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ST. John's square.




" Go, lovely rose,
Tell her, that wastes her time and me,

That now she knows,
When I resemhle her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

" Tell her, that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied.

That, hadst thou spnmg
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended, died. '

" Then, die, that she.
The common fate of all things rare,

May read in thee
How small a part of time they share.
That are so wondrous sweet, and fair."


While I was meditating on the hidden meanings of
this letter, in which my Jewish friend seemed to have
imbibed something of the mystical spirit of Germany



itself, I was startled by a tremendous uproar around
the hospital — the drums beat to arms, the garrison
hastily mustered, the population poured into the
streets, and a strong and startling light through all the
casements, showed that some great conflagration had
just begun. The intelligence soon spread, that the
Hotel de Ville, the noblest building in the province, a
fine specimen of Italian architecture of the seventeenth
century, and dear to the city, as containing some in-
comparable pictures by the Italian masters, and a chef-
d'oeuvre of Rubens ; had been set on fire by a bomb,
and was now in a blaze from battlement to ground.
The next intelligence was still more painful. The prin-
cipal convent of the city, which was close in its rear,
had taken fire, and the unfortunate nuns were seen at
the windows, in the most imminent danger of perish-
ing. Feeble as I was, I immediately arose. The Be-
guine rushed in at the moment, wringing her hands,
and uttering the wildest cries of terror at the pro-
bable destruction of all those unhappy women. I
volunteered my services, which were accepted ; and I
hurried out to assist in saving them if possible. The
spectacle was overwhelming.

The Hotel de Ville was a large and nearly insu-
lated building, with a kind of garden-walk round
three of its sides, which was now filled with the po-
pulace. The garrison exhibited all the activity of the
national character, in their efforts to extinguish the
flames. Scaling-ladders were applied to the windows,
men mounted on them thick as bees ; fire-buckets
were passed from hand to hand, for the fire-engines
had been long since destroyed by the cannonade;


and there seemed to be some hope of saving the struc-
ture — when a succession of agonizing screams fixed
every eye on the convent, where the fire had found its
way to the stores of wood and oil, and shot up hke
the explosion of gunpowder. The efforts of the troops
were now turned to save its unhappy inmates, but
the intense fury of the flames defeated every attempt.
The scaling-ladders no sooner touched the casements,
than they took fire ; the very walls were so hot that
none could approach them; and every new gust
swept down a sheet of flame, which put the multi-
tude to flight in all directions. Artillery was now
brought out to breach the walls ; but, while there re-
mained a hundred and fifty human beings within, it
was impossible to make use of the guns. All efforts
at length ceased ; and the horror was deepened, if
such it could be, by seeing now and then a distracted
figure rush to a casement, make gestures of terror
and misery to the crowd, and then rush back again
f^with a howl of despair.

I proposed to the French officers, that they should
dig under the foundations, and thus open a way of
escape through the vaults. The attempt was made,
but it had the ill success of all the rest. The walls
were too massive for our strength ; and the pickaxe
and spade were thrown aside in despair. From the
silence which now seemed to reign within, and the
volumes of smoke which poured from the casements,
it began to be the general impression, that the fate of
the nuns was already decided ; and the officers were
about to limber up their guns and retire ; when I
begged their chief to make one trial more, and fire at
B 2


a huge iron door, which closed a lofty archway leading
to the Hotel de Ville. He complied; a six-pound
ball was sent against the door, and it flew off its
hinges. To the boundless rejoicing, and astonish-
ment of all, we saw the effect of this fortunate shot,
in the emergence of the whole body of the nuns from
the smoking and shattered building. They had been
driven, step by step, from the interior, into the long,
stone-built passage, which in old times had formed a
communication with the town, and which had pro-
bably not been used for a century. The shot had
burst it open.

The troops and populace now rushed into the Ho-
tel de Ville, to meet and convey them to places of
safety. I followed, with the same object, yet with
some unaccountable feeling that I had a personal
interest in the rescue. The halls and apartments
were on the huge and heavy scale of ancient times,
and I was more than once bewildered in ranges of
corridors filled with the grim reliques of civic mag-
nificence, fierce portraits of forgotten men of city
fame, portentous burghers, and mailed captains of
train bands. The unhappy women were at length
gathered from the different galleries through which
they had scattered in their fright, and were mustered at
the 'head of the principal entrance, or grand escalier,
at whose foot an escort of the troops was drawn up
for their protection.

But the terrors of that fearful night were not yet
at an end. The light of the conflagration had caught
the eye of the besiegers, and a whole flight of shells
were sent in its direction. Some burst in the street,


putting the populace to flight on every side ; and,
while the women were on the point of passing down
the stair, a crash was heard above, and an enormous
shell burst through the roof, carrying down shattered
rafters, stones, and a cloud of dust. The batteries
had found our range, and a succession of shells burst
above our heads, or tore their way downwards. All
now was confusion and shrieking. At length, one
fell on the centre of the escalier, rolled down a few
steps, and, bursting, tore up the whole stair, leaving
only a deep gulf between us and the portal. The
women fled back through the apartment. I now re-
garded all as lost ; and expecting the roof to come
down every moment on my head, and hearing nothing
round me but the bursting and hissing of those hor-
rible instruments of havoc, I hurried through the
chambers, in the hope of finding some casement, from
which I might reach the ground. They were all
lofty and difficult of access, but I at length climbed
up to one, from which, though twenty or thirty feet
from the path below, I determined to take the

I was about to leap, when, to my infinite surprise,
I heard my name pronounced. I stopped. I heard
the words — " Adieu, pour toujours /" All was dark
within the room, but I returned, to discover the
speaker. It was a female, on her knees near the
casement, and evidently preparing to die in prayer.
I took her hand, and led her passively towards the
window ; she wore the dress of a nun, and her veil was
on her face. As she seemed exhausted with terror,
I gently removed it to give her air. A sheet of flame
B 3


suddenly threw a broad light aci'oss the garden, and in
that face I saw — Clotilde ! She gave a feeble cry, and
fainted in my arms. — To die for her, or, to die with
her, seemed to me then preferable to all existence.

But, ladders were brought, our escape was accom-
plished ; and before I slept, I had seen the being with
whom my very existence was bound up, safely lodged
with the principal family of the town. Slept, did I
say? I never rested, for an instant. Thoughts, reve-
ries, a thousand wild speculations, rose, fell, chased
each other through my brain ; and all left me feverish,
half-frantic, and delighted.

At the earliest moment which could be permitted
by the formalities of France, even in a besieged town ;
I flew to Clotilde. She received me with the can-
dour of her noble nature. Her countenance bright-
ened with sudden emotion, as she approached me.
In the salle de reception, she sat surrounded by the
ladies of the family, still full of enquiries on the perils
of the night, congratulations on her marvellous es-
cape, and no slight approval of the effect of the con-
vent costume on the contour of her fine form and
expressive features. My entrance produced a diver-
sion in her favour, and I was showered with showy
speeches from the seniors of the circle ; the younger
portion suddenly relapsing into that frigid propriety,
which the Mademoiselle retains until she becomes the
Madame, and which she then flings off for ever, like her
girlish wardrobe. But their eyes took their full share,
and if glances at the " Englishman " could have been
transferred into words , I should have enjoyed a very
animated conversation on the part of the Jeunes In-


nocentes. But I shrank from the panegyric of my
" heroism," as it was pronounced in all the tones of
courtesy ; and longed for the voice of Clotilde alone.
The circle at last withdrew, and I was left to the
most exquisite enjoyment of which the mind of man
is capable — the full, fond, and faithful outpouring of
the heart of the woman he loves. Strange to say, I
had never exchanged a syllable with Clotilde before ;
and yet we now as deeply understood each other ;
were as much in each other's confidence, and had as
little of the repulsive ceremonial of a first interview,
as if we had conversed for years.

"You saved my life," said she; " and you are entitled
to my truest gratitude, to my last hour. — I had made
up my mind to die. I was exhausted, in the attempt
to escape from that scene of horrors. When at last
I reached the Hotel de Ville, and found that all the
sisterhood had been driven back from the great stair
by the flames, I gave \ip all hope: and, may I acknow-
ledge, unblamed, to you — but from you what right
have I now to conceal any secret of my feelings ? — I
was not unwilling to lay down a life, which seemed to
grow darker from day to day."

" You were wearied of your convent life ?" said I,
fixing my eyes on hers with eager inquiry. " But
you must not tell me that you are a nun. The new
laws of France forbid that sacrifice. My sweet Clo-
tilde, while I live, I shall never recognise your vows."

" You need not," she answered, with a smile that

' Celestial rosy I'ed, love's proper hue.'

" I have never taken them. The superior of the
B 4


convent was my near relative, and I fled to her pro-
tection from the pursuit of one whom I never could
have respected, and whom later thoughts have made
me all but abhor."

" Montrecour ! I shall pursue him through the

" No," said Clotilde ; " he is as unworthy of your
resentment as of my recollection. He is a traitor to
his king, and a disgrace to his nobility. He is now
a general in the Republican service, Citizen Montre-
cour. But we must talk of him no more."

She blushed deeply, and after some hesitation, said,
" I am perfectly aware, that the marriages, customary
among our noblesse, were too often contracted in the
mere spirit of exclusiveness ; and I own, that the
proposal of my alliance with the Marquis de Montre-
cour was a family arrangement, perfectly in the spirit
of other days. But, my residence in England changed
my opinions on the custom of my country, and I
determined — never to marry." She stopped short,
and with a faint smile, said, "But let us talk of
something else." Her cheek was crimson, and her
eyes were fixed on the ground.

" No, Clotilde, talk of nothing else. Talk of your
feelings, your sentiments, of yourself, and all that
concerns yourself. No subject on earth can ever be
so delightful to your friend. But, talk of what you
will, and I shall listen with a pleasure which no
human being has ever given me before, or ever shall
give me again."

She raised her magnificent eyes, and fixed them
full upon me with an involuntary look of surprise.


then grew suddenly pale, and closed them as if she
felt sudden pain. " I must listen," said she, faintly,
"to this language no longer. I know you to be above
deception. I know you to be above playing with the
vanity of one unused to praise, and to such praise.
But I have a spirit as high as your own. Let us be
friends. It will give an additional honour to my
name; shall I say" — and she faltered — "an addi-
tional interest to my existence ? But, now we must
part, for a while."

" Never !" was my exclamation. ^' The world does
not contain two Clotildes. And you shall never leave
me. You have just told me, that I preserved your
life. Why shall I not be its protector still ? Why
not be suffered to devote mine to making yours hap-
py ?" But, the bitter thought struck me, as I uttered
the words — how far was I from the power of giving
this incomparable creature the station in society which
was hers by right ! How feeble was my hope even
of competence ! How painfully should I look upon
her beauty, her fine understanding, and her generous
heart, humbled to the narrow circumstances of one,
whose life depended upon the chances of the most
precarious of all professions, and w^hose success in
that profession depended wholly on the caprice of
fortune. Again, one glance drove all doubts away,
and I took her hand.

She looked at me with speechless embarrassment,
sighed deeply, and a tear stole down her cheek. At
length, withdrawing her hand, she said, in almost a
whisper, and with an evident effort, "This must not
be. I feel infinite honour in your good opinion —
B 5


deeply grateful for your kindness. But this must not
be. Believe me ; I should rather wear this habit for
life, than make so ungenerous a return to the noble
spirit, that can thus offer its friendship to a stranger."

" No, Clotilde, no. Again, in my turn, I say, this
must not be ; you are no stranger. I know you at
this hour, as well as if I had known you from the
first hour of my being. — I gave my heart to you, from
the moment when I first saw you among your coun-
trywomen in England. It required no time, to make
me feel that you were my fate. It was an instinct,
a voice of nature, a voice of heaven within me."

She listened and trembled. I again took the
hand, which was withheld no more. — " From that
day, Clotilde, you were my thought by day, and my
dream by night. — All my desires of distinction were,
that it might be seen by your eye ; all my hopes of
fortune, that I might be enabled to lay it at your feet.
If a throne were offered to me, on condition of re-
nouncing you, I should have rejected it. If it were
my lot to labour in the humblest rank of life : with
you by my side, I should have cheerfully laboured ;
and, with your hand in mine, I should have said, I
have found what is worth the world — happiness !"

Tears flowed down her cheeks, which were now
like marble. She feebly attempted to smile, while,
with eyelids drooping, and her whole frame quivering
with emotion, she murmured in broken accents, " It
is impossible — utterly impossible ! Leave me. I
must not bring you a portionless, a helpless, a name-
less being — a dependent on your kindness, a burden
on your fortune, an obstacle to your whole advance


in the world !" A rich flush suddenly lighted up her
lovely countenance, and a new splendour flashed from
her eyes. She threw back her head loftily, and, look-
ing handsomer than ever, '' No," said she, " I am as
proud as you. I have had noble ancestors ; I have
borne a noble name. If that name has fallen, it is
in the common wreck of my country. Our fortunes
have sunk, only where our monarchy has gone down
along with them ; and I shall never degrade the me-
mory of those ancestors, nor humiliate still more the
fallen name of our house, by imposing my obscurity
and poverty on one, who has honoured me as you have
done. Now — farewell ! My resolution is fixed. Fare-
well, my friend ! I shall never forget this day." She
turned away her face, and wept abundantly ; then,
fixing a long look on me, she added — "I. own, that it
would be a consolation to Clotilde de Tourville, to
believe, that she may be sometimes remembered ; but,
until times change, we meet no more — if they change
not, we now — part for ever."

I was so completely startled, so thunderstruck, by
this declaration, that I could not utter a word. I
stood gazing at her, with open lips. I felt a mist
gathering over my eyes. I tottered to the sofa, and
pressed my hand in pain upon my brow : when I
withdrew it, I was alone — Clotilde was gone; she
had vanished, with the silence of a vision.

I left the house immediately ; and, in a state of mind
which seemed like a dissolution of all my faculties.
I could not speak, I could scarcely see, I could only
•gasp for air, and retain sufficient power over my limbs,
to guide my steps to my melancholy dwelling. There
B 6


1 threw myself on my rough bed, and lingered
throughout the day in fiery feverishness of mind and
body, which I sometimes thought to be the approach
of death. How little could Clotilde have intended,
that I should suffer thus for her high-toned delicacy !
Still, in all my misery of soul, I did her justice. I
remembered the countenance of melancholy beauty,
with which she announced her final determination.
The accents of her impassioned voice continually
rose in my recollection, giving the deepest testimony
to a heart struggling at once with affection and a
sense of duty. In my wildest reveries during that
day and night of wretchedness, I felt that, if she could
have spared me a single pang, she would have re-
joiced to cheer, to console, to tranquillize me. — Those
were strange feelings for a rejected lover, but they
were instinctively mine. There was so lofty a spirit in
her glance, so true a sincerity in her language, so
pure and transparent a truth in her sighs, and smiles,
and involuntary tears ; that I acquitted her, from my
soul, of all attempts to trj^ or to triumph over, my
devotion to her.

More than once, during that night of anguish, I
imagined the scene of the day to be actually passing
again before my eyes. I saw her sorrows, and vainly
endeavoured to subdue them ; I heard her convulsive
tones, and attempted to calm them ; I i^easoned with
her, talked of our common helplessness, acknow-
ledged the dignity and the delicacy of her conduct,
and even gave her lip the kiss of peace and sorrow,
as I bade her farewell. Deep but exquisite illusion !
which I cherished, and loved to renew ; until, sud-


denly aroused by some changing of the sentinels, or
passing of the attendants, I looked round ; and saw
nothing but the gloomy roof, the old flickering of
the huge lantern hanging from the centre of the hall,
and the beds where so many had slept their last, and
which so many of the sleepers were never to leave
with life. — I then had the true experience of human
passion. Love, in the light and gay, may be as
sportive as themselves ; in the calm and grave, it
may be firm and deep ; but in some, it is strong as
tempest, and consuming as flame.

I should probably have closed my days in that place
of all afflicting sights and sounds, but for my good
old nurse. On her first visit at dawn, she lectured
me prodigiously, on the folly of exposing myself to
the hazards of the night air : of which she evidently
thouo-ht much more than of the Austrian cannon-
balls. " They might shower them upon the buildings
as they pleased, but," said the Beguine, " if they kill,
their business is done. — It is your cold, your damp,
your night-air, that carries oflT, without letting any
one know how," the perplexity of science on the
subject plainly forming the chief evil in poor Juliet's

" See my own condition," said she, striving to
bring her memory in aid of her advice. " At
fifteen I was a barmaid at the Swartz Adler; there
I ran in and out, danced at all the family fetes, and
was as gay as a bird on the tree. — But that life was
too good to last. At twenty, a corporal of Prussian
dragoons fell in love with me, or I with him ; it is all
the same. His regiment was ordered to Silesia, and


away we marched. But, if ever there was a coun-
try of fogs, that was the one. There are, now and
then, a few, even in our deHghtful France ; but, in
Silesia, they have a patent for them, they have them
par privilege ; if men could eat them, there would
never be a chance of starving-, in Silesia. So, we all
got sore throats. Cannon and musketry were nothing
to them. Our dragoons dropped off, like flies at the
end of summer; and unless we had been ordered
away, to keep the Turks from marching to Berlin, or
the saints know where ; the regiment would have had
its last quarters in this world, within a league of the
marshes of Breslau. So I say ever since ; take care
of damp."

Having thus relieved her good-natured spirit of its
burden, she proceeded to give me snatches of her
history. — The corporal had fallen a victim ; though
whether to Silesian fog, brandy, or the bullet, she left
doubtful ; and she had married his successor in the
rank. Love and matrimony in the army are of a
different order from either in civil life ; for the love
is perpetual, the matrimony precarious. Juliet ac-
knowledged, that she never left above a month^s
interval between her afflictions as a widow, and her
consolations as a wife. In the course of time she
changed her service. A handsome Austrian sergeant
won her heart and hand, and she followed him into
Hungary. There, between marsh fever and Turkish
skirmishing, various casualties occurred in the matri-
monial list; and Juliet, who evidently had been a
handsome brunette, and whose French vivacity dis-
tanced all the heavy charms of the Austrian pea-


sant belles, was never without a husband. At length,
like other veterans, having served her country to the
full extent of her patriotism; she was discharged, with
her tenth husband; and, of course, induced the honest
Austrian to come to the only countiy on which, in a
Frenchwoman's creed, the sun shines. There the
Austrian died.

" I loved him," said the Beguine, wiping her eyes.
" He was an excellent fellow, though dull ; and I
believe, next to smoking and schnaps, he loved me
better than anything else in the world. But, on his
emperor's birth-day, which he always kept with a
bottle of brandy additional, he rambled out into the
fog, and came back with a cold. — Peste! I knew,
that it was all over with him ; but I nursed him like
a babe, and he died, like a true Austrian, with his
meerschaum in his mouth ; bequeathing me his
snuff-box, the certificate of his pension, and his
blessing. — I buried him, got pensioned, and was
broken-hearted. But, what, then, was to be done? I
was born for society. I once or twice thought of an
eleventh husband ; but I was now rich. I had above
a thousand francs, and a pension of a hundred ; this
perplexed me. I was determined to be married for
myself alone. Yet, how could I know, whether the
hypocrites who clustered round me, were not thinking
of my money all the while ? So, I determined to
marry no more ; and became a Beguine."

In all my vexation, I could not help turning my
eyes upon the sentimentalist. She interpreted it in
the happy way of her country. " You vronder at


ray self-denial," said she ; " I perceive it in your
astonishment. I was but fifty then. Yes," said
she, clasping her hands and looking pathetic ; " I
acknowledge that it was cruel. What right had I to
break so many hearts ? I have much to answer for
— and I but fifty ! I am even now but fifty-six.
Yet, observe, I have taken no vows ; remark that,
Monsieur le Capitaine. At this moment 1 am only
a Sceur de Charite. No, nothing shall ever induce
me to make, or keep the vows. / am free to marry
to-morrow ; and I only beg. Monsieur le Capitaine,
that when you are well enough to go abroad again,
whether in the town or in the country, or in what-
ever part of Europe you may travel, you will have

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 19)