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Marston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) online

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about to repeat his thanks "to the Captain," in person,
who lay with his head wrapped in his cloak upon the
sofa, and groaning with the torture of his wound ;
when, fearing the effects on the nerves of my invalid
friend, I hmried Mordecai into another apartment,
and there heard his brief history, since we had parted.

Mariamne had suddenly grown discontented with
Poland ; which to Mordecai himself had become a
weary residence, from the ravages of the French war.
" For some reason, unaccountable to me," said the old
man, "she set her heart upon Spain, and had now
been domiciled in this secluded spot for a year. But
she was visibly fading away. She read and wrote
much, and was even more attached to her harp and
her flowers than ever ; yet declared that she had bid
farewell to the world." The father wept as he spoke,
but his were the tears of sorrow rather than of anguish.
They stole quietly down his cheeks, and showed that
the stern and haughty spirit was subdued within him.

I had not ventured to allude to Lafontaine ; but
the current of his own thoughts at length led to that
forbidden topic. " I am afraid, Mr. Marston," said
he, "that I have been too harsh with my child. I
looked for her alliance with some of the opulent
N 6


among my own kindred ; or I should have rejoiced if
your regards had been fixed on her, and hers on you.
And in those dreams, I forgot that the affections
must choose for themselves. I had no objection to
the young Frenchman, but that he was a stranger,
and was poor. — Yet are not we ourselves strangers ?
and if he was poor, was not I rich ? But all is over
now ; and I shall only have to follow my poor Ma-
riamne, where I should have much rather preceded
her^ — to the grave."

I now requested to see Mariamne. She met me
with a cry of joy, and with a cheek of sudden crim-
son ; but, when the first flush passed away, her looks
gave painful proof of the effect of solitude and sor-
row. The rounded beauty of her cheek was gone ;
her eyes, once dancing with every emotion, were fixed
and hollow ; and her frame, once remarkable for
symmetry, was thin and feeble. But, her heart was
buoyant still, and when I talked of past scenes and
recollections, her eye sparkled once more. Still, her
manner was changed — it was softer and less capri-
cious ; her language, even her voice was subdued.
At length, after hearing some slight detail of her
wanderings, and her fears, that the troubles of Spain
might drive her from a country in whose genial climate
and flowery fields "she had hoped to end her days;"
I incidentally asked — whether, in all her wanderings,
she had heard of " my friend, Lafontaine." How im-
possible is it to deceive the instinct of the female
heart ! The look which she gave me, the searching
glance of her fine eyes, which flashed with all their


former lustre, and the sudden quivering of her lip,
told me how deeply his image was fixed in her recol-
lection. She saw at once that I had tidings of her
lover; and she hung upon the hand which I held
out to her, with breathless and beseeching anxiety
I now discovered, that it was some rumour of his
having crossed the Pyrenees, which awoke her sud-
den partiality for a residence in Spain. After some
precautions, I revealed to her the facts — that he was
as faithfully devoted to her as ever, and — that he
was even under her roof!

I leave the rest of her story to be conjectured. I
shall only say, that I saw her made happy ; her
former vivacity restored, her eye sparkling once
more ; and even the heart of her father cheered, and
acknowledging "that there was happiness in the
world, if men did not mar it for themselves." The
" course of true love " had at last, " run smooth."

I was present at the marriage of Lafontaine. The
trials of fortune had been of infinite service to him ;
they had sobered his eccentricity, taught him the
value of a quiet mind, and prepared him for that
manlier career which belongs to the husband and the
father. I left them, thanking me in all the language
of gratitude, promising to visit me in England.

My mission to the junta was speedily and success-
fully accomplished. Spain, in want of every thing
but that which no subsidy could supply, a determi-
nation to die in the last entrenchment ; was offered
arms, ammunition, and the aid of an English army.


In her pride, and yet a pride which none could
blame, she professed herself able to conquer by her
own intrepidity. Later experience showed her, by
many a suffering, the value of England as the guide,
sustainer, and example of her national strength. But
Spain had still the gallant distinction of being the
first nation which, as one man, dared to defy the
conqueror of all the great military powers of the
Continent. The sieges of Saragossa and Gerona will
immortalize the courage of the Spanish soldier j the
guerilla campaigns will immortalize the courage of
the Spanish peasant ; and the memorable confession
of the French Emperor, that " Spain was his greatest
error, and his ultimate ruin," is a testimonial more
lasting than the proudest trophy, to the magnani-
mous warfare of the Peninsula.

This was the crisis. The spirit of the whole
European war now assumed a bolder, loftier, and
more triumphant form. A sudden conviction filled
the general heart, that the fortunes of the field
were about to change. Nations which had, till then,
been only emulous in prostration to the universal
conqueror, now assumed the port of courage, pre-
pared their arms, and longed to try their cause again
in battle. The outcry of Spain, answered by the
trumpet of England, pierced to the depths of that
dungeon in which the intrigue and the power of
France had laboured to bury the continental na-
tions. The war of the Revolution has already found
historians, of eloquence and knowledge worthy of so
magnificent an era of human change. But, to me.


the chief interest arose from its successive develop-
ments of the European mind. The whole period was
a continual awakening of faculties, hitherto almost
unknown, in the great body of the people. — The first
burst of the Revolution, like the first use of gun-
powder, had only shown the boundless force of a
new element of destruction. The Spanish insurrec-
tion showed its protecting and preservative power.
The tremendous energy which seemed to defy all
control, was there seen effecting the highest results
of national defence, and giving proof of the irresist-
ible strength provided in the population of every
land. What nation of Europe does not possess a
million of men for its defence; and what invader
could confront a million of men on their own soil ?
Let this truth be felt, and aggression must become
hopeless, and war cease to exist among men.

For the first time in the history of war, it was
discovered, that the true force of kingdoms had been
mistaken — a mistake which had lasted for a thousand
years ; that armies were but splendid machines ; and
that, while they might be crushed by the impulse of
machines more rapid, stronger, and more skilfully
directed, nothing could crush the vigour of defence,
supplied by a people.

The levee en masse of France was but the rudest,
as it was the earliest, form of the new discovery.
There, terror was the moving principle. The con-
scription was the recruiting-officer. The guillotine
was the commander, who manoeuvred the genei'als,
the troops, and the nation. Yet, the revolutionary


armies differed in nothing from the monarchical, but
in the superiority of their numbers, and the infe-
riority of their discipline.

The war of Spain was another, and a nobler ad-
vance. It was the war of a nation ; in France
the war was the conspiracy of a faction. In
Spain the loss of the capital only inflamed the
hostility of the provinces ; in France the loss
of the capital would have extinguished the Re-
volution ; as it afterwards extinguished the Empire.
I think, that I can see the provision for a still bolder
and more beneficent advance, even in those fierce
developments of national capabilities. But, it will,
perhaps, be left to other nations. Spain and France
have a yoke upon their minds, which will disqualify
them both from acting the nobler part, of guides to
Europe. Superstition contains in itself the canker
of slavery; perfect freedom is essential to perfect
power ; and the nation which, from the cradle, pros-
trates itself to the priest, must retain the early flexure
and feebleness of its spine. The great experiment
must be reserved for a nobler public mind ; for a
people religious without fanaticism, and free without
licentiousness ; honouring the wisdom of their fathers,
without rejecting the wisdom of the living age ; as-
piring to the ministration of universal good, without
the stain of ambition, and conscious that its opu-
lence, knowledge, and grandeur, are only gifts for

The system of the war was now fully established.
All the feelings of England were fixed on the Penin-


sula, and all the politics of her statesmen and their
rivals, were alike guided by the course of the conflict.
The prediction was gallantly fulfilled — that the
French empire would there expose its flank to
English intrepidity ; that the breaching battery
which was to open the way to Paris, would be fixed
on the Pyrenees ; and that the true " sign of con-
quest," was the banner of England.


" Tongues which neither know
My faculties nor person ; yet will be
The chroniclers of my doing. Let rae say
'Tis but the fate of man. We must not stint
Our necessary actions, in the fear
To meet malicious censui'ers, which ever,
As ravenous fishes, do a vessel follow
That is new tirmmed. If we shall stand still,
In fear, our motion will be marked or carped at.
We should take root here, where we sit, or sit
State statues only." Shakspeare.

The battle of the Ministry was fought in Spain,
and as victoriously as the battle of our army. We
saw Opposition gradually throw away its weapons,
and gradually diminish in the popular view, until
its existence was scarcely visible. Successive changes
varied the cabinet, but none shook its stability.
Successive ministers sank into the grave, but the
ministry stood. Perceval perished ; but the poli-
tical system of the cabinet remained unchanged.
Castlereagh perished — Liverpool perished; but the
political system still survived. The successive
pilots might give up the helm, but the course of the


great vessel of the State continued the same — guided
by the same science, and making her way through
sunshine, and through storm, to the same point of

The three successive ministers were men of high
abiUty for government, though the character of their
ability exhibited the most remarkable distinctions.
Perceval had been a lawyer. To the House, he
carried the acuteness, the logic, and even the manner
of his profession with him. Without pretending to
the triumphs of eloquence, he singularly possessed
the power of conviction ; without effecting changes
in the theory of the constitution, he put its truths
in a new light ; and without a trace of bigotry, he
defended, with conscientious vigour, the rights of the
national religion. Long maintaining a bold resist-
ance at the head of the feeblest minority perhaps
ever known in Parliament, he had shown unshaken
courage and undismayed principle. This defence
was at length turned into assault, and his opponents
were driven from power. His ministry was only too
brief for his fame. But, when he fell by the hand
of a maniac, he left a universal impression on the
mind of the empire, that the blow had deprived it of
a great ministerial mind.

Castlereagh exhibited a character of a totally
different order ; yet equally fitted for his time. An
Irishman, he had the habitual intrepidity of his
countrymen. Nobly connected, and placed high in
public life by that connexion, he showed himself
capable of sustaining his ministerial rank by his


personal capacity. Careless of style, he was yet
an effective debater. But it was in the council, that
his value to the country was most acknowledged.
His conception of the rights, the influence, and the
services of England, was lofty ; and, when the
period came, for deciding on her rank in the presence
of continental diplomacy, he was her chosen, and
her successful, representative. His natural place
was among the councils of camps, where sovereigns
were the soldiers. — The '* march to Paris " was due
to his courage : and the first fall of Napoleon was
effected by the ambassador of England.

Lord Liverpool was a man equally fitted for his
time. The war had triumphantly closed. But, a
period of perturbed feelings and financial necessities
followed; it required in the minister a combination
of sound sense and practical vigour — of deference
for the public feelings, yet respect for the laws — of
promptitude in discovering national resources, and
yet of firmness in repelling factious change. The
head of the cabinet possessed those qualities. No
man formed his views with clearer intelligence ; and
no man pursued them with more steady determina-
tion. Perhaps, disdaining the glitter of popularity,
no minister, for the last half century, had been so
singularly exempt from all the sarcasms of public
opinion. The nation relied on his sincerity,
honoured his purity of principle, and willingly con-
fided its safety to hands, which none believed capa-
ble of a stain.

But the characters of those three ministers were


striking, in a still higher point of view. It is scarcely
fanciful to conceive that their qualities had been
constructed to meet their times. Perceval — acute,
strict, and with strong religious conceptions ; to
meet a period, when religious laxity in the cabinet
had already enfeebled the defence of the national
religion. Castlereagh — stately, bold, and high-
toned — to meet a period, when the fate of Eu-
rope was to be removed from cabinets to the field,
and when he was to carry the will of England
among assembled monarchs. Liverpool — calm, ra-
tional, and practical; the man of conscience and
common sense to meet the period, when the great
questions of religion had been quieted, the great
questions of the war had died with the war, and
when the supreme difficulty of government was, to
reconcile the pressure of financial exigency with the
progress of the people ; to invigorate the public
frame without inflaming it by dangerous innovation ;
and to reconstruct the whole commercial constitu-
tion, without infringing on those principles which
had founded the prosperity of the empire.

At length the consummation came : the French
empire fell, on the field, by the hand of England.
All the sovereigns of Europe rushed in, to strip the
corpse, and each carried back a portion of the
spoils. But the conqueror was content with the
triumph, and asked no more glory, than the libera-
tion of mankind.

In the midst of these colossal events ; all personal
interests sink into trifles. And yet, fortune had not


neglected to reward the gentler virtues of one worthy
of its noblest gifts. In my first campaign with the
Prussian troops in France, I had intrusted to the
care of the old domestic whom I found in the Cha-
teau de Montauban, an escritoire and a picture, be-
longing to the family of Clotilde. The old man had
disappeared ; and I took it for granted, that he had
been plundered, or had died.

But, one day, after my return from the splendid
entertainment with which the Regent welcomed the
allied sovereigns, I found Clotilde deeply agitated.
The picture of her relative was before her, and she
was gazing at its singularly expressive and lovely
countenance with intense interest.

She flew into my arms. " I have longed for your
coming," said she, with glowing lips and tearful
eyes, *' to offer at least one proof of gratitude for
5''ears of the truest protection, and the most generous
love. Michelle, the husband of my nurse, has ar-
rived ; and he tells me, that this escritoire contains
the title-deeds of my family, — I was resolved that
you alone should open it. In the frame of that
picture, in a secret drawer, is the key." The spring
was touched, the key was found; and in the little
chest was discovered, uninjured by chance or time,
the document, entitling my beautiful and high-
hearted wife to one of the finest possessions in
France. By a singular instance of good fortune, the
property had not been alienated, like so many of the
estates of the noblesse ; and it now lay open to the
claims of the original proprietorship.


I hastened to Paris. My claim was acknowledged
by the returned Bourbon ; and Clotilde had the de-
light of once more sitting under the vine and the
fig-tree of her ancestors. The old domestic had
made it the business of years, to obtain the means of
reaching England. But the war had placed ob-
stacles in his way every where ; and he devoted him-
self thenceforth to the guardianship of his precious
deposit, as the duty of his life. He was almost
pathetic, in his narration of the hazards to which it
had been exposed in the perpetual convulsions of the
country, and in the rejoicing with which he felt
himself at last enabled to place it in the hands of its
rightful mistress, the last descendant of the noble
house of De Tourville. — The wheel now turned, for
myself; and I had to draw a prize in the great lot-
tery of fortune.

On the evening of my birth-day, Clotilde had
given a rustic fete to the children of her tenantry ;
and all Avere dancing in front of the chateau, with
the gaiety and with the grace, which nature seems
to have conferred as an especial gift on even the
humblest classes of France.

The day was one of the luxury of summer. The
landscape before me was a rich extent of plain and
hill ; the fragrance of the vast gardens of the chateau
was rising as the twilight approached ; my infants
were clustering round my knee ; and in that thank-
fulness of heart, which is not the less sincere for its
not being expressed in words ; I came to the conclu-
sion, that no access of wealth, or of honours, could
add to my substantial happiness at that hour.


My reverie was broken by the sound of a caleche
driving up the avenue. A courier ahghted from it,
who brought a letter with a black seal, addressed to
me. It was from the family solicitor. — My noble
brother had died, in Madeira ; where he had gone in
the hopeless attempt, to recruit a frame which he
had^ enervated by a life of excess.

In that hour, I gave him the regrets which be-
longed to the tie of blood. I forgot his selfishness,
and forgave his alienation. I thought of him only
as the remembered playfellow of my early days; and
could say in heart — " Alas, my brother ! " The
landscape before me at last sank into night ; and
with feelings darkened like it, yet calm and still, I
saw the closing of a day which, painful as was the
cause ; yet called me to new duties, gave me a
stronger hold upon society, and placed me in that
position, which I fully believe to combine more of
the true materials of happiness and honour than any
other on earth — that of an opulent English noble-

My brother dying childless, had devolved the
family estates to me, disburdened of the results of
his prodigality ; but I had still much to occupy me,
in restoring them from the neglect of years. The
life of the member of government was now to alter-
nate with the life of the country gentleman ; and my
transfer to the House of Peers gave me that com-
parative leisure, essential to the fulfilment of the
large and liberal duties which belong to the English
landholder. To cheer the country life by rational
hospitality ; to make friends of those whom nature


has made dependents ; to sustain those laws, by
which the rights of every man are sustained ; to
excite the country gentlemen to the study of that
noblest and most primitive of all arts, the cultiva-
tion of the soil ; to maintain among that bold and
generous race a high sense of their purp'bses, their
position, and their powers ; to invigorate the prin-
ciples which had always made them the surest de- •
fenders of the throne in its day of adversity ; and to fix
in their minds by example, more powerful than pre-
cept, a sense of solemn fidelity to the faith and free-
dom of their ancestors. These were the objects
which I proposed to myself, and which the most
powerful intellect, or the highest rank, would be well
employed in labouring to fulfil.

Yet with those tranquil and retired pursuits, I
continued to mingle the activity of public life. I
still bore my part in the discussions of the legisla-
ture. I still retained all my early sensibility to the
enjoyments which Providence has so largely distri-
buted through life. — Marriage itself freshens the feel-
ings of man ; gives him a sense of the nobler affec-
tions, and invigorates the heart, by fixing it on an
object to which the devotion of all its finer impulses
is due. But I also remembered the difficulty of
making new friendships, and I the more faithfully
sustained the old. From Guiscard and Vornhorst,
I heard at intervals; and with Lafontaine and his
Mariamne, a correspondence was kept up, rendered
interesting by the graceful animation of the husband,
and the piquant mixture of native romance and



personal talent in the wife. They had fixed their
abode on the banks of the Gave, in one of their
loveliest spots ; and with Pau in the distance,
and surrounded by their vineyards and gardens,
seemed to realize a scene in Arcadia. Guiscard
had obtained the diplomatic distinctions for which
his profound ability was framed, and held a high
place in the councils of Prussia. Vornhorst, my
gallant and good-humoured comrade, as true a heart as
ever beat under the uniform of a general of dragoons,
had obtained the government of a Hungarian pro-
vince, and was revelling in all the delights of a rank,
which made him the model of the troops, the enter-
tainer of the nobility, and the friend of everybody.

"Come and see me," he wrote, "and come, before
I am grown too fat to ride after the fleetest pack
of stag-hounds between Buda and Constantinople.
Come, in time for the emperor's birthday, and you
shall see a Parade, such as will remind you of our
old French affairs, and troops as showy as the best
under Clairfait and Coburg. I have a little troop of
my own, round me at this moment, all luckily re-
sembling their mother, once the belle of Hungary ;
and to-day I give a dinner to the staff, on my eldest
boy's receiving his first commission in the imperial
guards. The first toast, after the emperor, to-day,
shall be the health of my friend, Marston." The
letter arrived on my own birthday, and the health of
ray brave friend was not forgotten.

On the same day, I received a letter from Mordecai.
It was dated from the Pyrenees, where he had gone


to nurse his increasing years, under the care of his
daughter and her husband, and renew his feehngs
by the sight and society of their lovely children. His
letter was as mystic as usual, yet written with larger
views of the future, and a more abstracted and lofty
glance at the course of events in our eventful time.

I had long regarded Mordecai as a man singularly
thrown away. Some casual expressions during our
early intercourse, gave me ground for thinking
that a large share of his severity to mankind, his
contempt for society, and even his adoption of
his stern trade, had been the result of ill-usage
in the commencement of his career. — He had been
a distinguished student in his university, and had
entered the world of public life, full of the hopes
which the distinctions of the college are so apt to
give, and which the sullenness of the world is so fond
of crushing. In Germany, literature is the great
pioneer to office, but it must be literature that can
creep, as well as climb. He saw a crowd, of in-
ferior talent, but of superior flexibility, thrust before
him ; and in defiance, and disdain, he abandoned lite-
rature; and under the guidance of some of his kin-
dred turned to that pursuit, whose success ensures
the homage ahke of the sullen, the selfish, and the
haughty. As his wealth accumulated, the sense of
power was sharpened by the sense of retribution, and
he enjoyed his indignant triumph, in proportion, at

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 18 of 19)