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International Miscellany of Literature, Art and Science, Vol. 1, No. 3, Oct. 1, 1850 online

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There are plants which the dew and sun do not completely develop. There
are beings like weak plants, attached to earth by but feeble roots, and
who from their very birth seem predestined to misfortune, and who, by
a kind of second-sight, made aware of the fate which awaits them, attach
themselves with fear and trembling to a world in which they anticipate
only an ephemeral existence and cruel deception. Their sadness is
reflected on those who approach them. There is as it were a fatal circle
around them, in which all feel themselves seized with indescribable fear,
and with the evidences of sympathy entertained for them is mingled a kind
of commiseration.

Ireneus experienced at the appearance of Ebba this sentiment of
uneasiness and melancholy sympathy. When after supper he bade adieu to
his uncle and cousins, when he was alone in his room, he smiled when he
remembered the amiable gayety of Alete, but became sad and pensive when
he recalled the dreamy look of her young sister, the sad melancholy
glance which shone over her face like the twilight of an autumn day.

Ireneus was not however one of those sentimental beings belonging to the
Byronic or German school. His mind was rather energetic than tender; it
was rather ardent than despairing. The son of a brave country gentleman
who had devoted fortune and life to the cause of legitimacy, and after
having followed the princes in their various emigrations, had died for
them in the wilderness of la Vendée. Ireneus had been the inheritor of
that obstinate will which never deviates from the end it proposes to
itself, and of a chivalric worship of the Royal family, which to him
seemed by a law divine to be invested with the imprescriptible right to
govern France. Of the large fortune which formerly belonged to his
family, the revolution had left him but a dilapidated castle, a few
fields and forests, the revenue of which scarcely sufficed to support his
mother in comfort.

The condition of his fortune did not permit him to lead an idle life. His
birth made his profession certain. He entered Saint-Cyr, and left it with
the best possible recommendations. He could also appeal to the traditions
of his fathers services. Through the union of these two claims he was so
rapidly advanced that at twenty-eight he was already Captain of the
Lancers of the Guard, with an honorable name, a handsome person, some
intelligence and that elegance of manners inherent in the class to which
he belonged, and which to us is known as the aristocracy, the young
nobleman might without presumption anticipate a brilliant future. His
mother amid the silence of her provincial castle followed him step by
step, with pride, and her solitary dreams saw him the husband of a rich
heiress, Colonel and aide-de-camp of a prince, deputy and peer of France.
Who can tell how vague were the hopes entertained in relation to that
child in whom all her hopes were centered!

His mother was lost in this study and observation of castles in the air,
when the revolutions of July burst forth like a thunderbolt, and at one
blow overturned all her aerial edifices.

Ireneus was at Paris when this terrible contest, the result of which was
the overturning of a monarchy, began with the crushing of a throne. He
fought with the ardor inspired at once by his love of legitimacy and his
innate horror of the revolutionary flag. On the first day he had the
honor of resisting with his company a numerous body of insurgents, and
succeeded in protecting the post which had been confided to him. On the
second day, after a desperate contest, the danger of which served only to
magnify his courage, he fell from his horse with a ball through his
chest. His soldiers who were devoted to him bore him to a house where he
was kindly treated. A few hours after, a General who had seen him in the
battle, sent him the brevet of Major. It was an empty honor, for the hand
which signed this promotion soon renounced all human grandeur and all
command.

The wound of Ireneus was severe. The kind attentions however which
surrounded, protected him from danger of death. As soon as he was
beginning to grow well, he went to his mother's house, where his cure
was completed. There he heard of the new exile of those for whom his
father had shed his blood and of the establishment of the new monarchy.
Many of his friends were soon induced to connect themselves with the new
monarchy which retained them in service, and even conferred special
compliments on them, and they wrote to induce him to follow their
example. Such a thought never entered his mind. Without partaking of the
exaggerated hatred of many of the Legitimists against the new monarchy,
he had stated that he would never serve it. He was not a man to violate a
promise. But he was subject to the danger of inactivity, the greatest
torment of active and strong minds. As an ambitious man examines with
great uneasiness the path which leads him to power, as the speculator
contemplates the capricious whims of fortune, as the young officer
waiting orders looks in every direction for action, did Ireneus. More
than once he resolved to join his fortunes with those of the exiled
princes in the arena of public opinion. They however had submitted to
their fate, and no longer appealed to their faithful servants. The time
of Royal crusades had gone by. Sovereigns made uneasy by the
effervescence of revolutions, which like a contagion spread over Europe,
had enough to do to secure their own thrones, and had no disposition to
ruin themselves in lifting up that of a neighbor.

Madame de Vermondans, after striving in vain to amuse her son, induced
him to visit his uncle in Sweden, hoping that travel would restore quiet
to his mind. It was one of those healthful remedies which often escape
the observation of science, and are suggested only by the ingenuity of
tenderness. Nothing in certain moral diseases is more efficacious than
travel. He who after having enjoyed all the emotions of active life,
finds himself at once condemned to the sterility of idleness, suffers
under a perpetual fever. Within him there is as it were an ever-acting
spring he strives with a constant effort to repress.

His intellectual and physical faculties, his imagination, his senses seek
to resume their old power. If the forces with which he is endowed, if the
abundant grasp of his mind are paralyzed in their motion, these forces
weigh on him like a useless burden. Soon in consequence of the internal
contest he has undergone, the constant desires he has given vent to, from
the very exuberance of life, which finding no outlet, recoils on itself,
he becomes a victim of the demon of satiety. To escape from its rude
grasp, air and space are required. The victim must be borne from the
narrow circle within which he is riveted as by a chain, which clasps his
frame. He must shake from himself every chimera, and to enable him to
forget himself, the aspect of strange lands, of scenes and pictures
which one after the other exhibit themselves before him, all that
forcibly attracts the attention, all that occupies the mind in a new
land, material cares, unexpected incidents, the surprises of travel, and
yet more the magical influence of nature, are required to restore tone to
the sick soul.

Ireneus had really experienced the effect of this moral remedy. In his
journey across Germany and the North, he had not recovered his early
impetus, his natural ardor, but he at least felt himself master of
himself. He reached his uncle's house in the happiest possible
disposition of mind.

When he arose on the next day, he took occasion to remark the delicate
Precaution taken to render his sojourn pleasant as possible. The
furniture of maple or birch was plain, but wonderfully neat; the bed
linen was of snowy whiteness and purity; and perfumed by aromatic plants
with which in the drawers it had been strewed. Here and there were a few
choice engravings, and on the floor was a carpet woven by his two
cousins.

At the very dawn of day a servant came to open the earthen stove, which
stood on the hearth like a vast column, and placed in it an armfull of
the pitch pine, which sent out jets of flame and a perfume which filled
the whole room. Double windows protected this room also against the
severity of the weather. Between them was a bed of flocks of wool on
which the young girls had placed artificial flowers, as if to preserve in
the nudity of winter the smiling image of spring. Here windows looked out
on a landscape which in the summer time must have presented a charming
aspect. The house of M. Vermondans stood on a hill, on the brow of which
was a breast of pines. In front of the principal façade was a garden with
a proclivity toward the lake, which was surrounded and sheltered by a
belt of trees. In the distance the peasants' houses were seen, the tall
clock spire of Aland, and far in the distance the chimneys of the furnace
belonging to M. de Vermondans. At this moment, the plain, the
snow-covered woods, the frozen lake presented one uniform color. Any one,
however, might see they would present beautiful landscapes, when the sun
called forth the field-flowers, made the forests lifeful, and gilded the
water.

Ireneus went to his uncle's room. He found the old man rested in an arm
chair, with his legs crossed and a long pipe in his mouth.

M. de Vermondans was not one of those persons who willingly distress
themselves about what the poets call the miseries of human life. He took
things as they came, and enjoyed prosperity without imagining future
troubles.

While young, he had fought with his brothers the battles of legitimacy.
Like his brother, he entertained a mortal hatred for revolutionary
rabble: gradually, like many others, he had begun to reason on the
matter, and become so tolerant that his doctrines reached the point
almost of carelessness. Just as her [sic] nephew came in, he was
reflecting and _quasi_ confirmed in the wisdom of his principles. "Yes,"
said he, as if he continued a conversation already begun, "yes, my
friend, I am as much opposed as you are to a stormy revolution. I left my
father's house, I abandoned my patrimony to accompany our princes into
exile. I have fought for them, in their holy cause I received a sabre cut
on the arm, which every now and then, by a very disagreeable sensation,
recalls my youthful patriotism to me. Soon, however, the idle pretensions
of my comrades, the disputes of our chiefs, repressed my ardor. I left
one of the cohorts in which reason was treated as treachery, and where
boasting alone was listened to with complacency. There firmness and
complaisance were paralyzed now by erroneous movements and next by
contradictory orders. A faithful servant contrived to save a portion of
my estate, and at the peril of his own life brought me twenty thousand
francs in gold. With this sum I came to Sweden, knowing that here
everything was cheap, and determined to buy a small estate on which I
might live, until I could find an opportunity of serving to some purpose
that cause to which my heart was devoted, and which I had never yet
entirely abandoned.

"At Stockholm one of those strange rencontres which we attribute to
chance, but which the pious with more propriety think originate in
Providence, made me acquainted with a land-holder in Angermania, named
Guldberg, as good a man as ever lived. I am indebted to him for all my
prosperity, and I bless his memory. M. Guldberg had discovered a rich
mineral deposit on his estate, was anxious to establish a furnace, and
sought for some one to aid him in his enterprise. In the course of my
studies I had acquired some ideas of hydraulics and mechanics, trifling
enough it is true, but one day conversation having been directed to these
matters, Guldberg, who knew even less than I did, appeared delighted with
my explanations, and asked me to aid him in his projected enterprise.
Without reflecting more than he did when he made the offer, I consented.
I came hither with him: I superintended the construction and the first
labor of the furnace you see glowing there. I was not unlike the ignorant
teacher who studies in the morning the lesson he teaches in the
afternoon. I made more than one unfortunate experiment. I committed more
than one error, but at last I got our establishment under way. Guldberg
had suffered patiently, and never complained of the mistakes I had made,
and now appeared most grateful for my success. He very generously offered
me a share of the profits of an enterprise which from the very
commencement promised the most favorable results. From this time
commences a series of derogations I now look on as so many wise
resolutions, but which many would look on as acts of apostasy. Here I am,
a French noble, with I know not how many illustrious quarters,
compromising my escatcheon in an industrial occupation. This was the
first derogation. Guldberg had an only daughter, very interesting, and
who pleased me. She had the kindness to show that I was not disagreeable;
she however had not a drop of noble blood, not even a single quartering.
I married her, much to your father's discontent. That was my second
derogation. This woman during her life was the very impersonation of
virtue, but was a protestant, and asked me as a favor that if our
children were female, they might be educated in her faith. My two
daughters believe as their mother did. That is the third derogation.

"An honest young fellow has courted the eldest of these girls. He is the
son of a priest, and will go into orders himself if he does not become
professor of a college. I saw my dear Alete had confidence in him. I
consented that she should marry a plebeian and a heretic. In this was
comprised the fourth and fifth derogation. I suffered the revolutionary
crisis of France to pass without exciting me: I have learned through the
papers that our dear country, the most intelligent in the world, has
successively adulated and cursed the bloody tyranny of Robespiere, the
gallantry of Barras, the Consulate, Empire and the Revolution.

"When the lilies replaced the tricolor, and the amiable people of Paris
cast themselves before the troops of the white-horse of Monsieur, with
the same enthusiasm they had a few years before manifested at the
appearance of the proud charger of the conqueror of Wagram and Jena, I
remained here and never changed my colors: I never cried 'down with the
Corsican Ogre.' Smoking my pipe in peace, I watched my furnace, smiled on
my children and my harvests, in the sunlight of Sweden, which would be so
delightful if it were a little less rare. This was another and a terrible
derogation.

"Gradually, however, dear Ireneus, I built up a faith to suit myself,
found, I think, in the works of no philosopher (I read but little), but
which yet seems to me a very good rule of conduct, inasmuch as it leaves
the conscience at ease and makes me as happy as any one can be in this
valley of tears. I therefore think, dear Ireneus, that in our benevolence
we make monsters of certain ideas which we imbibe when we are children,
and to which, without examination, we always submit ourselves. I think
that without violating any true principle of morality, without ceasing to
be, in any respect, a moral man, we may break some links of that network
of traditions spun for us by our teachers at so much an hour, and which
throws a hood over us as it is thrown over a falcon, to keep it from
flying in the infinitude of space. I respect every sincere belief, even
hat which I look on as a prejudice, and I insist that my own be
respected. As a conclusion of my profession of faith, I am willing to
admit that even a republican convinced of the justness of his opinions
appears as reasonable to me as a monarchist, and that a quaker or
Calvinist is as near heaven as the devout Catholic.

"When my mind lifts itself up toward God, I imagine him the
representative and originater of all good, and I am convinced that the
surest way to approach him, to merit his favor and win his blessing, is,
in the circle in which we are, whether large or small, to do as much good
as possible. I say, that the workingman, who toils for a short time to
assist his invalid neighbor, acquires more merit than the rich man, who
with an icy hand casts his coin into the lap of the indigent. I have the
audacity to think that a king, who in the splendor of his court is
forgetful of the suffering of his people; that a noble, who abandons
himself to all the enjoyments of his fortune, forgetful of misery
languishing at his castle gate, are great criminals; and that God will
punish their misdeeds, either on them, or, as the Bible says, 'on their
children even until the fourth and fifth generation.'"

Ireneus, who had listened in silence to this long profession of faith,
asked himself if it was worth while to contradict it. The words of his
uncle were contradictory of one of those doctrines, which are the more
difficult to shake, as they have their hold in the philosophy of the
heart, and are fenced around with many noble sentiments. His loyalty,
however, seemed to require some reply, and he spoke as follows:

"I understand well enough, my dear uncle, the chain of circumstances
which has led you almost to lay aside the principles which now seem
prejudices to you. I myself willingly immolate on the altar of new ideas
that pride of nobility which delights in the study of old parchments, and
makes a kind of fetish of scutcheons carved on the walls of an ancient
castle. I condemn as a foolish error, the airs of superiority affected by
old nobles in respect to merit sprung from the people; and if, in the
opinion of my father, your marriage with the daughter of your friend,
seemed a degradation, forgive him. Remember that he died at an epoch of
strife and convulsion in which every noble defended, with the greatest
possible ardor, the prerogatives of his rank, which he saw were attacked
by the maddest passion, and were in danger of being lost. Since then we
have made much progress. The barriers which formerly divided society into
two classes have been destroyed, space has been opened for every one to
carve his own way, and the people participate in governments, and in the
royal councils.

"The majority of the ministers of the Restoration were chosen from among
the people. In relation to this, I admit all the reasonings of the
philosophers of the eighteenth century, and of the liberals of our own
times. In them I find expansion of heart, intelligence, and I care not
for genealogy. The qualities of mind, grace and beauty seem to me signs
of distinction marked by the finger of God, who is wiser far than
D'Hozier.[A] I cannot, however, forget that this race of nobles, so
cruelly persecuted thirty years ago, so often trampled on in our own
times, was the glory and the power of France. I was forced with pain to
see with what incessant malignity this race, though stripped of its
ancient power, was attacked. I have often said that in sapping the
foundations of the aristocratic edifice, that in crushing the legitimacy
of the nobles, an attack was made on the legitimacy of monarchy. The
revolution just over has but too well justified my apprehensions. This
revolution which by a species of criminal conversion, selects one of the
old royal blood to occupy the throne of the exile, which selects the one
nearest the throne, is perhaps but the first of a series of convulsions,
in which will be engulfed, by ambition and pride, the wisdom and
experience of the past."


[Footnote A: A genealogist of great repute in France, twenty years
since.]


This conversation between the uncle and nephew was interrupted by the
sound of a horse's hoofs, dragging a sleigh rapidly toward the door of
the house.

"That is beyond doubt my future son-in-law," said M. de Vermondans,
"another philosopher, who, like yourself, does not in every respect agree
with you. He is, however, a good fellow, who under a by no means
aristocratic exterior conceals the noblest qualities."

When she heard the sleigh, Alete ran to the door sill; and Ebba followed
him. At the appearance of the two sisters, like a rose and a lily, the
young man hastened to divest himself of the thick fur which enwrapped
him, sprang from the sleigh, and hastened to his betrothed. He had not,
however, remembered the caprice of Alete, who, instead of giving him her
hand as usual, looked sternly at him, and said:

"Sir, you are incorrigible. How comes that waistcoat to be buttoned
wrong? And why has that cravat wings, like those of a crow? Why does your
shirt-collar come up to your ears? Is this the fruit of the lessons on
the toilette, which I have so often given you? Did I not also order you
to attend to your hair, and not let it fall on your shoulder, like two
bundles of flax, in disorder? You do not know that we have here a cousin
from Paris, who will take you for a Goth, or the Lord knows what."

The poor young man, stupefied at this reception, looked down
mechanically, with his hand on his waistcoat and his cravat, and did not
dare to approach his rigorous mistress.

"Alete, Alete," said Ebba, with a voice of supplication, "how can you be
so cruel!"

Alete, satisfied beyond doubt by the respectful submission with which her
Reproaches had been received, sprang to the neck of her betrothed, and
said,

"But I love my dear Eric truly. If I sometimes play the magnificent with
him, it is to make him think that he has himself, in a noble epistle,
called me his sovereign. Is not this so, Eric?" added she, leaning toward
him like a petted child. "Do you not weary of my little wickednesses? At
present, you see, I use the remnant of my liberty: when we are married,
however, I shall be a model of obedience."

The face of Eric had already become lighted up, and he kissed with
pleasure the little hand placed in his.

Alete seemed to fear nothing so much as these sentimental manifestations,
and took him into the room where the uncle and nephew had their political
contest, and pausing before Ireneus, said,

"Cousin, permit me to introduce to you M. Eric Goldberg, Doctor of the
University of Upsal, and a learned Grecian, who never in his life read a
single line of the _Journal des Modes_, and cannot conceive of the
difference between a good and bad tailor; who would not know how to hold
a fan; or to perform a contradance, but who, in spite of all that, is one
of the best fellows in the world, and is devoted to your cousin."

After this singular introduction, a faint blush spread over the face of
the young doctor. A clasp of the hand, and an affectionate word, however,
from Ireneus, put an end to all embarrassment.

"A strange girl," said M. de Vermondans, following Alete with his eye as
she hurried to the kitchen to take charge of the preparations for dinner.
"Is not that an odd introduction of her husband and lover? She never does
things, however, like other people. Be seated, dear Eric, though, and
tell me why we have not seen you for three days. We had began to be
uneasy about you, and Alete often looked toward the window. Had you not
come to-day, I should have sent to ask the reason."

"My father has been a little unwell," replied Eric; as he placed his
hands, made red by the cold, near the stove. "I had to remain to assist
him in some of his duties, and to amuse him by reading to him. This
morning, as I learned that Monsieur - Monsieur - "

"Say at once your cousin," said Ireneus, frankly.

"That my cousin" resumed the timid Eric, with more confidence, "had
arrived, I was unwilling to remain longer away, and my father was kind
enough not to wish to retain me."

As the Upsal student pronounced these few simple words, Ireneus observed
him, and discovered in his face such an expression of kindness, and in
his clear blue eyes such intelligence that he felt a real sympathy for
him.

"I thank you," said he, "for thinking of me before you knew me. I hope
that when we shall be acquainted you will grant me a portion of the love
you have conferred on my family. I am already disposed to love you as a
cousin."

"Ah!" cried Eric, springing up, and glancing at Ireneus with an
expression of radiant joy, "how happy I am at what you say! I was afraid.
I will confess, that I might find in you one of those careless men of the
world, as we hear most of the Parisians are. I see, however, you are a
worthy nephew of him I shall soon call uncle."

"Gentlemen," said Alete, who from the door had, with a pleasant smile on
her face, heard this amicable exchange of sentiments, "will you be
pleased to come to dinner?"



Online LibraryVariousInternational Miscellany of Literature, Art and Science, Vol. 1, No. 3, Oct. 1, 1850 → online text (page 11 of 34)