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

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the chapel was even smouldering still, and the river
exhibited some frightful remnants of what were once
human beings. Not a living soul was to be seen. A
dog was stretched upon the ground, tearing up with
his paws what was probably the grave of his master.
At the sight of the escort, he howled and showed his
teeth, in evident fury at their approach ; a dragoon
fired his pistol at him ; fortunately missed him ; and
the dog bounded into the thicket. But when I
looked back, I saw him creep out again, and stretch
himself howling upon the grave.

" I write these lines at long intervals, in fear, and


only when the escort are sleeping on their horses'
necks, or eating their hurried meals upon the

" Last night the Royalist army crossed the Loire ;
and the firing continued until morning. The heights
all seemed crowned with flame. The forest in
which we had stopped for the night, Avas set on fire
in the conflict, and a large body of the Royalist
cavalry skirmished with the retreating Republicans
till morning. — It was a night of indescribable terror;
but my personal fears were forgotten in sorrow
for my honoured and aged companion. She often
fainted in my arms ; and in this wilderness, where
every cottage is deserted, and where all is flight
and consternation even among the soldiery ; what is
to become of her? I gazed upon her feeble frame
and sinking countenance, with the certainty, that in a
few hours all would be over. — How rejoicingly would
I share the quiet of her tomb !"

My heart heaved, at a reality of wretchedness so
deep, that I could scarcely conceive it to have passed
away. My mind was in the forest. I saw the pur-
suit ; the firing rang in my ears ; and in the midst
of this shock of flying and fighting men, I saw Clo-
tilde wiping the dews of death from the brow of her
helpless relative.

The illusion was even strengthened at this mo-
ment, by the flashing of a strong and sudden hght
across the ceiling of my chamber, and the trampling
of a body of troops by torchlight, entering the Castle
gates. A squadron of dragoons had arrived, escorting
a carriage. Even my glance at the buildings of the
G 4


Castle-square could scarcely recall me to the truth of
the locality ; until an aide-de-camp knocked at my
door, with a request from the viceroy, that I should
see him as soon as possible. Safely locking up my
precious record, I followed him.

There was a ball on that night in the Castle, and
our way to the private apartments of his excellency
leading through the state saloon, the whole showy
display struck upon my eyes at once. By what strange
love of contrast is it, that the human mind is never
more open to the dazzling effects of beauty, splen-
dour, and gaiety, than when it has been wrapt in the
profoundest sorrow? Are the confines of joy and
anguish so close? Is there but a hair's-breadth in-
tervention of some invisible nerve, some slender web
of imagination, between mirth and melancholy ?

The Irish are a handsome race, and none more
enjoy, or are more fitted by nature or temper, for all
the ornamental displays of society ; a Castle ball was
always a glittering exhilaration of lustre and beauty.
But I had seen all this before. To-night they min-
gled with the tenderness which the perusal of Clo-
tilde's letter had shed over all my feelings. As the
dancers moved before my eye, as the music echoed
round me, as I glanced on the walls, filled with the
portraits of the viceroys, and the gallant and great,
whose names still lived in the native history ; I ima-
gined the lovely being, with whom I connected all my
hopes of happiness, moving in the midst of that
" charmed circle," in the splendours of her original
rank, admired by all for her loveliness, and yet
giving me the whole tribute of a noble heart, grateful


for the devotion of all mine to her happiness. I in-
voluntarily paused, and, leaning against one of the
Parian pillars of that stately hall, gave unrestrained
way to my waking dream.

My conference Avith the viceroy was soon con-
cluded. The prisoner had commanded a body of
insurgents, who, after some partial successes, had
been broken, and dispersed. The leader, in his des-
perate attempts to rally them, had been severely
wounded, and was taken on the field. From the
papers found on his person, an important clue to the
principal personages and objects of the revolt was
promised ; and I proceeded to the place of tempo-
rary detention, to examine him on the rebellion.

What an utter breaking up of the vision which
had so lately absorbed all my feelings. What a con-
trast was now before me, to the pomps and plea-
sures of the fete ! On a table, in the guard-house, lay
a human form, scarcely visible by the single dim light
which flickered over it from the roof. Some of the
dragoons, covered with the marks of long travel,
were wearily lounging on the benches, or gazing on
the unhappy countenance which lay, as if in sleep or
death, before them. A sabre-wound had covered his
forehead with gore, which, almost concealing all his
features, rendered him a hideous spectacle. Even
the troopers, though sufBciently indignant at the
very name of rebel, either respected the singular
boldness of his defence, or stood silenced by the
appalling nature of the sight. The hope of obtain-
ing any information from him was now given up ;
he was evidently insensible, and all that I could do
G 5


was done, by placing him in the care of the surgeons
in attendance on the Household, and ordering that
he should have every accommodation consistent with
his aafe-keeping for the time.

I retui'ned to my chamber, and was again lost in
the outpourings of a pen which had all the candour
of a dying confession. Clotilde was again mur-
muring in my ear those solemn thoughts, which she
believed that she was writing only to be trampled in
the mazes of a French forest. Her last words
were —

" Marston, Marston, we shall never meet again !
In my days of wretchedness, I have sometimes wept
over the resolution by which I tore myself away
from you. But every calmer thought has strengthened
me in the consciousness, that I could give no higher
proof of the honour, the homage, the fond and fer-
vent affection, of my soul. I dared not be a burden
on your tenderness, or an obstacle to your natural
distinction. What could I, helpless, houseless, for-
tuneless, be but a weight upon that generous ambi-
tion of eminence which marks superior natures for
the superior honours of life ? I relinquished the
first object of my heart, and in that act I still take
a melancholy pride. I showed you of what sacri-
fices I am capable for your sake. But what sacrifice
is too vast for the heart of woman ? Farewell ! you
will never see me more.

"Clotilde de Tourville."

During that night I found it impossible to rest ; I
continued walking up and down my chamber, alter-


nately reading those fragments, and gazing on the
skies. The cavah'y torches still illumined the Castle-
square ; the blaze from the windows of the ball-room
still poured its steady radiance on the gardens ; and
the pure serenity of a rising moon shone over all.
Captivity, luxury, and the calm glory of the heavens,
were at once before me. Feverish alike with pain and
pleasure, pressed with the anxieties of state, and
filled with solemn and almost spiritualized contem-
plation, I continued gazing from my casement, until
the lights of the fete had decayed, and the moon-
beams had grown pale before the first flush of dawn.
The sounds of life now came upon the cool air, and
I was ao-ain in the world.

G 6


" Heaven, look upon me ! How my heart,
After long desolation, now unfolds,
Unto this new delight ; to kiss thy hands,
Thou dearest, dearest one, of all the parth ;
To clasp thee with my arms, which were but thrown
On the void winds before ! Oh, give me way.
Give my soul's raptui'e way ; the Uving fount
Leaps not more brightly down, from cliff to cliff,
Of high Parnassus to the golden vale,
Than the strong joy bursts gushing through my heart."


The eventful day was come — the day which I had
longed for with such ceaseless impatience, through
years of trial — the day of which, among scenes the most
disturbing, the most perilous, or the most glittering,
I had never lost sight for a moment — the day which I
had followed with a fond and fixed eye, as the pilgrim
gazes on the remote horizon where stands the shrine
he loves. It was come at last ; and yet, such are the
strange varieties and trembling sensibilities of human
feelings, I now felt awed, uncertain, and almost
alarmed, at its arrival. Before its close, I was to see
the being in whom ray existence was involved. When


I had met Clotilde last, her sentiments for me were
as devoted as were those expressed in her letter ; yet
she had repelled my declarations, sacrificed my hap-
piness to a high-toned enthusiasm, and rejected all
the supplications of an honourable heart, under the
promptings of a spirit too noble to be called pride,
yet with all the effect of the haughtiest disdain.

Still, the hour advanced, and I sent a note by her
attendant, soliciting an interview. Her hotel was
within a shoii; distance ; yet no answer came. I grew
more and more reluctant to approach her without her
direct permission. There are thousands who will not
comprehend this nervousness, but they are still igno-
rant of the power of real passion. True affection is
the most timid thing in the world. At length, unable
to endure this fever of the soul, I determined to make
the trial at once, enter her presence, make a final
declaration of all my hopes and fears, and hear my
fate once for all.

I was on the point of leaving ray chamber for the
purpose, when a message from the viceroy stopped
me. The prisoner whom I had seen brought in
during the night, was to be examined before the privy
council, and my presence was essential. Fate, or for-
tune, thus seemed always to thwart me. I followed
the messenger. The prisoner was led into the council-
room, just as I entered; and at the first glance I
recognized in him the unhappy being whom I had so
strangely met in the North, and whose romance of
rebellion had so deeply excited my interest.

His features, which, in the night, disfigured with
dust and blood, I had been unable to distinguish.


now exhibited their original aspect, that cast of
mingled melancholy and daring, which marked him
at once as conscious of the perils of his career, and
resolved to encounter them to the uttermost. His
tribunal was formed of the first men of the country,
and they treated him with the dignity of justice. His
conduct was suitable to this treatment — calm, decided,
and with more the manner of a philosopher delivering
deliberate opinions on the theory of government, than
of a desperate contemner of authority, and the head
of a wide and fierce conspiracy against the settled
order of things. He cast his deep and powerful
glance round the council-board ; as if to measure
the capacities of the men with whom he had once
prepared himself to contend for national supremacy ;
but I could not discover that he had any recollection
of me. But, I knew him well ; and if ever painter or
sculptor had desired to fix in canvass or mai'ble the
"ideal" of stately conspiracy, there stood its model
in the man before me. He spoke without the slightest
appearance of alarm, and spoke long and ably, in ex-
planation of his views ; for he disdained all justifica-
tion of them. He acknowledged their total failure,
but still contended for their original probability of
success, and for their natural necessity as the re-
storatives of Ireland.

He was listened to with a forbearance, alike aris-
ing from compassion for the fate which he had thus
chosen, and respect for the singular talent which he
displayed in this crisis of his fate. Man honours
fortitude in all its shapes. The criminal was almost
forgotten in the eloquent enthusiast; and while, with


his deep and touching voice, and eager but most ex-
pressive gestures, he poured out his glowing dreams,
revelled in brilliant impossibilities, and created scenes
of national regeneration, as high-coloured as the
glories of a tropical sunset ; they suffered him to
take his full range, and develope the whole force of
that vivid imagination, whose flame alike lured him
into the most dangerous paths of political casualty,
and blinded him to their palpable dangers. He con-
cluded, by declaring a total contempt for life ; pro-
nouncing, that with the loss of his political hopes it
had lost its value, and making but one request to the
council, that, " since fortune had flung him into the
hands of their law, its vengeance might be done upon
him with the least possible delay."

He was now removed ; and a feeling of regret, and
even of admiration followed his removal. But his
crime was undeniable, the disturbance of the public
mind was too serious, to allow of any relaxation in
the rigour of justice ; and I gave my unwilling sig-
nature to his final commitment to the state prison.

I was now once again disengaged from the fetters
of office ; and, resolved not to spend another day of
suspense, I drove to the hotel. I found it crowded
with families which had fled from their houses in the
country in the first alarm of the insurrection ; and, in
the midst of the good-humoured but unmanageable
tumult of a great household of Irish strangers, was
forced to find my own way at last. In passing
along, my eye was caught by a valise laid outside
one of the parlours, and corded, as for an immediate
departure. It was marked with " La Comtesse de


Tourville." I knocked gently at the door. I was un-
answered. I touched it — it gave way, and I stood
on the threshold.

Before me, at a table, sat a female figure, writing,
with her face turned from me, and apparently so
deeply engaged as not to have heard my entrance.
But I should have known her among a million. I
pronounced her name. She started up, in evident
alarm at the intrusion. But, in the next moment,
her pale countenance was flushed by nature's richest
rose, and she held forth her hand to me. — All my
fears vanished with that look and the touch of
that hand. All the language of earth could not
have told me, half what they told at that moment.
Of this I say no more. It was the golden moment
of my life ; I make no attempt to describe our inter-
view — to describe the indescribable.

I returned to the Castle a new being. The burden
which had weighed so long upon my spirits was now
removed. The root of bitterness, which continually
sent up its noxious vegetation, in the midst of the
most flattering hopes of my public existence, was
now extirpated ; I was secure in the full confidence
of one of the loveliest and the noblest-hearted of
human beings. — And yet how narrowly had I es-
caped the loss of all ! Clotilde, hopeless of ever
hearing of me more, had formed the determination
to leave' Ireland, on that day ; and weary of dis-
appointed aftections, and alienated from the world,
to change her name, abjure her rank, and take the
veil in one of the Italian convents connected with
her family. I should thus have lost her for ever.


She had waited on this eventful day only for the
return of her domestic. His arrest on the night
before had deranged her plans; and when he had
returned, his mixture of French verbiage and Irish
raptures, his guard-house terrors and his Castle
feasting, formed a melange so unintelligible, that she
was compelled to believe him under the influence of
a spell — that spell which is supposed to inspire so
much of the wit and wisdom of one of the cleverest
and most bizarre regions of a moonstruck world.
Even my note only added to her perplexity. It was
given by Monsieur Hannibal with such a magniloquent
description of the palace in which he found me, and
which he fully believed to be my own — of the royal
retinue surrounding my steps — of my staff of glitter-
ing officers, and the battalions and brigades of my
body-guard; that while she smiled at his narrative,
she was perfectly convinced of his derangement. But
all this had luckily produced delay ; and the hour
came when her past anxieties were to be exchanged
for the faith and fondness of one who knew her
infinite value, and was determined to devote his life
to embellishing and cheering every hour of her

We were married; and I had the delight and
honour of introducing Clotilde into a circle of rank
and lustre equal to the highest of her native country.
The monarchy of France was long since in the tomb ;
its nobility were wanderers over the face of the earth.
The fortunes, the hopes, the honours, all but the
name of her distinguished family, had gone down in
the general wreck. But now was given to me the


joyous duty of replacing, by the purest and fondest of
all rights, all that the chances of the world had taken

I thought her countenance lovelier than ever. It
exhibited some slight evidence of the deep and
harassing trials which she had so long endured;
it was pale, yet the paleness reminded me of the
exquisite hue of some of those fine sculptures which
the Italian chisel has given for the admiration of
mankind. Its expression, too, had assumed a loftier
character than even when its first glance struck my
young imagination. It had shared something of the
elevation of a mind noble by nature, but rendered
still loftier and more intellectual by being thrown on
its own resources. Yet all this was for society. Her
courtly air, inherited from an ancestry of princes;
her manners, which retained the piquant animation
of her own country, combined with the graver ele-
gance of high life in ours ; that incomparable taste in
dress, which seems the inheritance of French beauty ;
and the sparkling happiness of language, scarcely
less the gift of her native soil, made her conspicuous
from the first moment of her introduction to the
circle of the Castle.

But it was in our quiet and lonely hours that I
saw the still more captivating aspects of her nature ;
when neither the splendid Countess de Tourville,
nor the woman of brilliant conversation was before
me, but an innocent and loving girl — no Armida, no
dazzling mistress of the spells which intoxicate the
heart by first bewildering the mind ; but a sweet and
guileless creature in the first bloom of being, full of


nature, full of simplicity, full of truth. How often,
in those days of calm dehght, have I seen her fine
eyes suddenly fill with tears of thankfid joy, her
cheek glow with fond gratitude, her heart labour with
the unutterable language of secure and sacred love !

What hours can be placed in comparison with
such hours of wedded confidence ! It was then, that
I first became acquainted with the nature of the
female heart. I then first knew the treasures which
the spirit of woman may contain — the hope against
hope, the generous faith, the unfailing constancy, the
deep affection. How often, when glancing round our
superb apartments, crowded with all the glittering
and costly equipment of almost royal life, she would
clasp my hand, and touchingly contrast them with
the solitude of her cell, or the anxieties of that life of
trial " from which I alone had rescued her !" How
often, when we sat together, uninterrupted by the
world, at our sumptuous table ; would she, half sport-
ively and half in melancholy, contrast it with the
life of flight and fear which she had so lately led,
with the rude repast snatched in forests and swamps,
in the midst of civil war, with desolation round her
and despair in prospect, imprisoned, in the power of
a tyrant, and, at every step, approaching nearer to
the place of a cruel death ! Then a look would thank
me more than all the eloquence in the world. Then
I saw her eyes brighten, and her cheek bloom with
new lustre and beauty unknown before, until I could
have almost fallen at her feet and worshipped. I
felt the whole supremacy of woman, with the whole
homage of the heart of man.


A change in the British cabinet, by the death of
one of its leading members, now produced a change
in the viceroyalty; and the charge of the govern-
ment, during the interregnum, necessarily devolved
on the secretary. I never felt business more irksome
than at this juncture, and I had, more than once,
grave thoughts of casting aside the staff of office in
spite of all its gilding, withdrawing from the disturb-
ances of public life, and, with Clotilde at my side,
finding some quiet corner of England, or the earth,
where we might sit under our own vine and our own
fig-tree, and forget revolutions and court-days for the
rest of our lives.

But against this my young and lovely partner pro-
tested, with all the spirit of her ancestry ; declaring
that, though nothing would give her more unfeigned
delight than to quit courts and cities, and fashion
and fetes, for ever, if I quitted them along with her
— she could not endure the thought of my allowing
"the talents which nature had given to me, and the
opportunities which had been so liberally offered by
fortune," to perish useless to the world. I had no
answer to offer but that I had made her the arbitress
of my fate, and she was welcome to do with me as
was her sovereign will.

Accordingly I left her, looking like Hebe in her
bower, to plunge into a chaos of undecipherable
papers, to be deafened with a thousand impossible
applications, to marshal lazy departments, to reform
antiquated abuses, and, after spending twelve hours
a-day in the dust and gloom of official duty, to spend
nearly as many hours of the night battling with


arrogant and angry faction in the House of Com-

But this toil, hke most other toils, had its fruits ;
it gave me an extraordinary increase of public in-
fluence, and that influence produced, in the natural
course of such things, an extraordinary crop of ad-
herents. If I could have drunk adulation, no man
was in more imminent hazard of mystifying his own
brains. I began to be spoken of as one equal to the
highest affairs of the state, and to whom the vice-
royalty itself lay naturally open. But I still longed
for a return to England. Delighted as I was with the
grace of the higher ranks, amused with the perpetual
whim and eccentricity of the lower, and feeling that
general attachment to Ireland which every man not
disqualified by loss of character must feel, my proper
position was in that country where my connexions,
my companionships, and my habits, had been formed.
A new viceroy was announced; and I solicited my
recall. But I had still one remarkable duty to

The northern insurrection had sunk, and sunk
with a rapidity still more unexpected than the sud-
denness of its rise. The capture of its leader was a
blow at the heart, and it lost all power at the instant.
In the Castle all was self-congratulation, and the
officials talked of the revolt with as much scorn as if
there existed no elements of discord in the land.
But I was not quite so easily inclined to regard all
thino-s throuo;h the skirts of the rainbow which had
succeeded the storm ; however unwilling to check
the national exultation among a people who are as


fond of painting the world couleur de rose as the
French ; laugh as much, and enjoy their laugh much
more — my communications with England constantly
warned ministers of the hazard of new insurrections,
on a broader, deeper, and more desolating scale.

Even my brief tour of the island had shown me,
that there were materials of wilder inflammability in
the bosom of the south than in the north. The
northern revolt was like the burning of a house — the
whole was before the eye, the danger might be mea-
sured at a glance, the means of extinction might
operate upon it in their full power, and when the
materials of the house were in ashes, the conflagra-
tion died. But the southern insurrection was the
burning of a coal-mine — a fire ravaging where human
skill could scarcely gain access, kindled among stores
of combustion scarcely to be calculated by human
experience, growing fiercer the deeper it descended,
and, at every new burst, undermining the land, and
threatening to carry down into its gulfs all that was
stately or venerable on the surface of the soil.

I continued to represent that the north had re-

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 19)