Gargantua was born. He did not whimper as the other babes used to do, but with a high, sturdy, and big voice, he shouted out, "Drink, drink, drink!" The sound was so extremely great that it rang over two counties. I am afraid that you do not thoroughly believe in the truth of this strange nativity. Believe it or not, I do not care. But an honest man, a man of good sense, always believes what is told him, and what he finds written.
When the good man Grangousier, who was then merrily drinking with his guests, heard his son roar out for drink, he said to him in French, "Que Grand Tu As et souple le gousier!" That is to say, "How great and nimble a throat thou hast." Hearing this, the company said that the child verily ought to be called Gargantua, because it was the first word uttered by his father at his birth. Which the father graciously permitted, and to calm the child they gave him enough drink to crack his throat, and then carried him to the font where he was christened according to the manner of good Christians.
So great was Gargantua, even when a babe of a day old, that seventeen thousand nine hundred and thirteen cows were required to furnish him with milk. By the ancient records to be seen in the chamber of accounts at Montsoreau, I find that nine thousand six hundred ells of blue velvet were used for his gown, four hundred and six ells of crimson velvet were taken up for his shoes, which were soled with the hides of eleven hundred brown cows; and the rest of his costume was in proportion. By the commandment of his father, Gargantua was brought up and instructed in all convenient discipline, and he spent his time like the other children of the country—that is, in drinking, eating, and sleeping; in eating, sleeping, and drinking; and in sleeping, drinking, and eating.