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turned so strongly into my mind that I could not resist an impulse which prompted me to go half a league out of the road, to the village where her parents dwelt, to enquire after her.
"Tis going, I own, like the Knight of the Woeful Countenance in quest of melancholy adventures; - I Ι know not how it is, but I am never so perfectly conscious of the existence of a soul within me, as when I am entangled in them.
The old mother came to the door; her looks told me the story before she opened her mouth. She had lost her husband: he had died, she said, of anguish, for the loss of Maria's sense, about a month before. She had feared, at first, she added, that it would have plundered her poor girl of what little understanding was left; but, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herself; still she could not rest. Her poor daughter, she said, crying, was wandering somewhere about the road.
Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seemed only to be tuned to joy, to pass the back of his hand twice across his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckoned to the postillion to turn back into the road.
When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road, leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar. She was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand: a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bid the postillion go on with the chaise to Moulines;
and La Fleur to bespeak my supper;
and that I would walk after him.
She was dressed in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted with a silken net. She had
superadded likewise, to her jacket, a pale green riband, which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end of which hung her pipe. Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she kept tied by a string to her girdle. As I looked at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string. “Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio," said she. I looked in Maria's eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover, or her little goat; for, as she uttered them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.
I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away as they fell, with my handkerchief. 1 then steeped it in my own,
and then in her's, and then in mine, -- and then I wiped her's again; - and as I did it, I felt such undescribable emotions within me as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.
I am positive I have a soul; nor can all the books with which materialists have pestered the world ever convince me to the contrary.
When Maria had come a little to herself, I asked her if she remembered a pale thin person of a man, who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before? .... She said, she was unsettled much at
that time, but remembered it upon two accounts: that, ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theft; she had washed it, she said, in the brook, and kept it ever since in her pocket, to restore it to him, in case she should ever see him again; which, she added, he had half promised her. As she told me this, she took the bandkerchief out of her pocket, to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine-leaves, tied round with a tendril. On opening it, I saw an S. marked in one of the corners.
She had since that, she told me, strayed as far as Rome, and walked round St. Peter's once, and returned: that she found her way alone across the Appenines, - had travelled over all Lombardy without money, - and through the flinty roads of Savoy without shoes: how she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tell; but God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I: and wast thou in my own land, where I have a cottage, I would take thee to it, and shelter thee; thou shouldst eat of my own bread, and drink of my own cup; -- I would be kind to thy Sylvio; – in all thy
; weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee, and bring thee back; when the sun went down I would say my prayers; and when I had done thou shouldst play thy evening-song upon thy pipe: nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering Heaven along with that of a broken heart!
Nature melted within me as I uttered this; and
Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steeped too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in the stream. And where will you dry it, Maria? said I. .... I'll dry it in my bosom, said she;
'twill do me good.
Maria ? said I.
I touched upon the string on which hung all her sorrows;
she looked with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then, without saying any thing, took her pipe, and played her service to the Virgin. The string I had touched ceased to vibrate; in a moment or two Maria returned to herself,
let her pipe
and rose up.
And where are you going, Maria? said I. .... She said, to Moulines. .... Let us go, said I, together. - Maria put her arm within mine, and, lengthening the string to let the dog follow, in that order we entered Moulines.
THOUGH I hate salutations and greetings in the market-place, yet, when we got into the middle of this, I stopped to take my last look and last farewell of Maria.
Maria, though not tall, was nevertheless of the first order of fine forms: affliction had touched her looks with something that was scarce earthly; — still she was feminine; and so much was there about her of all that the heart wishes, or the eye looks for, in woman, that,
could the traces be ever worn out of her brain, and those of Eliza out of mine, she should not only eat of my bread and drink of my own cup, but Maria should lie in my bosom, and be unto me as a daughter.
Adieu, poor luckless maiden! - Imbibe the oil and wine which the compassion of a stranger, as he journeyeth on his way, now pours into thy wounds; -- the Being who has twice bruised thee can only bind them up for ever.
THERE was nothing from which I had painted out for myself so joyous a riot of the affections as in this journey in the vintage, through this part of France; but pressing through this gate of sorrow to it, my sufferings have totally unfitted me. In every scene of festivity I saw Maria in the back ground of the piece, sitting pensive under her poplar: and I had got almost to Lyons before I was able to cast a shade across her.
Dear Sensibility! source inexhausted of all that's precious in our joys, or costly in our sorrows! thou chainest thy martyr down upon his bed of straw - and 'tis thou who liftest him up to Heaven! - Eternal fountain of our feeling! - 'tis here I trace thee, and this is thy “divinity which stirs within me;" not that, in some sad and sickening moments, "my soul shrink's back upon herself, and startles at destruction !" mere pomp of words! - but that I feel some generous joys and generous cares beyond myself; all comes from thee, great, great Sensorium of the world! wbich vibrates, if a hair of our heads but fall upon the ground, in the remotest desert of thy creation. - Touched with thee, Eugenius