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M'LLE DE LA SEIGLIERE.
[FROM THE FRENCH OF JULES SANDeau.]
which can be done, will be to make haste to get out. The champaign is close at IF it ever happen that, in passing hand; and the surrounding region, withthrough Poitiers, one of the thousand out being picturesque, has a fresh and petty accidents which go to make up the smiling aspect. Go to the banks of the sum of human existence obliges you to Clain, an inconsiderable river to which sojourn a day in that city, where, as I will the Vienne yields the honor of watering suppose, you have neither relations, nor the meadows of the chief place in its defriends, nor business interests to occupy partment, though not, however, on this acyour time, you will infallibly be seized, in count either turbulent or proud. Equal in the course of an hour or two, with that its temper, and modest in its attractions, it listless and profound ennui, which broods is an honest stream, and flows quietly on over the province like an atmosphere, and without apparently the least consciousness which one particularly inhales at the that it passes at the foot of a royal court, capital of Poitou. I know of no place in or laves the walls of the palace of a bishop the whole kingdom, save Bourges, where and a prefect. If you follow the path up this invisible fluid, a thousand times more the river, in the course of an hour's walk to be dreaded than the mistral, or the you will discover a valley confined within sirocco, is so searching and subtle, and the circular embrace of two hills, between where it so suddenly and unexpectedly which the stream makes its way. Picinvests and permeates one's whole being. ture to yourself two amphitheatres of verAnd, even at Bourges, you may conjure dure, rising in front of each other, and the plague by a pilgrimage to one of the separated by the river which reflects them most beautiful cathedrals which the art both. An old bridge, whose arches are and faith of Catholicism has ever reared. hung with mosses and ferns, is thrown You may even spend a week or more in across between the two banks. At this visiting objects worthy of your admira- place the Clain enlarges with a graceful tion to say nothing of the palace of sweep and forms a beautiful basin, smooth Jaques Coeur, another marvel, where you as a mirror, until, some distance further may, without interruption, meditate at on, the crystal stream breaks over the your leisure on the ingratitude of kings. falls, and flies into a dewy dust. MeanAnd as you pass along the deserted while upon your right, proudly seated streets, where the grass grows between upon the brow of the hill, the Chateau the pavements, and the splendid mansions de La Seigliére looks down upon the of the nobility seem sadly to have with- waving foliage of its parks, while on your drawn themselves within the enclosures of left the little castle of Vaubert, half contheir silent courts, your lonelinesss is very cealed behind a cluster of oaks on the opsoon relieved by a feeling of melancholy, posite bank, seems to watch with an humnot entirely without its charm. Bourges ble and somewhat dissatisfied air the has the poetry of the cloister; Poitiers is haughty attitude of its opuleut neighbor. a tomb. If, therefore-as I most sin- This corner of the earth will please you; cerely hope may never be the case--some and if, perchance, you have ever heard malevolent genius, or some unfortunate the drama of which this peaceful valley mishap, should ever compel you to stop was once the theatre, you will experience, within its sombre walls, the best thing | no doubt, in visiting it, something of that
mysterious charm which is felt on visiting | dangerous pass than he had at first imag
places consecrated in history; perhaps you will seek in its thick, green meadows some almost obliterated traces of the past; or, perhaps, you will wander about with slow and dreamy steps, evoking here and there its shades and recollections.
The only heir to a name destined to become extinct with him, the last Marquis of La Seigliére, lived royally in his domains. He hunted, supported a great retinue, was kind to his servants, and jealous of his privileges. Suddenly the earth shook, and a low rumbling sound was heard, like that of the sea swept by the tempest. It was the prelude of the great storm which was about to shake the world. The marquis was neither troubled nor scarcely moved; he was one of those unobservant and easy characters who care little for what is going on around them, and suffered himself to be surprised by the revolutionary wave, as a child by the mounting tide. Whether he chased the deer through his forests, or, with his young and beautiful spouse seated by his side on the sumptuous cushions of his carriage, he rode at full speed along the shady and well gravelled ways of his pleasure-grounds; whether he entertained at his loaded table the aristocracy of the neighborhood, or, from the height of his balcony, cast a look of pride over his wheat fields, his forests, his meadows, his farm-houses, and his herds; from whatever point of view he looked upon the political and social question, the existing order of things seemed to him so firmly established, and so perfectly constituted, that neither their permanency, nor their perfection could admit of serious doubt. Nevertheless, not so much from prudence as from ton, he joined the first emigration, if that may be called an emigration, which was rather an agreeable promenade, or a fashionable absenteeism. The shower would soon be over, and the heavens would have time to clear up. But the shower did not so soon pass away. On the contrary, it grew into a fearful tempest, and the skies, far from lightening up, were charged with fiery clouds, through which flashed the lightning and murmured the thunder. The marquis began to suspect that matters might come to a more
ined. He returned precipitately to France, hastily collected what he could realize from his immense fortune, and rejoined his wife, who awaited him upon the banks of the Rhine. They retired to a small town in Germany, installed themselves in an unpretending cottage, and lived with becoming modesty; the marchioness, all grace, resignation and beauty; the marquis, all hope and confidence in the future, until one day, like successive thunderclaps, he received the astounding news, that a handful of half-starved and ragged vagabonds had beaten the army of the good old cause, and that one of his tenants, John Stamply, had purchased and held in possession, under a good and legal title, the park and the castle of La Seigliére.
So long as the Stamplys and the La Seigliéres had existed, there had always been a Stamply in the service of the latter, so that, in point of antiquity, the two families were on a par. The Stamplys belonged to that race of faithful and devoted servants of which the last vestige disappeared with the fall of the great seigniorial proprietors. From simple gamekeepers, which they were at first from father to son, the Stamplys became farmers; and, little by little, by dint of industry and economy, and the bounty of their masters, had succeeded in collecting together some little property which they could call their own. How much, precisely, their fortune amounted to was not known among their neighbors; but it seemed to be universally conceded that they were better off than they were willing to acknowledge; so no one was surprised when, after the National Convention had confiscated the property of the emigrants, and the castle of La Seigliére and its appurtenances were sold to the highest bidder, farmer John was found to be the successful competitor. But Stamply continued to live on his farm as aforetime, and was no whit less industrious or more pretending than before. Quietly, and piece by piece, he purchased at a low price the lands already sold, or remaining under sequestration, and at length, by the yearly acquisition of some new fraction, brought the old domain of his masters into the hands of a single proprietor. France
now began to breathe; a calm had succeeded to the revolutionary storm. One fine morning our republican marquis, feeling himself disposed to improve his accommodations, put his wife and little son into a two-wheeled osier cabriolet, his only pleasure carriage, and seating himself in front, with reins in one hand and whip in the other, started off to take possession of the castle, the capital of his little kingdom.
she was a woman of excellent sense and sound judgment. Perceiving that he listened with a somewhat hesitating air, and appeared about to yield, she redoubled her solicitations, but Stamply soon got the better of his feelings, and stifled every symptom of disposition to relent. He had received some instruction in his early days, and was indoctrinated to some extent with the new ideas of the time; and, although he still entertained towards the But this entrance was less triumphant marquis and the marchioness a feeling of and less joyous than one might at first respect and even of gratitude, yet, as by suppose. In traversing the spacious degrees his property accumulated, avarice apartments upon which desolation had gained the ascendant. Besides he had a placed its sombre mark beneath the vaulted son, and children are ever a marvellous ceilings, over the inlaid floors, and between pretext for cloaking selfishness, and legitithe richly panelled walls, where every-mizing the abuse of personal interest. thing seemed to speak of the departed This is all very fine," said he, in his inmates, the farmer's wife, who had none turn, but a castle is made for him who of the ambition of her husband, was owns it, and I did not buy this to quarter singularly troubled, and when she found our sheep and cattle in. If our masters have herself in presence of the portrait of the quit the country it is not our fault. We marchioness, which she at once recognized have not outlawed them and confiscated by its look of mildness and its fresh and their property. The property is ours gracious smile, the good woman could no by a good title, we have bought it of longer restrain herself. Even Stamply the nation, and with the proceeds of himself experienced an emotion which he our industry. There are no longer any could not conceal. masters; all titles are abolished, all Frenchmen are equal and free, and I do not know why a Stamply may not sleep here just as well and just as properly as a La Seigliére.
"John," said his wife, wiping her eyes, "we must not stay here. We never should take any comfort if we did. I am almost sorry for our good fortune when I think how the marchioness may be in want. I am afraid, though honestly obtained, it will prove a source of trouble to us. Don't these portraits seem to frown and look as if they were going to speak to us? Come, let us go back. This castle was never built for us. We could never sleep soundly in it; and, John," she continued with emphasis, "it is too much that we should live in abundance while one of the family of La Seigliére is in want. Come, let us go back to the farm. It is there that your father died, there our boy was born, and there we have lived happily together. Let us continue in our simple life; honest people will like us the better, the envious will respect us, and God, as he beholds how modestly we enjoy our riches, will smile upon us, and bless our fields and our child."
Thus spoke the wife of Stamply. She had a noble heart, and though deprived of the advantages of an early education,
Tut, tut, John," returned his wife; "respect the unfortunate! Don't outrage the memory of a family which has been the support of yours for hundreds of years.
"I outrage nobody," answered Stamply, somewhat confused. "I only say that if we should continue to live at the farm it would not alter the case; I do not see as anybody or anything would be the gainer by it, except these rats. We are only peasants, it is true; our education and position might not exactly accord, I agree; but this is our misfortune, and it is our duty to take care lest our son suffer in like manner; it is our duty so to train him up that he may be fit for the station to which our fortune will permit him to aspire. Wouldn't you like to see the little rogue of a Bernard with a sword by his side and golden epaulettes upon his shoulders? And as for yourself, I should like to know why you may not, as
well as the Marchioness of La Seigliére, be the joy of this domain and the ornament of this castle ?"
"Bernard would be none the worse for not having been brought up in a palace, and the marchioness in abandoning her house has not abandoned with it the secret charms of her grace and beauty," replied the dame, with a peculiar motion of the head which indicated both her impatience, and her entire confidence that her husband's arguments were completely refuted. "You see, Stamply, these people possessed something which we shall always want; we may get their property, but that something they will not leave, and we cannot get."
Well, we can get along without it. Let them have it, and make the most of it. All is, we are in our own house, and shall stay here."
Stamply was a man who, in his own affairs, had his own way. The question in dispute was, therefore, after this emphatic declaration, definitively settled. It was now near spring, of one of the first years of this century. Bernard was about eight years old-a boy of a free and generous nature, but noisy, frolicksome and ungovernable; not very studious, of peaceful relations with his fellows, and not unfrequently coming home to his parents with a dilapidated jacket, or a damaged visage. Stamply at once began the training of his promising son with the services of a tutor, and leaving to him the care of his education, he disposed himself for the unostentatious and peaceable enjoyment of the fortune which industry and the course of events had placed in his hands. But, unfortunately, it was determined that his remaining years were to be filled, almost without interruption, with disappointment and sorrow.
At first, young Stamply was exceedingly rebellious, and stoutly resisted all the proffered advantages which his tutor set forth. Not that he lacked in intelligence or aptitude; but he possessed an uncontrollable spirit, in which the turbulent instincts either stifled or counteracted all others. He exhausted successively the patience of three teachers, who, tired of the war, abandoned the field and wasted their Latin. At length the father, himself almost discouraged, determined to send Bernard to one
of the Parisian lyceums, in the hope that absence from home, dry bread, and the severe discipline that at that time prevailed, would prove to the advantage of his hopeful heir. The separation, however, was not effected without a struggle. Even such as he was, Bernard was the love, the pride, and the joy of his mother. As he was about to depart, the good woman felt as though her heart would break; and when the time came for bidding him adieu she pressed him to her bosom as though she had a presentiment that she should never see him again, and was embracing him for the last time.
In fact, the poor woman was not to see her son again. Her health was sensibly declining. She had so long been accustomed to the active duties of a farmer's wife, that the listlessness and inactivity of her new position was consuming her. By day she wandered through the apartments with a mind ill at ease. At night she laid herself down, not to sleep, but to dream that she saw the Marchioness of La Seigliére begging at the gate of the castle. The noisy playfulness of Bernard had for a while relieved the monotony; but when the castle no longer echoed with his joyous shouts, and her little Bernard was no longer present to tease or to vex her, she was seized with a sombre melancholy, which rapidly wore upon her. Her husband was a long while in discovering it. He had kept up his old habits of industry. He rarely stayed at the castle; was incessantly rambling over his fields, with an eye to everything, and would now and then indulge himself in shooting a hare or a partridge on the same grounds where his ancestors had kept the seigniorial game. Nevertheless the sadness and dejection of his wife at length became so apparent that he could not fail to remark it.
"What is the matter ?" he would sometimes ask. "Are you not a happy woman ? What do you want? Is there anything that you need or wish?" .
Alas!" she would reply, "I want our former modest ease. I would, as I used to do, milk our cows, and work our butter; I would make soup for our workmen; I want to see again my little Bernard; I should like to bring in every morning the steaming milk and the eggs. Do you remember, Stamply, how the marchioness
loved our cream? Who knows, poor, dear soul, if she gets any such now ?"
"Bah! bah!" responded Stamply."Cream is good everywhere. Don't trouble yourself about the marchioness. She does not want anything. The marquis did not go away with empty pockets; and, I'll be bound, he's got more louis-d'ors than we have miserable crums. If he did not carry away his castle, his park, and his lands in his pocket-book, we can't help it. It is not for us to do it for him. Don't be foolish. As to your little Bernard, you shall see him again. The rogue isn't dead. Do you think, instead of sending him away to school, it would have been better to have kept him at home, to rob birds' nests in summer, and in the winter to snowball with all the go-bare-foots in the neighborhood?"
"Very true, Stamply; but this is not our place. That was a sad day for us when we quit our farm."
At these words, which incessantly returned in all the conversations of his wife, Stamply shrugged his shoulders and withdrew, evidently out of humor. Meanwhile the troubles of his wife increased. She was of a feeble intellect and timorous conscience.
of indescribable madness, fancying that she could hear the executioner coming to seize her, and beseeching her husband to return the castle and its lands to the marquis and his family; "but too happy," added she, as she was breathing her last, "if at that price you can save your head from the scaffold, and your soul from eternal fire."
Stamply was not precisely a resolute man. He was not inclined to speak of the grief which he felt, but the death of his wife affected him severely and strangely. Though he affected a certain contempt for the nobility, he had always nourished at heart a feeling of respect for those whose places he now occupied; and though his conscience held him innocent, he could not think of them without disquiet. But his dejection gradually wore away; he soon resumed his old habits and his wonted look, and rested all his thoughts and all his hopes upon his absent
At the age of sixteen Bernard returned to his father-his education completed. He was now a young man of striking, not to say handsome, presence-tall, slender, and graceful, with a buoyant heart and a brilliant eye, and full of the characteristic Presently the poor woman began ardor of his time of life, which the military to be harassed with doubts and fears. She tendencies of an age proud of its glory began to ask herself if her husband had and its combats, were little calculated to not deceived her; if it was true that all repress. During his absence everything this fortune had been legitimately ac had assumed a new aspect. He was comquired; if all the transactions connected paratively a stranger to the facts of the with the transfer of the property had been past; he had only a vague recollection of strictly honest; if the castle had nothing the family of La Seigliére, and a very imwherewith to reproach the probity of the perfect apprehension of the manner by farmer. Unfortunately for her, her pre- which his father had acquired his wealth; possessions decided all these questions to he could therefore enjoy it without anxiety the prejudice of her husband, and she and without remorse. He was young, and quickly passed from doubt to conviction, possessed the tastes, and was animated by from perplexity to remorse. Henceforth the instincts of youth. He hunted, supshe was distracted with the idea that ported the richest equipage, and drove the Stamply had treacherously dispossessed, best horses of any one in the neighborhad robbed the marquis, which soon be- hood. In short, he discovered a wondercame a monomania from which she found ful aptitude at spending money, and reneither peace nor truce. Notwithstanding lieved the threatened apoplexy of the pathe efforts of her husband to convince her ternal treasury by a skillful and rapid deof her folly, it went on increasing until pletion, much to the satisfaction of his Stamply found himself obliged to confine worthy father, who fancied that he thus her under a strict watch, as she now recognized in his son the manners of a began to wander about, incessantly repeat-grand seignior. All was going on smoothing that her husband, herself, and her son ly when, one morning, Bernard sought his were a family of beggars, bandits, and father, and addressed him as follows: plunderers. She died soon after in a state Father, you are dear to me, and I ought