Part 1 out of 5
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. IV.--NOVEMBER, 1859.--NO. XXV.
E. FELICE FORESTI.
Late in the autumn of 1836, an Austrian brig-of-war cast anchor in the
harbor of New York; and seldom have voyagers disembarked with such
exhilarating emotions as thrilled the hearts of some of the passengers
who then and there exchanged ship for shore. Yet their delight was not
the joy of reunion with home and friends, nor the cheerful expectancy
of the adventurous upon reaching a long-sought land of promise, nor the
fresh sensation of the inexperienced when first beholding a new
country; it was the relief of enfranchised men, the rapture of devotees
of freedom, loosened from a thrall, escaped from _surveillance_, and
breathing, after years of captivity, the air where liberty is law, and
self-government the basis of civic life. These were exiles; but the
bitterness of that lot was forgotten, at the moment, in the proud
consciousness of having incurred it through allegiance to freedom, and
being destined to endure it in a consecrated asylum. In that air, when
first respired, on that soil, when first trod, they were unconscious of
the lot of strangers: for there the vigilant eye of despotism ceased to
watch their steps; prudence checked no more the expression of honest
thought or high aspiration; manhood resumed its erect port, mind its
spontaneous vigor; nor did many moments pass ere friendly hands were
extended, and kindly voices heard, and domestic retreats thrown open.
Their welfare had been commended to generous hearts; and the simple
facts of their previous history won them respectful sympathy and
Prominent amid the excited group was a tall, well-knit figure, whose
high, square brow, benign smile, and frank earnestness bespoke a man of
moral energy, vigorous intellect, and warm, candid, tender soul. Traces
of suffering, of thought, of stern purpose were, indeed, apparent; but
with and above them, the ingenuousness and the glow of a brave and
ardent man. This was ELEUTARIO FELICE FORESTI,--subsequently, and for
years, the favorite professor of his beautiful native language and
literature in New York,--the favorite guest and the cherished friend in
her most cultivated homes and among her best citizens,--the Italian
patriot, which title he vindicated by consistency, self-respect, and
the most genial qualities. The vocation he adopted, because of its
availability, only served to make apparent comprehensive endowments and
an independent spirit; the lady with whom he read Tasso, beside the
chivalrous music of the "Jerusalem Delivered," learned to appreciate
modern knighthood; and the scholar to whom he expounded Dante, from the
political chart of the Middle Ages, turned to an incarnation of
existent patriotism. Not only by the arguments of Gioberti, the graphic
pictures of Manzoni, and the terse pathos of Leopardi, did he
illustrate what Italy boasts of later genius; but through his own
eloquent integrity and magnetic love of her achievements and faith in
her destiny. The savings of years of patient toil were sacrificed to
the subsistence of his poor countrymen who came hither after bravely
fighting at Rome, Venice, Milan, and Novara, to have their fruits of
victory treacherously gathered by aliens. Infirmity, consequent upon
early privation and the unhealed wounds of long-worn chains, laid the
stalwart frame of the brave and generous exile on a bed of pain. He
uttered no complaint, and whispered not of the fear which no courage
can quell in high natures, that of losing "the glorious privilege of
being independent": yet his American friends must have surmised the
truth; for, one day, he received a letter stating that a sum, fully
adequate for two years' support, remained to his credit on the books of
a merchant,--one of those mysterious provisions, such as once redeemed
a note of Henry Clay's, and of which no explanation can be given,
except that "it is a way they have" among the merchant princes of New
York. By a providential coincidence, surgical skill, at this juncture,
essentially improved his physical condition; but it became
indispensable, at the same time, that he should exchange our rigorous
clime for one more congenial; and he sailed five years ago for Italy,
taking up his residence in Piedmont, where dwell so many of the eminent
adherents of the cause he loved, and where the institutions, polity,
and social life include so many elements of progress and of faith. It
was now that those who knew him best, including some of the leading
citizens of his adopted city, applied to the Executive for his
appointment as United States Consul at Genoa. There was a singular
propriety in the request. Having passed and honored the ordeal of
American citizenship, and being then a popular resident of the city
which gave birth to the discoverer of this continent,--familiar with
our institutions, and endeared to so many of the wise and brave in
America and Italy,--illustrious through suffering, a veteran disciple
and martyr of freedom,--he was eminently a representative man, whom
freemen should delight to honor; and while it then gratified our sense
of the appropriate that this distinction and resource should cheer his
declining years, we are impelled, now that death has canonized
misfortune and integrity, to avail ourselves of the occasion to
rehearse the incidents and revive the lessons of his life.
[Footnote 1: It is to be lamented that Foresti had not anticipated our
purpose with that consecutive detail possible only in an autobiography.
"_Le Scene del Carcere Duro in Austria_," writes the Marquis
Pallavicino, "non sono ancora la storia del Ventuno. Un uomo potrebbe
scriverla e svelare molte infamie tuttavia occulte del governo
Austriaco. Quest' uomo e Felice Foresti. Il quale abbandono gli agi
Americani per combattere un' altra volta, guerriero canuto, le gloriose
battaglie dell' Italico risorgimento. Il martire scriva: e la sua
penna, come quella d' un altro martire,--Silvio Pellico,--sara una
spada nel cuoro dell' Austria."--Notes to _Spielbergo e Gradisca_.]
Underlying the external apathy and apparently frivolous life of the
Italian peninsula, there has ever been a resolute, clear, earnest
patriotism, fed in the scholar by memories of past glory, in the
peasant by intense local attachment, and kindled from time to time in
all by the reaction of gross wrongs and moral privations. Sometimes in
conversation, oftener in secret musing, now in the eloquent outburst of
the composer, and now in the adjuration of the poet or the vow of the
revolutionist, this latent spirit has found expression. Again and
again, spasmodic and abortive _emeutes_, the calm protest of a
D'Azeglio and the fanaticism of an Orsini, sacrifices of property,
freedom, and life,--all the more pathetic, because to human vision
useless,--have made known to the oppressor the writhings of the
oppressed, and to the world the arbitrary rule which conceals injustice
by imposing silence. The indirect, but most emphatic utterance of this
deep, latent self-respect of the nation we find in Alfieri, whose stern
muse revived the terse energy of Dante; and in our own day, this
identical inspiration fired the melancholy verse of Leopardi, the
letters of Foscolo, the novels of Guerrazzi, and the tender melody of
Bellini. Recent literature has exhibited the conditions under which
Italian Liberals strive, and the method of expiating their
self-devotion. The novels of Ruffini, the letters of the Countess
d'Ossoli, the rhetoric of Gavazzi, and the parliamentary reports of
Gladstone, the leading reviews, the daily journals, intercourse with
political refugees, and the personal observations of travel, have, more
or less definitely, caused the problem called the "Italian Question" to
come nearer to our sympathies than any other European exigency apart
from practical interests. Moreover, the complicated and dubious aspect
of the subject, viewed by transatlantic eyes, has, within the last ten
years, been in a great measure dispelled by experimental facts. That
Italy needs chiefly to be _let alone_, to achieve independence and
realize a noble development, civic, economical, and social, every
intelligent traveller who crosses the Austrian frontier and enters the
Sardinian state, knows.
A greater contrast, as regards productive industry, intellectual
enterprise, religious progress, comfort, and happiness, no adjacent
countries ever exhibited; constitutional freedom, an unrestricted
press, toleration, and public education on the one hand, and foreign
bayonets, espionage, and priestcraft on the other, explain the anomaly.
In Venice the very trophies of national life are labelled in a foreign
tongue, the _caffes_ of Milan resound with Teutonic gutturals, and
under the arcades of Bologna every other face wears the yellow beard of
the North; yet the family portraits in the vast palace-chambers, the
eyes and dialect of the people, the monumental inscriptions, announce
an indigenous and superseded race; their industry, civil rights,
property, and free expression in art, literature, and even speech,
being forcibly and systematically repressed: while in the mountains of
Savoy, the streets of Turin, and the harbor of Genoa, the stir and
zest, the productiveness, and the felicity of national life greet the
senses and gladden the soul. Statistics evidence what observation
hints; Cavour wins the respect of Europe; D'Azeglio illustrates the
inspiration which liberty yields to genius; journalism ventilates
political rancor; debate neutralizes aggressive prejudice; physical
resources become available; talent finds scope, character
self-assertion; Protestantism builds altars, patriotism shrines; and
genuine Italian nationality has a vital existence so palpably
reproachful of circumjacent stagnation, ruin, and wrong, that no laws
or material force can interpose a permanent obstacle to its indefinite
extension and salutary reign.
In his first youth, Foresti imbibed the creative spirit breathed into
the social and civic life of Italy by Napoleon's victories and
administration; it was at that vivid epoch when the military,
political, artistic, and literary talent of the land, so long repressed
and thwarted by superstition and despotism, broke forth, that his
studies were achieved. We have only to compare what was done, thought,
and felt in the Peninsula, during the ten years between the coronation
of Bonaparte at Milan and his overthrow at Waterloo, with the
subsequent dearth of national triumphs in every sphere, and with the
inert, apprehensive, baffled existence of the Italians in the grasp of
reinstated and reinforced imbecile, yet tyrannic governments, to
appreciate the feelings of a young, well-born, gifted citizen, when
suddenly checked in a liberal and progressive career, and remanded, as
it were, from the bracing atmosphere of modern civilization and
enlightened activity, to the passive, silent endurance of obsolete
feudalism. It was the inevitable and deliberate protest against this
wicked and absurd reaction which gave birth to the political
organization of the _Carbonari_; wherein the noblest men and the wisest
princes of that day enrolled themselves; and the inefficiency of whose
far-reaching, secret, and solemn aims can be accounted for only by the
fatal error of trusting in the magnanimity of an order born to
hereditary power, and overlooking, in their municipal fraternities, the
vast importance of the more scattered, but not less capable and
patriotic agricultural class.
Foresti was born at Conselice in the Ferrarese. Few American travellers
linger in Ferrara. Fresh from the more imposing attractions of Florence
or Venice, this ancient Italian city offers little in comparison to
detain the eager pilgrim; and yet to one cognizant of its history and
alive to imaginative associations, this neglect might increase the
charm of a brief sojourn. It is pleasant to explore the less hackneyed
stories of history and tradition, to enjoy an isolated scene fraught
with grand or tender sentiment, to turn aside from the trampled highway
and the crowded resort, to listen to some plaintive whisper from the
Past amid the deserted memorials of its glory and grief. Such a place
is Ferrara. The broad and regular streets and the massive palaces
emphatically declare its former splendor; and its actual decadence is
no less manifest in the grass-grown pavement of the one and the
crumbling and dreary aspect of the other. It requires no small effort
of fancy, as we walk through some deserted by-way, wherein our
footsteps echo audibly at noonday, to realize that this was the
splendid arena where the House of Este so long held sway, limited in
extent, but in its palmy days the centre of a brilliant court, a famous
school of pictorial art, the seat of a university whose fame drew
scholars from distant Britain, and whose ducal family gave birth to the
Brunswick dynasty, whence descended the royalty of England. The city
dates its origin from the fifth century, when its marshy site gave
refuge from the pursuing Huns, and the ambition of its rulers gradually
concentrated around the unpromising domain those elements of
ecclesiastical prestige, knightly valor, artistic and literary
resources which enriched and signalized the Italian cities of the
Middle Ages. Enlightened, though capricious patronage made this
halting-place between Bologna and Venice, Padua and Rome, the nucleus
of talent, enterprise, and diplomacy, the fruits whereof are permanent.
But there are two hallowed associations which in a remarkable degree
consecrated Ferrara and endeared her to the memory of later
generations: she gave an asylum to the persecuted Christian Reformers,
and was the home and haunt of poets. It is this recollection which
stays the feet and warms the heart of the transatlantic visitor, as he
roams at twilight around the venerable castle "flanked with towers,"
traces the dim fresco in a church Giotto decorated, reads "Parisina" in
Byron's paraphrase near the dungeons where she and her lover were
slain, or gazes with mingled curiosity and love on the chirography of
St. Chrysostom, the original manuscripts of Tasso, Ariosto, and
Guarini, or the inscription of Victor Alfieri in the Studio Publico. It
is because Calvin was here sheltered, and Olympia Morata found sympathy
and respect,--because the author of "Jerusalem Delivered" here loved,
triumphed, and despaired, and the author of the "Orlando Furioso" so
assiduously labored for his orphaned family, the exacting Cardinal
Ippolito, and the cause of learning, and strung a lyre which has for
centuries vibrated in the popular heart and fancy,--because, in a word,
Ferrara contains the prison of Tasso, and the home of Ariosto, who
called her "_citta bene avventurosa_," as did Tassoni the "_gran donna
del Po_,"--that the desolate old city is revived to the imagination,
with its hundred thousand people, its gay courtiers and brave knights,
the romance of its feats of minstrelsy and arms whereat noble beauties
and immortal bards assisted, and Art, Chivalry, Learning, Church, and
State held festival with the Muses to adorn and perpetuate the
transient pageant, the loveliness, and the rule,--otherwise since
consigned to the monotonous record of vanished pomp and arbitrary sway.
When Napoleon fell, Foresti was a student at the University of Bologna,
whence he returned to his native capital, after obtaining the degree of
Doctor of Laws. His earliest forensic labors, like those of our young
advocates, were in the defence of accused criminals; and, limited as is
this sphere, he must have displayed unusual maturity of judgment and
natural eloquence, to have received successively the eminent
appointments of Provisory Assistant Judge in the Court of Justice of
Ferrara, Supplementary Professor of Eloquence and Belles Lettres in the
Lyceum, and Judge of the Peace, by virtue of which latter office he
crossed the Po to practise at Polesino,--wisely preferring the Austrian
to the Papal jurisdiction. In Crespino, in the province of Rovigo, in
the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, Foresti was made Praetor under the
Emperor's warrant. Coincident with this recognition of his judicial
knowledge and skill, was a kindred appreciation on the part of his
liberal and patriotic countrymen; they beheld in the vigorous and
disciplined mind and generous heart of Foresti, in his civic wisdom and
courage, the representative and ally they sought in this portion of
their beautiful and unhappy land. To disseminate the principles and
secure the cooperation of Venice became the special office of the
Carbonari leaders of Ferrara, and they had only to reveal the high and
holy object they cherished, to one who so well knew the wants and woes
of his country as Foresti, to enlist his adventurous sympathy. The
delicate and difficult mission, fraught with the dearest prospects of
Italy, was nearly consummated, when a treacherous colleague revealed to
the accredited agents both of Austria and the Pope the system of this
mysterious revolutionary combination in and around Ferrara. The latter
shrank from extreme measures, and was content with an oath of
retraction; but the Austrian government gave instant orders to the
chiefs of police, both there and at Venice, to arrest those whom the
perjured Count Villa named as adherents of Carbonarism. The decree was
executed with military force; and, without warning, preparation, or
even a parting interview with their families and friends, the suspected
were hurried off to the Piombi, that Venetian prison so graphically
described by Pellico. All correspondence and personal intercourse was
denied. Meantime, an ingenious and persevering investigation went on,
to ascertain the scope of the enterprise thus summarily baffled, the
means proposed, and the individuals implicated. To complicate still
further the situation of the victims, in other quarters the flame they
had secretly fed burst forth conspicuously; Naples and Piedmont were in
arms; and Austria conceived an alarming idea of the national spirit she
had partially contravened. The rigor of espionage towards the
imprisoned and their friends increased; the prosecution was insidiously
prolonged; privation and solitude, vigilance and suspense were made
instruments for subduing the resolution and invading the confidence of
the captives; they pined in desolation, ignorant of their fate,
uninformed of the welfare of those most dear to them, without resources
of defence or consolation, except what the strength of individual
character yields; physically weakened, morally isolated; sometimes
roused from sleep and bewildered with questions; at other times told
they were to die, that some companion had confessed, or that some loved
one had ceased to exist;--and all these crises of feeling and anxiety,
of surprise and despair, induced with a fiendish deliberation, to
startle honor into self-betrayal, wring from exhausted Nature what
conscious rectitude would not divulge, or agonize human love into
At length their fate was decided. Foresti's companion in prison was the
son of a judge of Ferrara; and, one November midnight, their
conversation was interrupted by the unexpected entrance of the jailer,
who bade Foresti follow him. The hour and the manner of the official
convinced both him and his comrade that his sacrifice was resolved
upon; they embraced, and he left the cell to find himself strictly
guarded by six soldiers. This nocturnal procession marched silently
through the vast, lonely, and magnificent rooms of the Ducal Palace to
the door which leads to the Bridge of Sighs: it was the old road to
destruction,--the mysterious process, made familiar by novelists and
poets, by which the ancient and sinister republic made more fearful the
vengeance of government. As the unfortunate youth passed through a
labyrinth of gloomy corridors, he recognized the haunts of the ancient
Inquisition; the atmosphere was clogged with damp; moisture dripped
from the stones. A dungeon, lighted only by a lamp suspended from the
vault, and narrow, humid, and unfurnished, except with a pile of straw
and a rude table, proved the dreary goal of their heavy steps. Left to
his own reflections, Foresti contemplated his prospects with deliberate
anguish; that he had been found guilty was apparent; if the fact of his
direct agency in initiating the oath of self-emancipation, the sacred
compact of national self-assertion in the Austrian dominions, had
transpired, he felt that his prominence as a judicial officer, and the
firmness with which he had refused to explain the purposes or betray
the associates of this memorable league, made him the most probable
victim of extreme measures, should one be chosen from the Carbonari of
Ferrara. At that period of his life he entertained the opinion that
suicide was justifiable to avoid an ignominious death at the hands of
arbitrary power. Believing his fate sealed, he gave a few moments of
tender reminiscence to his dead mother and his living father and
sisters, to the dreams of his youth, and the patriotic aspirations to
which he was about to fall a sacrifice. The jailer returned, bringing a
book and a bottle of wine, for which he had asked; a few tears were
shed, a prayer for forgiveness breathed, and then he plunged a knife
into his breast; the blade broke; he shattered the bottle at his side
and swallowed the fragments, and then fell bleeding and exhausted on
the straw. If left long alone, life would have ebbed away; but,
probably in anticipation of such a catastrophe, the officer ere many
hours revisited the cell to put chains upon the prisoner. Discovering
his condition, a surgeon was called, remedies were applied, and two
Austrian sentinels carried Foresti into the presence of the judge. It
was scarcely dawn; the venerable and courteous, but inflexible
representative of the Emperor expressed solicitude and sympathy; a
secretary and physician, with the guard and their prisoner, confronted
each other by the dim light of two candles. Irritated by the
conventional politeness of this arbiter of his destiny at such a
crisis, having vainly sought death, and bitterly conscious of the long
outrages perpetrated under the name of justice, Foresti burst forth
into stern invectives, and boldly declared his liberal sentiments, his
allegiance to the principles for the sake of which he thus suffered,
and his absolute enmity to the usurpers of his country's freedom. The
Cavalier Mazzetti treated this overflow of emotion as the ebullition of
a youthful mind, romantic and intrepid, but unreasonable; he professed
the sincerest pity for so gifted and brave a youth, lamented his
delusion, painted in emphatic words his want of gratitude and
allegiance, treated his political creed and organization as chimerical,
and wound up by informing Foresti that he was condemned to die on the
public square of Venice, and that nothing would save him but a complete
revelation of the true plan, arrangements, and members of the secret
conclave to which he belonged. Threats and blandishments failed to move
the prisoner; he was silent, accepted his doom, and was remanded with
two allies,--one of whom purchased a remission by treason to his vows.
Such was the climax of two dreary years of imprisonment, aggravated by
ingenious moral torture.
If the modern history of liberty is written by a comprehensive
humanitarian, he will not look exclusively to the battle-field for
picturesque and impressive _tableaux_; in that record most signally
will it appear that "the angel of martyrdom is brother to the angel of
victory"; and among the memorable scenes which an earnest chronicler
will delineate with noble pathos, few can exceed in moral interest that
which the Piazza of San Marco, at Venice, presented on Christmas Eve,
1821. There is not a spot in Europe, within the limits of a city, more
distinctly remembered by the transatlantic traveller,--the only
spacious area of solid ground under the open sky, in that marvellous
old city of the sea,--the gay centre of a recreative population, where
the costumes and physiognomies of the Orient and the West mingle in
dramatic contrast,--the nucleus of historical and romantic
associations, singularly domesticated in two hemispheres by the
household lore of Shakspeare and Otway, Byron and Rogers, Cooper and
Ruskin. The ancient temple of St. Mark, the bronze horses of Lysippus,
the arched galleries of the Palace, the waters of the Adriatic, the
firmament above, and the stones beneath seem instinct with the fame of
commercial grandeur, maritime triumphs, and diplomatic prowess; the
cheerful arcades that shade the _caffes_ remind us of the "harmless
comedy of life" which Goldoni recorded; the flush of sunset on dome,
balcony, and canal seems warm with the peerless tints which Titian here
caught and transmitted; the crowd of pleasure-seekers recall the music,
love, and chivalry, of which this was once the splendid centre; while
the shadow of a dark _facade_ whispers of the mysterious oligarchy, the
anonymous accusers, the secret council, and the venerable Doge;--a more
remarkable union of gloom and gayety, of romance and reality, of the
beautiful and the tragic, directly suggested by inevitable local
associations, cannot be found in the whole range of European travel.
Imagine this memorable square, on the afternoon of a great Christmas
festival;--fair faces at every window,--the adjacent roofs crowded with
spectators,--an Austrian regiment drawn up around a scaffold,--the
Viceroy, brother of the Emperor, standing in the large balcony of the
Palace,--two cannon placed between the columns of San Marco and San
Teodoro,--every inch of the vast Piazza, without the circle of
soldiery, occupied by eager spectators. Over this vast assemblage, amid
the impending thoughts which the incidents of the hour and the memory
of the Past inspired, reigned a profound silence; no laugh or jest,
such as bespeaks a holiday, no heartless curiosity, such as accompanies
a mere public show, no vulgar excitement was evident; on many faces
dwelt an expression of awe and pity,--on others an indignant frown,--on
all painful and sympathetic expectancy. Every class was represented,
from the swarthy fishermen of the lagoons to the dark-eyed countess of
the Palazzo,--pale students, venerable citizens, the shopkeeper and the
marquis, the priest and the advocate. It was not merely the fate of the
few prisoners on the scaffold, deep as was the public sympathy, which
occasioned this profound suspense; they represented the national cause,
and in every city of the land there were scores of the bravest and the
best equally involved in the patriotic sacrifice, and whose destiny
had, for long and weary months, agonized their relations, friends, and
countrymen. The anomalous tyranny under which the nation had collapsed
was demonstrated not so much by the outward aspect as by the moral
facts of that fatal day in the Piazza of San Marco. On the scaffold
were a group of educated, courageous, honest Italians, guarded by
Austrian soldiers and overlooked by the official representative of
imperial despotism; their attitude was criminal, their acts sublime;
ostensibly condemned, they were in reality glorified. Not a being in
that vast multitude, except the official creatures of Austria, but
gazed with respect, love, sorrow, pride, tenderness, and admiration
upon her noble victims; it was the apparent triumph of physical force,
and the actual realization of moral superiority: the silence of that
multitude was the eloquent protest of humanity.
And this ominous silence was all at once broken by the clear,
well-emphasized voice of a judicial officer, reading the sentence; it
was listened to with such breathless attention, that, when the phrase,
_condemned to death_, was uttered, a visible shudder vibrated, like an
electric shock, through the dense mass of human beings, and upturned
faces flushed or grew pallid in an instant; but scarcely were these
simultaneous emotions recognized, when another phrase, _life granted_,
called forth a cry as of one mighty voice. All were spared: but a
sentence, to such as understood its meaning, of living death,--_carcere
duro_ in Spielberg and the Castle of Lubiano,--some for ten, others for
fifteen, and the remainder for twenty years,--was substituted.
This entire ceremony was characteristic of Austrian despotism, aware of
the profound sympathy among the Italians for their patriot martyrs, of
the widespread disaffection, of the necessity of exciting vague and
terrible apprehension,--and at the same time conscious that policy
forbade arousing the fury of despair. The accused were thus kept more
than two years alternating from hope to desperation, the people in
ignorance of the issue, and then, when led out, as they supposed, to
die, they served as a warning to those who dared imperial vengeance,
while, by a sudden act of apparent clemency, the government at once rid
itself of formidable opponents and assumed the character of merciful
executors of law! It was rumored that the consideration of his youth
saved the life of Foresti;--he was sentenced to twenty years'
From, the scaffold the prisoners were transferred to the Island of St.
Michael. Their transit was more like an ovation than a disgrace. The
better class of spectators embarked in gondolas and followed the
_cortege_ with shouts of encouragement and waving of handkerchiefs;
"Courage, courage, brave patriots!" was their salutation; and when
night fell upon the scene, there rose from the lagoons strains of
instrumental and vocal melody, and improvised recitations breathing
honor, compassion, and hope; so that in spite of bayonets and police,
terrorism and espionage, the voice of their fettered country wafted to
every captive the assurance that he had not striven and been faithful
unto death in vain.
These scenes in Venice were reenacted, with unimportant modifications,
within a few months, at Rome and Turin, at Modena, Parma, and Naples.
The rolls of victims embraced the most highly endowed and heroic men of
the day. Many of them, after years of incarceration, distinguished
themselves in civil and literary life; some perished miserably in
durance; and a few yet survive and enjoy social consideration or
European fame. Among them were representatives of every rank, vocation,
and section of the land,--noblemen, professors, military officers,
advocates, physicians, priests, men of wealth, of genius, and of
character. Those known in America, either personally or by their
writings, are Count Gonfalonieri of Milan, Silvio Pellico, Castilla,
Borsieri, Maroncelli, and Foresti. The abortive revolutions of 1831 and
1848 sent other refugees to our shores, and canonized other saintly
heroes in the Calendar of Freedom; but these were the original, and, as
a body, the remarkable men, who, imbued with the intelligent and
progressive Liberalism of the nineteenth century, practically
established in Italy by Napoleon, bravely initiated the vital reaction
invoked by humanity as well as patriotism, before which European
despotism has never ceased to tremble, and which, however baffled,
postponed, and misunderstood, by the law of God as well as the
development of man, is absolutely destined to an ultimate triumph.
The show of justice and clemency was made at noonday with every
circumstance of pomp and authority to give it popular effect; the trial
and punishment were enacted in darkness and isolation. On a cold, still
night of January came police commissioners to the island, whither the
condemned patriots had been conveyed amid tears and benedictions, and
chained them in couples like galley-slaves. By the light of torches
they were placed in boats which glided noiselessly by sleeping Venice
to Mestre, and there they were transferred to carriages, two prisoners
and four guards to each vehicle, and in this manner, for four dreary
weeks, borne through the winter days farther and farther from country
and home,--sleeping at night in town-jails, by-way fortresses, or, when
neither were available, in the worst apartments of lonely inns. Who can
adequately describe the wretchedness of that journey, the bitterness of
soul, the prospective desolation, the tender regrets of those unhappy
prisoners,--torn from the embrace of kindred, the dignity and motive of
a high career, the most beautiful of countries, and the most sacred of
ties and duties, to bury their youth, with all its high dreams and
noble fervor and consecrated gifts, in a distant dungeon? Even the
strangers through whose domain they passed testified by looks, signs,
respectful greetings, and, when possible, kind attentions, their
sympathy and esteem; people of rank continued to approach them in
disguise merely to indicate their humane recognition; the very
commissioners sent to attest the execution of the sentence parted from
their charge with tearful respect. Grief, privation, and fatigue,
greatly aggravated by the shackles which bound them in pairs, had
exhausted body and mind at the end of the journey. From the city of
Brunn, the capital of Moravia, their wan looks sought the mountain
prison above, where frowned the bastions of Spielberg, once a mediaeval
castle, then a fortress, built by the Emperor Charles, and, just before
the battle of Austerlitz, dismantled by Napoleon, and now the place of
confinement for the most degraded criminals of Austria, nearly a
thousand of whom there expiate their offences. Into this herd of
malefactors were thrust gentlemen, scholars, citizens, for the crime of
patriotism. To each was assigned a cell, twelve feet in length and
eight in breadth, with a small iron-barred window, a plank with, a
mattress and blanket, an iron chair secured to the wall, and an earthen
jug for water. Arrayed in convict uniform, here the brave youths were
immured. Sentinels were continually on guard in the corridors and court
and around the bastions; the food was inadequate and often loathsome;
an hour's walk in the yard daily, between two soldiers with loaded
muskets, was the only respite from solitude and inaction; "Lives of the
Saints" were the only books allowed; intercourse with the outward world
was entirely cut off; surveillance was incessant; on Sunday they were
guarded to the chapel, but kept apart; every quarter appeared a priest,
who strove, by rigid examination, to elicit political secrets; the
agents and officials maintained an unmitigated reserve; what transpired
in the world, how it fared with their country and their loved ones, was
unknown; existence so near to death itself, in passivity, "cold
obstruction," alienation from all the interests, the hopes, and the
very impressions of human life, it is impossible to imagine.
Subsequently reforms were introduced, and the rigors of this system
somewhat modified; but the era of Foresti's confinement at Spielberg
was that which has become accursed in political history as the reign of
Francesco Primo. He insisted to the last on chains, the badge of crime,
and the severest _regime_ possible to life. He had even visited Brunn,
and been within hearing of his victims, and sent his physician to
ascertain their condition; but refused any mitigation of sufferings,
moral and physical, which involved sanity, health, and almost vitality.
The details of this experience are familiar through current European
memoirs. Silvio Pellico has made the life of an Austrian
prisoner-of-state, in its outward environment and inward struggles, as
well known as that of the Arctic explorer or the English
factory-operative. A confirmatory supplement to this dark chapter in
the history of modern civilization has recently appeared from the pen
of another of Foresti's fellow-martyrs, Pallavicino. [Footnote:
_Spielbergo e Gradisca: Scene del Carcere Duro di_ GIORGIO PALLAVICINO.
Torino. 1856.] But while they were undergoing the bitter ordeal, it was
all but unknown in Europe and undreamed of in America; literature, that
noble vantage-ground for oppressed humanity, has now broken the silence
and proclaimed the truth. There was one solace ingeniously obtained by
these buried members of the living human family,--occasional indirect
intercourse with each other: the telegraphs of eye and ear conveyed
their mutual feelings. One after another succumbed, from the vital
injuries of the _regime_; in one case the brain grew weak, in another
the blood was impoverished or fevered; this one was prostrated by
gangrene in wounds caused by chafing fetters, and that attenuated by
insufficient nourishment: yet they contrived to make known to each
other how it fared with them respectively. Pellico, through an
indulgent guard, sent Foresti verses on his birthday; Maronchelli
sounded on the wall the intimation of his continued existence after his
leg was amputated; and when marshalled for a walk or convened on Sunday
in the chapel, the devoted band had the melancholy satisfaction of
beholding each other, though the different groups were not permitted to
communicate. Andryane, a French officer, included in the original
edict, though upon most inadequate evidence, describes, with keen
interest, his first impressions when permitted to go to mass at
Spielberg. His companion speculated on the identity of each of the
captives. "That one, with dejected looks and hollow eyes, who seems so
exhausted, and, though a tall man, is bent down into a dwarf, is Villa.
Poor fellow! he has but a few months to live. As for the last one, with
the stern looks and bushy black hair, he appears to bear his fate in
such a manner as ought to make us resigned to our own." "That,"
whispered a fellow-prisoner, "is Foresti, who, like Ajax, doubtless
mutters between his teeth, 'I will foil them yet, though even the gods
oppose me!'" [Footnote: "_Memoires d'un Prisonnier d'Etat_." Par
ALEXANDRE ANDRYANE. Paris.]
This observation was sagacious. It was by calm resolution and
philosophic self-possession, through faith in the ultimate triumph of
justice and freedom, that Foresti kept at bay the corrosive despair
which irritated less noble characters into melancholy or wasted spirits
of gentler mould to insanity. Yet his physical torture was extreme. Of
robust frame and in the plenitude of youthful vigor when arrested, the
want of food during the earlier years of his captivity made serious and
permanent inroads upon a naturally powerful constitution. We have heard
him relate, with a humorous emphasis indicative of brave endurance, yet
suggestive of the keenest pangs, how eagerly he one day seized a
pudding, thrust under his dress, as he passed the lodge of an official
in the court, by a compassionate woman,--how ingeniously he concealed
it from the sentinels, at the risk of burning his hands,--with what
triumph he unfolded and with what voracity he devoured it in the
solitude of his cell. Sometimes an indignity overcame his
self-possession, as, on one occasion, when the jailer's attendant
rudely awoke him with a kick, as he deposited a basin of hot broth,
which Foresti indignantly seized and dashed its scalding contents into
the face of the brutal menial, who thenceforward was more respectful in
his salutations. But it was the moral suffering against which all his
wisdom and courage were invoked to struggle,--the resolute maintenance
of healthful mental activity, without an object or motive underived
from will,--the repression of hopeless, vague, self-tormenting
reverie, which perverts intellect and drains moral energy,--the
habitual exercise of memory, reflection, and fancy, to preserve their
functions unimpaired. Such expedients were of special necessity at
Spielberg; for never were educated men so barbarously deprived of the
legitimate resources of mind and heart; thought and love were left
uninvited, unappeased. Sir Walter Raleigh had the materials, at the
Tower, to write a history; Lafayette, at Olmutz, lived in perpetual
expectancy of release; Moore and Byron, children, flowers, birds, and
the Muses cheered Leigh Hunt's year of durance: but in this bleak
fortress, innocent and magnanimous men beheld the seasons come and go,
night succeed day, and year follow year, with no cognizance of kindred
or the world's doings,--no works of bard or sage,--no element of
life,--but a grim, cold, deadly routine within stone walls,--all tender
sympathies, the very breath of the soul, denied,--all influx of
knowledge, the food of the mind, prohibited, experience a blank,
existence a void!
Had we need of evidence that conscience is a normal attribute of
humanity, that the soul is endowed with relations to the Infinite, we
should find it in the self-preservation realized under such
circumstances as these. Only conscious rectitude could arm humanity
against the sense of degradation and deprivation thus surrounding and
pressing upon it for years,--only the belief in a Power above and
beyond human will and perversity,--only, in a word, the recuperative
force of moral individuality and aspiration, could keep intact and
uninvaded the integrity of conscious being. Of course, the method
thereof depends on character; a cheerful heart In one, a buoyant
imagination in another, and the sweet self-oblivion which Faith imparts
in a third, sentiment here and will there, work the same miracle.
Foresti belonged to that class of Italians who combine perspicacity and
force of reasoning with a frank, affectionate, and trustful
disposition,--types of the manly intellect, the childlike heart;
incarceration, while it failed to enfeeble the former, by seclusion
from life's game and the world's encroachments from early youth to
middle age, perhaps confirmed the latter into the candid and loving
nature which endeared him to so many friends in Europe and America.
Sterne says, that, if he were in a desert, he would love some cypress;
and Isaac Taylor has observed, that the devout heart can find in a
single blade of grass the evidence of a Divine Creator. We have all
read of Bruce testing his fate, when a captive, by the gyrations of a
spider, of Baron Trenck finding solace in a dungeon in the
companionship of a mouse, and the imaginative prisoner of Fenestrelle
absorbed in vigilant and even affectionate observation of a little
plant,--its germination, slow approach to maturity, and consummate
flowering. But there were alleviating circumstances in the situation of
these captives,--a definite hope of release or a certainty of
life-bondage, either of which alternatives is more favorable to
tranquillity of soul than absolute suspense; they enjoyed tidings from
without or indulgences within. At Spielberg, the _sistema diabolico_,
as it has been justly called, especially at the epoch of Foresti's
incarceration, retained the galling chain on the limbs, cut off the
supply of moral and intellectual vitality, refused appropriate
occupation, baffled hope, eclipsed knowledge, and kept up a vile
inquisitorial process to goad the crushed heart, sap the heroic will,
and stupefy or alienate the mental faculties; dawn ushered in the
twilight of a mausoleum, noon fell dimly on paralyzed manhood, night
canopied aggravating dreams.
"To such sad pitch their gathering griefs were wrought,
Life seemed not life, save when convulsed by thought."
Casual evasions of this fiendish torture, through ingenuity or the
compassion of officials, are among the few animated episodes of their
dreary experiences recorded by the victims. At length the Emperor died
(an event they had surmised from a change in the form of the public
prayer); his son Ferdinand succeeded to the throne, and signalized his
accession by a decree liberating the Italian patriots, but condemning
them to perpetual exile in America. Those long years of such captivity
did not even gain them the privilege of again enjoying civil rights,
their country, and kindred! Protests were vain, appeals disregarded. In
November, 1835, their chains were removed; the same blacksmith who had
welded Foresti's shackles fourteen years before, now severed them, and
wept with joy as they fell! One night they were all summoned to the
director's room, and he, too, announced their enfranchisement with
congratulations; the prison garb was exchanged for citizen's dress, and
they were taken in carriages to the police prison of Brunn, where
comfortable apartments, good food, free intercourse, books, and
newspapers awaited them. Imagine the vividness of their sensations, the
hilarity of feeling inspired by the first sight of scenes and objects
associated with their youth! It was like a new birth. To grasp the
hands and hear the voices of their fellow-creatures,--to behold
streets, _caffes_, and shops, the tokens of industry, the insignia of
life,--to taste viands unknown for years,--to see the horizon,--to feel
the breath of heaven,--to trace once more those charts of living
history, the journals, resume acquaintance with favorite authors,
converse together, move unchained, think aloud,--this sudden and entire
transition awakened a sensation of almost infantile joy. But privation
had too long been their lot to be instantly ignored with impunity; a
reaction followed; the weakness incident to long confinement,
prostrated faculties, and inadequate nourishment brought on illness;
they could not, at once, bear the excitement, digest the food, or
sustain the keen pleasure; and a rigorous climate quelled their
sensitive vitality. But universal sympathy now environed them; their
very custodian ministered to their wants; and the Emperor ordered them
to be removed to the Castle of Gradisca, on the confines of Italy,
where a milder atmosphere prevailed.
How much had occurred while these years of arbitrarily imposed
monasticism crept heavily by, to excite the speculative thought and
kindle the sympathies of educated men! To what new aspects of
civilization and fresh phases of contemporaneous history their
liberation suddenly introduced them!
Their journey from Brunn to Gradisca was a perfect contrast to that
melancholy transit, so many years before, from Venice to Spielberg. It
was near the beginning of April, 1836, when they started in carriages
with a commissary and a few guards; in every town and village through
which they passed, crowds surrounded them with gratulations; the inns
where they stopped were besieged with well-wishers; Nature, too, seemed
to hail their release with vernal beauty; and so they journeyed on, to
be received as honored guests rather than prisoners-of-state at the
Castle of Gradisca. Their sojourn here was as recreative as was
consistent with that degree of supervision necessary to prevent escape;
they were at liberty to walk about, to make and receive visits, to
bathe in the sea, to attend the fairs, and examine the local
celebrities of Friuli; a single commissary often accompanied their
excursions, and personally the most delicate consideration was paid
them. Here, too, the most affecting reunions of long-severed kindred
and friends took place; their relatives hastened hither to embrace
Foresti used to relate many anecdotes illustrative of the sympathy and
respect felt and manifested by strangers during this interlude between
prison and exile. One deserves record here. Two travelling-carriages
arrived at a village-inn, one evening, where they were resting. While
the gentlemen were inspecting the apartments, a lady of distinguished
appearance inquired of a bystander, who the strangers were towards whom
so many friendly glances were directed; soon after, the landlord bore
to them her request for an interview; they rose at her entrance; she
attempted to speak, but her voice faltered, and, with tears, she turned
to her little boys and said, "Kneel, my darlings, to these brave
Italian patriots; they are illustrious victims in the great cause of
Liberty; and you, gentlemen, bless my sons; your blessing will be
fruitful to them of good; it will make them love their country and die
for it, if need be. I am a Pole. My country is oppressed like yours. I
have two brothers compromised in the last insurrection in Cracow. May
God preserve them!"--and weeping bitterly, she retired. They afterwards
learned that her husband was Counsellor of State to the King of
On the 1st of August, 1836, they were transported by night to Trieste,
and, by a singular coincidence, placed on board the same brig-of-war
whence Kozsta was subsequently taken at Smyrna,--an incident memorable
in our subsequent diplomacy, as having occasioned the celebrated letter
of Webster to the Austrian envoy. Provided by that government with warm
clothing, the money they had taken to Spielberg was restored to them,
not, however, in the original gold coin, but in the Vienna bills for
which it had been then exchanged by the police, diminished nearly
two-thirds in value during the interval of fourteen years. The vessel
was uncomfortably crowded; the voyage occupied three months; but they
fared alike with the officers. Towards the close of October, they
beheld the noble bay of New York; and so intense was the satisfaction
with which they first trod American soil, the goal and terminus of such
protracted suffering, that, ever after, the Battery, where they landed,
was hallowed to their memories as consecrated ground.
Within a few days of their arrival, a banquet was given them by their
compatriots; and from that hour, Foresti became the oracle and the
consoler, the teacher, almoner, and chief of his fellow-exiles.
Subsequent events drove many other Italian patriots to our shores; his
purse and his counsel were ever ready for the impoverished and
inexperienced, who regarded him with filial admiration; while to the
more educated he was the intimate companion or sympathetic friend.
Through his personal influence, employment was constantly obtained and
kindness enlisted for his countrymen. When the great political crisis
of 1848 occurred, Foresti hastened to Europe; Pius IX., at the urgent
prayer of his sisters and cousins, offered him free entrance to his
dominions, a favor his predecessor might have granted but for the
strong opposition of Cardinal Lambruschini. He took counsel with the
revolutionary leaders at Paris, and passed through Italy to the
frontiers of the Papal States, whence the fatal reaction, supported by
French bayonets, at Rome, sent him back once more to the land of his
adoption, whither he was soon followed by many of the heroic and
unfortunate men who redeemed the martial fame, without being able to
retrieve the fate of Italy.
Of the many Italian exiles who have found an asylum in the United
States, Foresti was preeminently the representative man. The period of
his arrival, the circumstances of his life, and the traits of his
character united thus to distinguish him even among the best educated
and most unfortunate of the political refugees from Southern Europe. At
the time of his arrest, the vilest modern despotism of the Continent
had reached its acme; and the patriotic movements it then sought to
annihilate by a cruelty unparalleled since the Middle Ages were
justified even by conservative reformers, on account of their stringent
moral necessity, the intelligent scope of their advocates, and the high
and cultivated spirit of their illustrious martyrs. As scholars,
citizens, gentlemen, and, in more than one instance, authors of real
genius, these Liberals stand alone, and are not to be confounded with
the perverse Radicals of a subsequent epoch. Moreover, their
aspirations were, as we have seen, more reactionary than experimental;
for the rights for which they conspired had been in a great measure
enjoyed under Europe's modern conqueror, then impotent in action, but
most efficient in remembrance, although isolated on his prison-rock.
Foresti's companion in misfortune has made their mutual wrongs
"familiar as household words"; and to be associated in captivity with
the author of "Le Mie Prigioni" was of itself a passport to the
sympathy of the civilized world.
The interest his previous history inspired was deepened and confirmed
by intimate acquaintance with Foresti. He lived for many years
domesticated in the family of a fellow-countryman; and an _habitue_ of
his apartments was transported in a moment from bustling, prosperous,
and republican New York, to the land of song, of martyrdom, and of
antiquity. The soulful ardor and childlike ingenuousness, the keen
perceptions and earnest will of Foresti suggested an obsolete, or at
least rare type of character; he belonged essentially to the olden days
of loyalty and lore which gave birth to self-reliance on the one hand,
and disinterested feeling on the other. His manner and conversation
had, as it were, an historical as well as national flavor, by virtue
whereof we were borne away from the prosaic and practical spirit of the
age, to the days of chivalry, feudal zeal, and genuine humanity,--when
faith was an inspiration, friendship a moral fact, and manhood, in its
virile simplicity, greater than wealth. Nor were the generous exile's
humble surroundings alien to these impressions: the effigies of his
country's poets were the favorite ornaments of his sitting-room; a
volume of Foscolo on the table, or a fresh letter from Silvio Pellico
under his snuffbox,--the grim, old-fashioned type of his _Sentenza_, as
it was originally distributed through Austrian Italy, and hanging in
its black frame, a memorial of startling import to a freeman's eyes,--a
landscape representing the Castle of Ferrara, the far-away scene of his
youthful life,--and a primitive engraving from one of the old masters
of that city, dedicated to him in one of those euphonious inscriptions
peculiar to Italian artists,--these and such as these tokens of his
experience and tastes gave interesting significance to his
companionship. Nor were indications of present consideration and
usefulness wanting: flowers or dainty needle-work, the offerings of his
fair pupils, applications to him, as President of the Italian
Benevolent Society, diplomas from American colleges, and invitations to
the country, to dinner, and to domestic _fetes_, from the numerous
friends he had won in the free land of his adoption, gave evidence of
social enjoyment and genial activity.
Whoever enjoyed Foresti's hospitality, in the conversations as well as
the viands has found an epitome and reflex of his most genial hours in
Italy: brave soldiers, like Avezzana and Garibaldi, scholars, artists,
every form of the national character, were gratefully exhibited in
reunions, of which he was the presiding genius, and to which his
American friends were admitted with fraternal cordiality. It was then
that his clear and strong mind often displayed itself with the
spontaneity of his race.
Chastened, though unsubdued by misfortune, Foresti cherished a truly
Christian spirit of forgiveness, and the liberality which large
experience invariably fosters in enlightened minds: it was the system,
rather than its agents, which he ever held up to condemnation in
discussing the Austrian policy. Familiarity with American and English
politics and the modern history of Europe induced a wise modification
of his opinions on government; a fervent republican in sentiment, he
yet recognized the radical benefits of a constitutional monarchy, like
those of England and Sardinia. He was a natural orator, and, on several
occasions, memorably addressed the public with rare eloquence and power
on subjects of national or beneficent interest. During his long sojourn
in New York, he was not merely the acknowledged representative of
Italy, but her eloquent advocate, her wise expositor, her illustrious
son, whose literature he memorably unfolded, whose history he
sagaciously analyzed, whose misfortunes he tenderly portrayed, whose
glory he proudly vindicated, and whose nationality he incessantly
affirmed. Well did one of the leading Turin journals indicate the
prevalent graces of his character:--"A pure and just man, he knew
always how to appreciate those who dissented from him about forms of
government, because he could discover in them the true love of
nationality, to which Italy aspires. Wise without pretension,
beneficent without ostentation, chaste in deed and word, exquisitely
tender-hearted, he tempered the harsh lessons of experience by the
unchanged serenity of his bearing."
Foresti was the most charming of correspondents; in a chirography
almost feminine, he wrote, in the old cavalier style, such quaintly
pleasant epistles, with graceful turns of expression, beautiful
epithets, and appropriate adjectives, that, to one fond of the writer
and cognizant of his native tongue, the most casual note was a prize to
be treasured. "Truly," remarks one of his friends, "he was
_squisitamente affetuoso di cuore_," and now the sweetest proof thereof
is to be found in his correspondence. In his two visits to Italy, he
used to walk daily to the shores, when within reach of the
Mediterranean, and salute, with tears, the _bandiera stellata_,--as he
called our national banner, under which his exile had been protected
The pleasure expressed at Foresti's consular appointment, as well as
the high order of applicants in his behalf, afforded the best evidence
of the friendship and interest he had awakened and maintained in a
foreign land. On the shores of the Hudson, by the cliffs of Newport,
under the elms of New Haven, as well as in the metropolis where he had
so long dwelt, faithful hearts rejoiced at the announcement. "Few are
aware," said Hillhouse, in his Eulogy on Lafayette, "how hallowed and
how deep are their feelings who worship Liberty as a mistress they may
never possess." And it was the constancy and intelligence of his
devotion to her which won for him such peculiar regard; for he did not
belong to the sentimental and spasmodic, but to the resolute and
philosophic devotees at her shrine; his native taste was more wedded to
the wise satire of Casti and the acute generalities of Vico than
satisfied with the soft beauties of Petrarch or the luxurious graces of
Boccaccio; the stoical Alfieri, more than the epicurean Metastasio,
breathed music to his soul. "You belong," wrote Pellico to him, "you
belong to those who to a generous disposition unite an intellect to see
things wisely; never can I forget the gifts of genius and of courage
developed in you in the days of misfortune." It was an auspicious sign
of the times when the land which protected such an exile was
represented by him in that of his nativity.
Brief, however, was Foresti's enjoyment of the distinction and resource
thus secured for him through the considerate efforts of his American
friends. "I write to you," says his last letter to one of them, dated
immediately after the reception of his commission, "with my left hand
pressed on a heart overflowing with gratitude for the means thus
honorably afforded to solace the last years of the old prisoner of
Spielberg." Three months after, that noble heart ceased to beat; an
effusion on the chest, which ultimately defied the best medical skill
and the most assiduous friendly devotion, ended fatally on the morning
of the 14th of September, 1858, "By his death," said one of his
eulogists, "is broken one of the links that bind the New World to the
Old"; and as if to evidence the sympathy of mourners in two hemispheres
and attest the varied associations which embalm the example and memory
of Foresti, his funeral was typical of his life, and so illustrative of
his character, that we can imagine no peculiar honor wanting, grateful
to the patriot, the liberal, the martyr, or the man. In that ancient
city of Genoa, of old renowned for commercial glory and maritime valor,
the birthplace of the discoverer of the land of his adoption, now the
refuge of more who had sacrificed all for their country, and the state
where that country's best prospects are centred and her highest
aspirations cherished, in the home of the moral, civic, and social
vanguard of modern Italy, he found a grave. The American flag was his
pall; American mariners carried his bier; before it was borne the
Cross. His remains were followed from the Piazza della Maddelena,
through the principal streets and the Porta Romana to the Campo Santo,
by the officers and crew of the United States frigate "Wabash," the
captains of the American merchantmen in port, the Society of
Operatives, the industrial representative of a progressive state, of
which he was an honorary member, a vast multitude of emigrants from the
less favored Italian provinces, and a numerous body of literary,
official, and private gentlemen who enjoyed his personal friendship.
* * * * *
My little maiden of four years old
(No myth, but a genuine child is she,
With her bronze-brown eyes, and her curls of gold)
Came, quite in disgust, one day, to me.
Rubbing her shoulder with rosy palm,--
As the loathsome touch seemed yet to thrill her,
She cried,--"Oh, mother, I found on my arm
A horrible, crawling caterpillar!"
And with mischievous smile she could scarcely smother,
Yet a glance, in its daring, half-awed and shy,
She added,--"While they were about it, mother,
I wish they'd just finished the butterfly!"
They were words to the thought of the soul that turns
From the coarser form of a partial growth,
Reproaching the Infinite Patience that yearns
With an unknown glory to crown them both.
Ah, look thou largely, with lenient eyes,
On whatso beside thee may creep and cling,
For the possible beauty that underlies
The passing phase of the meanest thing!
What if God's great angels, whose waiting love
Beholdeth our pitiful life below,
From the holy height of their heaven above,
Couldn't bear with the worm till the wings should grow?
THE MINISTER'S WOOING.[*]
[Footnote *: Copyright secured by the Author in Great Britain and
By six o'clock in the morning, Miss Prissy came out of the best room to
the breakfast-table, with the air of a general who has arranged a
campaign,--her face glowing with satisfaction. All sat down together to
their morning meal. The outside door was open into the green, turfy
yard, and the apple-tree, now nursing stores of fine yellow jeannetons,
looked in at the window. Every once in a while, as a breeze shook the
leaves, a fully ripe apple might be heard falling to the ground, at
which Miss Prissy would bustle up from the table and rush to secure the
As the meal waned to its close, the rattling of wheels was heard at the
gate, and Candace was discerned, seated aloft in the one-horse wagon,
with her usual complement of baskets and bags.
"Well, now, dear me! if there isn't Candace!" said Miss Prissy; "I do
believe Miss Marvyn has sent her with something for the quilting!" and
out she flew as nimble as a humming-bird, while those in the house
heard various exclamations of admiration, as Candace, with stately
dignity, disinterred from the wagon one basket after another, and
exhibited to Miss Prissy's enraptured eyes sly peeps under the white
napkins with which they were covered. And then, hanging a large basket
on either arm, she rolled majestically towards the house, like a
heavy-laden Indiaman, coming in after a fast voyage.
"Good-mornin', Miss Scudder! good-mornin', Doctor!" she said, dropping
her curtsy on the door-step; "good-mornin', Miss Mary! Ye see our folks
was stirrin' pootty 'arly dis mornin', an' Miss Marvyn sent me down wid
two or tree little tings."
Setting down her baskets on the floor, and seating herself between
them, she proceeded to develop their contents with ill-concealed
triumph. One basket was devoted to cakes of every species, from the
great Mont-Blanc loaf-cake, with its snowy glaciers of frosting, to the
twisted cruller and puffy doughnut. In the other basket lay pots of
golden butter curiously stamped, reposing on a bed of fresh, green
leaves,--while currants, red and white, and delicious cherries and
raspberries, gave a final finish to the picture. From a basket which
Miss Prissy brought in from the rear appeared cold fowl and tongue
delicately prepared, and shaded with feathers of parsley. Candace,
whose rollicking delight in the good things of this life was
conspicuous in every emotion, might have furnished to a painter, as she
sat in her brilliant turban, an idea for an African Genius of Plenty.
"Why, really, Candace," said Mrs. Scudder, "you are overwhelming us!"
"Ho! ho! ho!" said Candace, "I's tellin' Miss Marvyn folks don't git
married but once in der lives, (gin'ally speakin', dat is,) an' den dey
oughter hab plenty to do it wid."
"Well, I must say," said Miss Prissy, taking out the loaf-cake with
busy assiduity,--"I must say, Candace, this does beat all!"
"I should rader tink it oughter," said Candace, bridling herself with
proud consciousness; "ef it don't, 'ta'n't 'cause ole Candace ha'n't
put enough into it. I tell ye, I didn't do nothin' all day yisterday
but jes' make dat ar cake. Cato, when he got up, he begun to talk
someh'n' 'bout his shirt-buttons, an' I jes' shet him right up. Says I,
'Cato, when I's r'ally got cake to make for a great 'casion, I wants my
mind _jest_ as quiet an' _jest_ as serene as ef I was a-goin' to de
sacrament. I don't want no 'arthly cares on't. Now,' says I, 'Cato, de
ole Doctor's gwine to be married, an' dis yer's his quiltin'-cake,--an'
Miss Mary, she's gwine to be married, an' dis yer's _her_
quiltin'-cake. An' dar'll be eberybody to dat ar quiltin'; an' ef de
cake a'n't right, why, 'twould be puttin' a candle under a bushel. An'
so,' says I, 'Cato, your buttons mus' wait' An' Cato, he sees de
'priety ob it, 'cause, dough he can't make cake like me, he's a 'mazin'
good judge on't, an' is dre'ful tickled when I slips out a little loaf
for his supper."
"How is Mrs. Marvyn?" said Mrs. Scudder.
"Kinder thin and shimmery; but she's about,--habin' her eyes eberywar,
'n' lookin' into eberyting. She jes' touches tings wid de tips ob her
fingers an' dey seem to go like. She'll be down to de quiltin' dis
arternoon. But she tole me to take de tings an' come down an' spen' de
day here; for Miss Marvyn an' I both knows how many steps mus' be taken
sech times, an' we agreed you oughter favor yourselves all you could."
"Well, now," said Miss Prissy, lifting up her hands, "if that a'n't
what 'tis to have friends! Why, that was one of the things I was
thinking of, as I lay awake last night; because, you know, at times
like these, people run their feet off before the time begins, and then
they are all limpsey and lop-sided when the time comes. Now, I say,
Candace, all Miss Scudder and Mary have to do is to give everything up
to us, and we'll put it through straight."
"Dat's what we will!" said Candace. "Jes' show me what's to be done,
an' I'll do it."
Candace and Miss Prissy soon disappeared together into the pantry with
the baskets, whose contents they began busily to arrange. Candace shut
the door, that no sound might escape, and began a confidential
outpouring to Miss Prissy.
"Ye see," she said, "I's _feelin's_ all de while for Miss Marvyn;
'cause, ye see, she was expectin', ef eber Mary was married,--well--dat
'twould be to somebody else, ye know."
Miss Prissy responded with a sympathetic groan.
"Well," said Candace, "ef't had been anybody but de Doctor, _I_
wouldn't 'a' been resigned. But arter all he's done for my color, dar
a'n't nothin' I could find it in my heart to grudge him. But den I was
tellin' Cato t'oder day, says I, 'Cato, I dunno 'bout de rest o' de
world, but I ha'n't neber felt it in my bones dat Mass'r James is
r'ally dead, for sartin.' Now I feels tings _gin'ally_, but _some_
tings I feels _in my bones_, an' dem allers comes true. An' dat ar's a
feelin' I ha'n't had 'bout Mass'r Jim yit, an' dat ar's what I'm
waitin' for 'fore I clar make up my mind. Though I know, 'cordin' to
all white folks' way o' tinkin', dar a'n't no hope, 'cause Squire
Marvyn he had dat ar Jeduth Pettibone up to his house, a-questionin' on
him, off an' on, nigh about tree hours. An' r'ally I didn't see no hope
no way, 'xcept jes' dis yer, as I was tellin' Cato,--_I can't feel it
in my bones_."
Candace was not versed enough in the wisdom of the world to know that
she belonged to a large and respectable school of philosophers in this
particular mode of testing evidence, which, after all, the reader will
perceive has its conveniences.
"Anoder ting," said Candace; "as much as a dozen times, dis yer last
year, when I's been a-scourin' knives, a fork has fell an' stuck
straight up in de floor; an' de las' time I pinted it out to Miss
Marvyn, an' she on'y jes' said, 'Why, what o' dat, Candace?'"
"Well," said Miss Prissy, "I don't believe in _signs_, but then strange
things do happen. Now about dogs howling under windows,--why, I don't
believe in it a bit, but I never knew it fail that there was a death in
the house after."
"Ah, I tell ye what," said Candace, looking mysterious, "dogs knows a
heap more'n dey likes to tell!"
"Jes' so," said Miss Prissy. "Now I remember, one night, when. I was
watching with Miss Colonel Andrews, after Marthy Ann was born, that we
heard the _mournfulest_ howling that ever you did hear. It seemed to
come from right under the front stoop; and Miss Andrews she just
dropped the spoon in her gruel, and says she, 'Miss Prissy, do, for
pity's sake, just go down and see what that noise is.' And I went down
and lifted up one of the loose boards of the stoop, and what should I
see there but their Newfoundland pup?--there that creature had dug a
grave, and was a-sitting by it, crying!"
Candace drew near to Miss Prissy, dark with expressive interest, as her
voice, in this awful narration, sank to a whisper.
"Well," said Candace, after Miss Prissy had made something of a pause.
"Well, I told Miss Andrews I didn't think there was anything in it,"
said Miss Prissy; "but," she added, impressively, "she lost a very dear
brother, six months after, and I laid him out with my own hands,--yes,
laid him out in white flannel."
"Some folks say," said Candace, "dat dreamin' 'bout white horses is a
sartin sign. Jinny Styles is bery strong 'bout dat. Now she come down
one mornin' cryin', 'cause she'd been dreamin' 'bout white horses, an'
she was sure she should hear some friend was dead. An' sure enough, a
man come in dat bery day an' tole her her son was drownded out in de
harbor. An' Jinny said, 'Dar! she was sure dat sign neber would fail.'
But den, ye see, dat night he come home. Jinny wa'n't r'ally
disappinted, but she allers insisted he was _as good as drownded_, any
way, 'cause he sunk tree times."
"Well, I tell you," said Miss Prissy, "there are a great many more
things in this world than folks know about."
"So dey are," said Candace. "Now, I ha'n't neber opened my mind to
nobody; but dar's a dream I's had, tree mornin's runnin', lately. I
dreamed I see Jim Marvyn a-sinkin' in de water, an' stretchin' up his
hands. An' den I dreamed I see de Lord Jesus come a-walkin' on de
water, an' take hold ob his hand, an' says he, 'O thou of little faith,
wherefore didst thou doubt?' An' den he lifted him right out. An' I
ha'n't said nothin' to nobody, 'cause, you know, de Doctor, he says
people mus'n't mind nothin' 'bout der dreams, 'cause dreams belongs to
de ole 'spensation."
"Well, well, well!" said Miss Prissy, "I am sure I don't know what to
think. What time in the morning was it that you dreamed it?"
"Why," said Candace, "it was jest arter bird-peep. I kinder allers
wakes myself den, an' turns ober, an' what comes arter dat is apt to
"Well, well, well!" said Miss Prissy, "I don't know what to think. You
see, it may have reference to the state of his soul."
"I know dat," said Candace; "but as nigh as I could judge in my dream,"
she added, sinking her voice and looking mysterious, "as nigh as I can
judge, _dat boy's soul was in his body!_"
"Why, how do you know?" said Miss Prissy, looking astonished at the
confidence with which Candace expressed her opinion.
"Well, ye see," said Candace, rather mysteriously, "de Doctor, he don't
like to hab us talk much 'bout dese yer tings, 'cause he tinks it's
kind o' heathenish. But den, folks as is used to seein' sech tings
knows de look ob a sperit _out_ o' de body from de look ob a sperit
_in_ de body, jest as easy as you can tell Mary from de Doctor."
At this moment Mrs. Scudder opened the pantry-door and put an end to
this mysterious conversation, which had already so affected Miss
Prissy, that, in the eagerness of her interest, she had rubbed up her
cap border and ribbon into rather an elfin and goblin style, as if they
had been ruffled up by a breeze from the land of spirits; and she flew
around for a few moments in a state of great nervous agitation,
upsetting dishes, knocking down plates, and huddling up contrary
suggestions as to what ought to be done first, in such impossible
relations that Mrs. Katy Scudder stood in dignified surprise at this
strange freak of conduct in the wise woman of the parish.
A dim consciousness of something not quite canny in herself seemed to
strike her, for she made a vigorous effort to appear composed; and
facing Mrs. Scudder, with an air of dignified suavity, inquired if it
would not be best to put Jim Marvyn in the oven now, while Candace was
getting the pies ready,--meaning, of course, a large turkey, which was
to be the first in an indefinite series to be baked that morning; and
discovering, by Mrs. Scudder's dazed expression and a vigorous pinch
from Candace, that somehow she had not improved matters, she rubbed her
spectacles into a diagonal position across her eyes, and stood glaring,
half through, half over them, with a helpless expression, which in a
less judicious person might have suggested the idea of a state of
But the exigencies of an immediate temporal dispensation put an end to
Miss Prissy's unwonted vagaries, and she was soon to be seen flying
round like a meteor, dusting, shaking curtains, counting napkins,
wiping and sorting china, all with such rapidity as to give rise to the
notion that she actually existed in forty places at once.
Candace, whom the limits of her corporeal frame restricted to an
altogether different style of locomotion, often rolled the whites of
her eyes after her and gave vent to her views of her proceedings in
"Do you know why _dat ar_ neber was married?" she said to Mary, as she
stood looking after her. Miss Prissy had made one of those rapid
transits through the apartment.
"No," answered Mary, innocently. "Why wasn't she?"
"'Cause neber was a man could run fast enough to cotch her," said
Candace; and then her portly person shook with the impulse of her own
By two o'clock a goodly company began to assemble. Mrs. Deacon Twitchel
arrived, soft, pillowy, and plaintive as ever, accompanied by Cerinthy
Ann, a comely damsel, tall and trim, with a bright black eye, and a
most vigorous and determined style of movement. Good Mrs. Jones, broad,
expansive, and solid, having vegetated tranquilly on in the
cabbage-garden of the virtues since three years ago, when she graced
our tea-party, was now as well preserved as ever, and brought some
fresh butter, a tin pail of cream, and a loaf of cake made after a new
Philadelphia receipt. The tall, spare, angular figure of Mrs. Simeon
Brown alone was wanting; but she patronized Mrs. Scudder no more, and
tossed her head with a becoming pride when her name was mentioned.
The quilt-pattern was gloriously drawn in oak-leaves, done in indigo;
and soon all the company, young and old, were passing busy fingers over
it; and conversation went on briskly.
Madame de Frontignac, we must not forget to say, had entered with
hearty abandon into the spirit of the day. She had dressed the tall
china vases on the mantel-pieces, and, departing from the usual rule of
an equal mixture of roses and asparagus-bushes, had constructed two
quaint and graceful bouquets, where garden-flowers were mingled with
drooping grasses and trailing wild vines, forming a graceful
combination which excited the surprise of all who saw it.
"It's the very first time in my life that I ever saw grass put into a
flower-pot," said Miss Prissy; "but I must say it looks as handsome as
a picture. Mary, I must say," she added, in an aside, "I think that
Madame de Frongenac is the sweetest dressing and appearing creature I
ever saw; she don't dress up nor put on airs, but she seems to see in a
minute how things ought to go; and if it's only a bit of grass, or
leaf, or wild vine, that she puts in her hair, why, it seems to come
just right. I should like to make her a dress, for I know she would
understand my fit; do speak to her, Mary, in case she should want a
dress fitted here, to let me try it."
At the quilting, Madame de Frontignac would have her seat, and soon won
the respect of the party by the dexterity with which she used her
needle; though, when it was whispered that she learned to quilt among
the nuns, some of the elderly ladies exhibited a slight uneasiness, as
being rather doubtful whether they might not be encouraging Papistical
opinions by allowing her an equal share in the work of getting up their
minister's bed-quilt; but the younger part of the company were quite
captivated by her foreign air, and the pretty manner in which she
lisped her English; and Cerinthy Ann even went so far as to horrify her
mother by saying that she wished she'd been educated in a convent
herself,--a declaration which arose less from native depravity than
from a certain vigorous disposition, which often shows itself in young
people, to shock the current opinions of their elders and betters. Of
course, the conversation took a general turn, somewhat in unison with
the spirit of the occasion; and whenever it flagged, some allusion to a
forthcoming wedding, or some sly hint at the future young Madame of the
parish, was sufficient to awaken the dormant animation of the company.
Cerinthy Ann contrived to produce an agreeable electric shock by
declaring, that, for her part, she never could see into it, how any
girl could marry a minister,--that she should as soon think of setting
up housekeeping in a meeting-house.
"Oh, Cerinthy Ann!" exclaimed her mother, "how can you go on so?"
"It's a fact," said the adventurous damsel; "now other men let you have
some peace,--but a minister's always round under your feet."
"So you think, the less you see of a husband, the better?" said one of
"Just my views," said Cerinthy, giving a decided snip to her thread
with her scissors; "I like the Nantucketers, that go off on four-years'
voyages, and leave their wives a clear field. If ever I get married,
I'm going up to have one of those fellows."
It is to be remarked, in passing, that Miss Cerinthy Ann was at this
very time receiving surreptitious visits from a consumptive-looking,
conscientious, young theological candidate, who came occasionally to
preach in the vicinity, and put up at the house of the Deacon, her
father. This good young man, being violently attacked on the doctrine
of Election by Miss Cerinthy, had been drawn on to illustrate it in a
most practical manner, to her comprehension; and it was the
consciousness of the weak and tottering state of the internal garrison
that added vigor to the young lady's tones. As Mary had been the chosen
confidante of the progress of this affair, she was quietly amused at
"You'd better take care, Cerinthy Ann," said her mother; "they say that
'those who sing before breakfast will cry before supper.' Girls talk
about getting married," she said, relapsing into a gentle didactic
melancholy, "without realizing its awful responsibilities."
"Oh, as to that," said Cerinthy, "I've been practising on my pudding
now these six years, and I shouldn't be afraid to throw one up chimney
with any girl."
This speech was founded on a tradition, current in those times, that no
young lady was fit to be married till she could construct a boiled
Indian-pudding of such consistency that it could be thrown up chimney
and come down on the ground, outside, without breaking; and the
consequence of Cerinthy Ann's sally was a general laugh.
"Girls a'n't what they used to be in my day," sententiously remarked an
elderly lady. "I remember my mother told me when she was thirteen she
could knit a long cotton stocking in a day."
"I haven't much faith in these stories of old times,--have you, girls?"
said Cerinthy, appealing to the younger members at the frame.
"At any rate," said Mrs. Twitchel, "our minister's wife will be a
pattern; I don't know anybody that goes beyond her either in spinning
or fine stitching."
Mary sat as placid and disengaged as the new moon, and listened to the
chatter of old and young with the easy quietness of a young heart that
has early outlived life, and looks on everything in the world from some
gentle, restful eminence far on towards a better home. She smiled at
everybody's word, had a quick eye for everybody's wants, and was ready
with thimble, scissors, or thread, whenever any one needed them; but
once, when there was a pause in the conversation, she and Mrs. Marvyn
were both discovered to have stolen away. They were seated on the bed
in Mary's little room, with their arms around each other, communing in
low and gentle tones.
"Mary, my dear child," said her friend, "this event is very pleasant to
me, because it places you permanently near me. I did not know but
eventually this sweet face might lead to my losing you, who are in some
respects the dearest friend I have."
"You might be sure," said Mary, "I never would have married, except
that my mother's happiness and the happiness of so good a friend seemed
to depend on it. When we renounce self in anything, we have reason to
hope for God's blessing; and so I feel assured of a peaceful life in
the course I have taken. You will always be as a mother to me," she
added, laying her head on her friend's shoulder.
"Yes," said Mrs. Marvyn; "and I must not let myself think a moment how
dear it might have been to have you more my own. If you feel really,
truly happy,--if you can enter on this life without any misgivings"--
"I can," said Mary, firmly.
At this instant, very strangely, the string which confined a wreath of
sea-shells around her glass, having been long undermined by moths,
suddenly broke and fell down, scattering the shells upon the floor.
Both women started, for the string of shells had been placed there by
James: and though neither was superstitious, this was one of those odd
coincidences that make hearts throb.
"Dear boy!" said Mary, gathering the shells up tenderly; "wherever he
is, I shall never cease to love him. It makes me feel sad to see this
come down; but it is only an accident; nothing of him will ever fail
out of my heart."
Mrs. Marvyn clasped Mary closer to her, with tears in her eyes.
"I'll tell you what, Mary; it must have been the moths did that," said
Miss Prissy, who had been standing, unobserved, at the door for a
moment back; "moths will eat away strings just so. Last week Miss
Vernon's great family-picture fell down because the moths eat through
the cord; people ought to use twine or cotton string always. But I came
to tell you that the supper is all set, and the Doctor out of his
study, and all the people are wondering where you are."
Mary and Mrs. Marvyn gave a hasty glance at themselves in the glass, to
be assured of their good keeping, and went into the great kitchen,
where a long table stood exhibiting all that plenitude of provision
which the immortal description of Washington Irving has saved us the
trouble of recapitulating in detail.
The husbands, brothers, and lovers had come in, and the scene was
redolent of gayety. When Mary made her appearance, there was a moment's
pause, till she was conducted to the side of the Doctor; when, raising
his hand, he invoked a grace upon the loaded board.
Unrestrained gayeties followed. Groups of young men and maidens chatted
together, and all the gallantries of the times were enacted. Serious
matrons commented on the cake, and told each other high and particular
secrets in the culinary art, which they drew from remote
family-archives. One might have learned in that instructive assembly
how best to keep moths out of blankets,--how to make fritters of Indian
corn undistinguishable from oysters,--how to bring up babies by
hand,--how to mend a cracked teapot,--how to take out grease from a
brocade,--how to reconcile absolute decrees with free will,--how to
make five yards of cloth answer the purpose of six,--and how to put
down the Democratic party. All were busy, earnest, and certain,--just
as a swarm of men and women, old and young, are in 1859.
Miss Prissy was in her glory; every bow of her best cap was alive with
excitement, and she presented to the eyes of the astonished Newport
gentry an animated receipt-book. Some of the information she
communicated, indeed, was so valuable and important that she could not
trust the air with it, but whispered the most important portions in a
confidential tone. Among the crowd, Cerinthy Ann's theological admirer
was observed in deeply reflective attitude; and that high-spirited
young lady added further to his convictions of the total depravity of
the species by vexing and discomposing him in those thousand ways in
which a lively, ill-conditioned young woman will put to rout a serious,
well-disposed young man,--comforting herself with the reflection, that
by-and-by she would repent of all her sins in a lump together.
Vain, transitory splendors! Even this evening, so glorious, so
heart-cheering, so fruitful in instruction and amusement, could not
last forever. Gradually the company broke up; the matrons mounted
soberly on horseback behind their spouses; and Cerinthy consoled her
clerical friend by giving him an opportunity to read her a lecture on
the way home, if he found the courage to do so.
Mr. and Mrs. Marvyn and Candace wound their way soberly homeward; the
Doctor returned to his study for nightly devotions; and before long,
sleep settled down on the brown cottage.
"I'll tell you what, Cato," said Candace, before composing herself to
sleep, "I can't feel it in my bones dat dis yer weddin's gwine to come
A day or two after, Madame de Frontignac and Mary went out to gather
shells and seaweed on the beach. It was four o'clock; and the afternoon
sun was hanging in the sultry sky of July with a hot and vaporous
stillness. The whole air was full of blue haze, that softened the
outlines of objects without hiding them. The sea lay like so much
glass; every ship and boat was double; every line and rope and spar had
its counterpart; and it seemed hard to say which was the more real, the
under or the upper world.
Madame de Frontignac and Mary had brought a little basket with them,
which they were filling with shells and sea-mosses. The former was in
high spirits. She ran, and shouted, and exclaimed, and wondered at each
new marvel thrown out upon the shore, with the _abandon_ of a little
child. Mary could not but wonder whether this indeed were she whose
strong words had pierced and wrung her sympathies the other night, and
whether a deep life-wound could lie bleeding under those brilliant eyes
and that infantine exuberance of gayety; yet, surely, all that which
seemed so strong, so true, so real could not be gone so soon,--and it
could not be so soon consoled. Mary wondered at her, as the Anglo-Saxon
constitution, with its strong, firm intensity, its singleness of
nature, wonders at the mobile, many-sided existence of warmer races,
whose versatility of emotion on the surface is not incompatible with
the most intense persistency lower down.
Mary's was one of those indulgent and tolerant natures which seem to
form the most favorable base for the play of other minds, rather than
to be itself salient,--and something about her tender calmness always
seemed to provoke the spirit of frolic in her friend. She would laugh
at her, kiss her, gambol round her, dress her hair with fantastic
coiffures, and call her all sorts of fanciful and poetic names in
French or English,--while Mary surveyed her with a pleased and innocent
surprise, as a revelation of character altogether new and different
from anything to which she had been hitherto accustomed. She was to her
a living pantomime, and brought into her unembellished life the charms
of opera and theatre and romance.
After wearying themselves with their researches, they climbed round a
point of rock that stretched some way out into the sea, and attained to
a little kind of grotto, where the high cliffs shut out the rays of the
sun. They sat down to rest upon the rocks. A fresh breeze of declining
day was springing up, and bringing the rising tide landward,--each
several line of waves with its white crests coming up and breaking
gracefully on the hard, sparkling sand-beach at their feet.
Mary's eyes fixed themselves, as they were apt to do, in a mournful
reverie, on the infinite expanse of waters, which was now broken and
chopped into a thousand incoming waves by the fresh afternoon breeze.
Madame de Frontignac noticed the expression, and began to play with her
as if she had been a child. She pulled the comb from her hair, and let
down its long silky waves upon her shoulders.
"Now," said she, "let us make a Miranda of thee. This is our cave. I
will be Prince Ferdinand. Burr told me all about that,--he reads
beautifully, and explained it all to me. What a lovely story that
is!--you must be so happy, who know how to read Shakspeare without
learning! _Tenez!_ I will put this shell on your forehead,--it has a
hole here, and I will pass this gold chain through,--now! What a pity
this seaweed will not be pretty out of water! it has no effect; but
there is some green that will do;--let me fasten it so. Now, fair
Miranda, look at thyself!"
Where is the girl so angelic as not to feel a slight curiosity to know
how she shall look in a new and strange costume? Mary bent over the
rock, where a little pool of water lay in a brown hollow above the
fluctuations of the tide, dark and still, like a mirror,--and saw a
fair face, with a white shell above the forehead and drooping wreaths
of green seaweed in the silken hair; and a faint blush and smile rose
on the cheek, giving the last finish to the picture.
"How do you find yourself?" said Madame. "Confess now that I have a
true talent in coiffure. Now I will be Ferdinand."
She turned quickly, and her eye was caught by something that Mary did
not see; she only saw the smile fade suddenly from Madame de
Frontignac's cheek, and her lips grow deadly white, while her heart
beat so that Mary could discern its flutterings under her black silk
"Will the sea-nymphs punish the rash presumption of a mortal who
intrudes?" said Colonel Burr, stepping before them with a grace as
invincible and assured as if he had never had any past history with
Mary started with a guilty blush, like a child detected in an unseemly
frolic, and put her hand to her head to take off the unwonted
"Let me protest, in the name of the Graces," said Burr, who by that
time stood with easy calmness at her side; and as he spoke, he stayed
her hand with that gentle air of authority which made it the natural
impulse of most people to obey him. "It would be treason against the
picturesque," he added, "to spoil that toilette, so charmingly uniting
the wearer to the scene."
Mary was taken by surprise, and discomposed as every one is who finds
himself masquerading in attire foreign to his usual habits and
character; and therefore, when she would persist in taking it to
pieces, Burr found sufficient to alleviate the embarrassment of Madame
de Frontignac's utter silence in a playful run of protestations and
"I think, Mary," said Madame de Frontignac, "that we had better be
returning to the house."
This was said in the haughtiest and coolest tone imaginable, looking at
the place where Burr stood, as if there were nothing there but empty
air. Mary rose to go; Madame de Frontignac offered her arm.
"Permit me to remark, ladies," said Burr, with the quiet suavity which
never forsook him, "that your very agreeable occupations have caused
time to pass more rapidly than you are aware. I think you will find
that the tide has risen so as to intercept the path by which you came
here. You will hardly be able to get around the point of rocks without
Mary looked a few paces ahead, and saw, a little before them, a fresh
afternoon breeze driving the rising tide high on to the side of the
rocks, at whose foot their course had lain. The nook in which they had
been sporting formed part of a shelving ledge which inclined over their
heads, and which it was just barely possible could be climbed by a
strong and agile person, but which would be wholly impracticable to a
frail, unaided woman.
"There is no time to be lost," said Burr, coolly, measuring the
possibilities with that keen eye that was never discomposed by any
exigency. "I am at your service, ladies; I can either carry you in my
arms around this point, or assist you up these rocks."
He paused and waited for their answer.
Madame de Frontignac stood pale, cold, and silent, hearing only the
wild beating of her heart.
"I think," said Mary, "that we should try the rocks."
"Very well," said Burr; and placing his gloved hand on a fragment of
rock somewhat above their heads, he swung himself up to it with an easy
agility; from this he stretched himself down as far as possible towards
them, and, extending his hand, directed Mary, who stood foremost, to
set her foot on a slight projection, and give him both her hands; she
did so, and he seemed to draw her up as easily as if she had been a
feather. He placed her by him on a shelf of rock, and turned again to
Madame de Frontignac; she folded her arms and turned resolutely away
towards the sea.
Just at that moment a coming wave broke at her feet.
"There is no time to be lost," said Burr; "there's a tremendous surf
coming in, and the next wave may carry you out."
"_Tant mieux_!" she responded, without turning her head.
"Oh, Virginie! Virginie!" exclaimed Mary, kneeling and stretching her
arms over the rock; but another voice called Virginie, in a tone which
went to her heart. She turned and saw those dark eyes full of tears.
"Oh, come!" he said, with that voice which she never could resist.
She put her cold, trembling hands into his, and he drew her up and
placed her safely beside Mary. A few moments of difficult climbing
followed, in which his arm was thrown now around one and then around
the other, and they felt themselves carried with a force as if the
slight and graceful form were strung with steel.
Placed in safety on the top of the bank, there was a natural gush of
grateful feeling towards their deliverer. The severest resentment, the
coolest moral disapprobation, are necessarily somewhat softened, when
the object of them has just laid one under a personal obligation.
Burr did not seem disposed to press his advantage, and treated the
incident as the most matter-of-course affair in the world. He offered
an arm to each lady, with the air of a well-bred gentleman who offers a
necessary support; and each took it, because neither wished, under the
circumstances, to refuse.
He walked along leisurely homeward, talking in that easy, quiet,
natural way in which he excelled, addressing no very particular remark
to either one, and at the door of the cottage took his leave, saying,
as he bowed, that he hoped neither of them would feel any inconvenience
from their exertions, and that he should do himself the pleasure to
call soon and inquire after their health.
Madame de Frontignac made no reply; but curtsied with a stately grace,
turned and went into her little, room, whither Mary, after a few
minutes, followed her.
She found her thrown upon the bed, her face buried in the pillow, her
breast heaving as if she were sobbing; but when, at Mary's entrance,
she raised her head, her eyes were bright and dry.
"It is just as I told you, Mary,--that man holds me. I love him yet, in
spite of myself. It is in vain to be angry. What is the use of striking
your right hand with your left? When we _love_ one more than ourselves,
we only hurt ourselves with our anger."
"But," said Mary, "love is founded on respect and esteem; and when that
"Why, then," said Madame, "we are very sorry,--but we love yet. Do we
stop loving ourselves when we have lost our own self-respect? No! it is
so disagreeable to see, we shut our eyes and ask to have the bandage
put on,--you know _that_, poor little heart! You can think how it would
have been with you, if you had found that _he_ was not what you
The word struck home to Mary's consciousness,--but she sat down and
took her friend in her arms with an air self-controlled, serious,
"I see and feel it all, dear Virginie, but I must stand firm for you.
You are in the waves, and I on the shore. If you are so weak at heart,
you must not see this man any more."
"But he will call."
"I will see him for you."
"What will you tell him, my heart?--tell him that I am ill, perhaps?"
"No; I will tell him the truth,--that you do not wish to see him."
"That is hard;--he will wonder."
"I think not," said Mary, resolutely; "and furthermore, I shall say to
him, that, while Madame de Frontignac is at the cottage, it will not be
agreeable for us to receive calls from him."
"Mary, _ma chere_, you astonish me!"
"My dear friend," said Mary, "it is the only way. This man--this cruel,
wicked, deceitful man--must not be allowed to trifle with you in this
way. I will protect you."
And she rose up with flashing eye and glowing cheek, looking as her
father looked when he protested against the slave-trade.
"Thou art my Saint Catharine," said Virginie, rising up, excited by
Mary's enthusiasm, "and hast the sword as well as the palm; but, dear
saint, don't think so very, very badly of him;--he has a noble nature;
he has the angel in him."
"The greater his sin," said Mary; "he sins against light and love."
"But I think his heart is touched,--I think he is sorry. Oh, Mary, if
you had only seen how he looked at me when he put out his hands on the
rocks!--there were tears in his eyes"
"Well there might be!" said Mary; "I do not think he is quite a fiend;
no one could look at those cheeks, dear Virginie, and not feel sad,
that saw you a few months ago."
"Am I so changed?" she said, rising and looking at herself in the
mirror. "Sure enough,--my neck used to be quite round;--now you can see
those two little bones, like rocks at low tide. Poor Virginie! her
summer is gone, and the leaves are falling; poor little cat!"--and
Virginie stroked her own chestnut head, as if she had been pitying
another, and began humming a little Norman air, with a refrain that
sounded like the murmur of a brook over the stones.
The more Mary was touched by these little poetic ways, which ran just
on an even line between the gay and the pathetic, the more indignant
she grew with the man that had brought all this sorrow. She felt a
saintly vindictiveness, and a determination to place herself as an
adamantine shield between him and her friend. There is no courage and
no anger like that of a gentle woman, when once fully roused; if ever
you have occasion to meet it, you will certainly remember the hour.
Mary revolved the affairs of her friend in her mind, during the night.
The intensity of the mental crisis through which she had herself just
passed had developed her in many inward respects, so that she looked
upon life no longer as a timid girl, but as a strong, experienced
woman. She had thought, and suffered, and held converse with eternal
realities, until thousands of mere earthly hesitations and timidities,
that often restrain a young and untried nature, had entirely lost their
hold upon her. Besides, Mary had at heart the true Puritan seed of
heroism,--never absent from the souls of true New England women. Her
essentially Hebrew education, trained in daily converse with the words
of prophets and seers, and with the modes of thought of a people
essentially grave and heroic, predisposed her to a kind of exaltation,
which, in times of great trial, might rise to the heights of the
religious--sublime, in which the impulse of self-devotion took a form
essentially commanding. The very intensity of the repression under
which her faculties had developed seemed, as it were, to produce a
surplus of hidden strength, which came out in exigencies. Her reading,
though restricted to a few volumes, had been of the kind that vitalized
and stimulated a poetic nature, and laid up in its chambers vigorous
words and trenchant phrases, for the use of an excited feeling,--so
that eloquence came to her as a native gift. She realized, in short, in
her higher hours, the last touch with which Milton finishes his
portrait of an ideal woman:--
"Greatness of mind and nobleness their seat
Build in her loftiest, and create an awe
About her as a guard angelic placed."
The next, morning, Colonel Burr called at the cottage. Mary was
spinning in the garret, and Madame de Frontignac was reeling yarn, when
Mrs. Scudder brought this announcement.
"Mother," said Mary, "I wish to see Mr. Burr alone. Madame de
Frontignac will not go down."
Mrs. Scudder looked surprised, but asked no questions. When she was
gone down, Mary stood a moment reflecting; Madame de Frontignac looked
eager and agitated.
"Remember and notice all he says, and just how he looks, Mary, so as to
tell me; and be sure and say that I thank him for his kindness
yesterday. We must own he appeared very well there; did he not?"
"Certainly," said Mary; "but no man could have done less."
"Ah! but, Mary, not every man could have done it _as_ he did. Now don't
be too hard on him, Mary;--I have said dreadful things to him; I am
afraid I have been too severe. After all, these distinguished men are
so tempted! we don't know how much they are tempted; and who can wonder
that they are a little spoiled? So, my angel, you must be merciful."
"Merciful!" said Mary, kissing the pale cheek, and feeling the cold
little hands that trembled in hers.
"So you will go down in your little spinning-toilette, _mimi_? I fancy
you look as Joan of Arc did, when she was keeping her sheep at Domremy.
Go, and God bless thee!" and Madame de Frontignac pushed her playfully
Mary entered the room where Burr was seated, and wished him
good-morning, in a serious and placid manner, in which there was not
the slightest trace of embarrassment or discomposure.
"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing your fair companion this morning?"
said Burr, after some moments of indifferent conversation.
"No, Sir; Madame de Frontignac desires me to excuse her to you."
"Is she ill?" said Burr, with a look of concern.
"No, Mr. Burr, she prefers not to see you."
Burr gave a start of well-bred surprise, and Mary added,
"Madame de Frontignac has made me familiar with the history of your
acquaintance with her; and you will therefore understand what I mean,
Mr. Burr, when I say, that, during the time of her stay with us, we
should prefer not to receive calls from you."
"Your language, Miss Scudder, has certainly the merit of explicitness."
"I intend it shall have, Sir," said Mary, tranquilly; "half the misery
in the world comes of want of courage to speak and to hear the truth
plainly and in a spirit of love."
"I am gratified that you add the last clause, Miss Scudder; I might not
otherwise recognize the gentle being whom I have always regarded as the
impersonation of all that is softest in woman. I have not the honor of
understanding in the least the reason of this apparently capricious
sentence, but I bow to it in submission."
"Mr. Burr," said Mary, walking up to him, and looking him full in the
eyes, with an energy that for the moment bore down his practised air of
easy superiority, "I wish to speak to you for a moment, as one immortal
soul should to another, without any of those false glosses and deceits
which men call ceremony and good manners. You have done a very great
injury to a lovely lady, whose weakness ought to have been sacred in
your eyes. Precisely because you are what you are,--strong, keen,
penetrating, and able to control and govern all who come near
you,--because you have the power to make yourself agreeable,
interesting, fascinating, and to win esteem and love,--just for that
reason you ought to hold yourself the guardian of every woman, and
treat her as you would wish any man to treat your own daughter. I leave
it to your conscience, whether this is the manner in which you have
treated Madame de Frontignac."
"Upon my word, Miss Scudder," began Burr, "I cannot imagine what
representations our mutual friend may have been making. I assure you,
our intercourse has been as irreproachable as the most scrupulous could
"Irreproachable!--scrupulous!--Mr. Burr, you know that you have taken
the very life out of her. You men can have everything,--ambition,
wealth, power; a thousand ways are open to you: women have nothing but
their heart; and when that is gone, all is gone. Mr. Burr, you remember
the rich man who had flocks and herds, but nothing would do for him but
he must have the one little ewe-lamb which was all his poor neighbor
had. Thou art the man! You have stolen all the love she had to
give,--all that she had to make a happy home; and you can never give
her anything in return, without endangering her purity and her
soul,--and you knew you could not. I know you men _think_ this is a
light matter; but it is death to us. What will this woman's life be?
one long struggle to forget; and when you have forgotten her, and are
going on gay and happy,--when you have thrown her very name away as a
faded flower, she will be praying, hoping, fearing for you; though all
men deny you, yet will not she. Yes, Mr. Burr, if ever your popularity
and prosperity should leave you and those who now flatter should
despise and curse you, she will always be interceding with her own
heart and with God for you, and making a thousand excuses where she
cannot deny; and if you die, as I fear you have lived, unreconciled to
the God of your fathers, it will be in her heart to offer up her very
soul for you, and to pray that God will impute all your sins to her,
and give you heaven. Oh, I know this, because I have felt it in my own
heart!" and Mary threw herself passionately down into a chair, and
broke into an agony of uncontrolled sobbing.
Burr turned away, and stood looking through the window; tears were
dropping silently, unchecked by the cold, hard pride which was the evil
demon of his life.
It is due to our human nature to believe that no man could ever have
been so passionately and enduringly loved and revered by both men and
women as he was, without a beautiful and lovable nature;--no man ever
demonstrated more forcibly the truth, that it is not a man's natural
constitution, but the _use_ he makes of it, which stamps him as good or
The diviner part of him was weeping, and the cold, proud demon was
struggling to regain his lost ascendency. Every sob of the fair,
inspired child who had been speaking to him seemed to shake his
heart,--he felt as if he could have fallen on his knees to her; and yet
that stoical habit which was the boast of his life, which was the sole
wisdom he taught to his only and beautiful daughter, was slowly
stealing back round his heart,--and he pressed his lips together,
resolved that no word should escape till he had fully mastered himself.
In a few moments Mary rose with renewed calmness and dignity, and,
approaching him, said,--
"Before I wish you good-morning, Mr. Burr, I must ask pardon for the
liberty I have taken in speaking so very plainly."
"There is no pardon needed, my dear child," said Burr, turning and
speaking very gently, and with a face expressive of a softened concern;
"if you have told me harsh truths, it was with gentle intentions;--I
only hope that I may prove, at least by the future, that I am not
altogether so bad as you imagine. As to the friend whose name has been
passed between us, no man can go beyond me in a sense of her real
nobleness; I am sensible how little I can ever deserve the sentiment
with which she honors me. I am ready, in my future course, to obey any
commands that you and she may think proper to lay upon me."
"The only kindness you can now do her," said Mary, "is to leave her. It
is impossible that you should be merely friends;--it is impossible,
without violating the holiest bonds, that you should be more. The
injury done is irreparable; but you _can_ avoid adding another and
greater one to it."
Burr looked thoughtful.
"May I say one thing more?" said Mary, the color rising in her cheeks.
Burr looked at her with that smile that always drew out the confidence
of every heart.
"Mr. Burr," she said, "you will pardon me, but I cannot help saying
this: You have, I am told, wholly renounced the Christian faith of your
fathers, and build your whole life on quite another foundation. I
cannot help feeling that this is a great and terrible mistake. I cannot
help wishing that you would examine and reconsider."
"My dear child, I am extremely grateful to you for your remark, and
appreciate fully the purity of the source from which it springs.
Unfortunately, our intellectual beliefs are not subject to the control
of our will. I have examined, and the examination has, I regret to say,
not had the effect you would desire."
Mary looked at him wistfully; he smiled and bowed,--all himself again;
and stopping at the door, he said, with a proud humility,--
"Do me the favor to present my devoted regard to your friend; believe
me, that hereafter you shall have less reason to complain of me."
He bowed, and was gone.
An eye-witness of the scene has related, that, when Burr resigned his
seat as President of his country's Senate, an object of peculiar
political bitterness and obloquy, almost all who listened to him had
made up their minds that he was an utterly faithless, unprincipled man;
and yet, such was his singular and peculiar personal power, that his
short farewell-address melted the whole assembly into tears, and his
most embittered adversaries were charmed into a momentary enthusiasm of
It must not be wondered at, therefore, if our simple-hearted, loving
Mary strangely found all her indignation against him gone, and herself
little disposed to criticize the impassioned tenderness with which
Madame de Frontignac still regarded him.
We have one thing more that we cannot avoid saying, of two men so
singularly in juxtaposition as Aaron Burr and Dr. Hopkins. Both had a
perfect _logic_ of life, and guided themselves with an inflexible
rigidity by it. Burr assumed individual pleasure to be the great object
of human existence; Dr. Hopkins placed it in a life altogether beyond
self. Burr rejected all sacrifice; Hopkins considered sacrifice as the
foundation of all existence. To live as far as possible without a
disagreeable sensation was an object which Burr proposed to himself as
the _summum bonum_, for which he drilled down and subjugated a nature
of singular richness. Hopkins, on the other hand, smoothed the
asperities of a temperament naturally violent and fiery by a rigid
discipline which guided it entirely above the plane of self-indulgence;
and, in the pursuance of their great end, the one watched against his
better nature as the other did against his worse. It is but fair, then,
to take their lives as the practical workings of their respective
NEW ENGLAND IN FRENCH EYES.
We owe our readers a digression at this point, while we return for a
few moments to say a little more of the fortunes of Madame de
Frontignac, whom we left waiting with impatience for the termination of
the conversation between Mary and Burr. "_Enfin, chere Sybille_," said
Madame de Frontignac, when Mary came out of the room, with her cheeks
glowing and her eye flashing with a still unsubdued light, "_te voila
encore_! What did he say, _mimi_?--did he ask for me?"
"Yes," said Mary, "he asked for you."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that you wished me to excuse you."
"How did he look then?--did he look surprised?"
"A good deal so, I thought," said Mary.
"_Allons, mimi_,--tell me all you said, and all he said." "Oh," said
Mary, "I am the worst person in the world; in fact, I cannot remember