only seven years old, ran to embrace him. “ Dear Grandpapa,” said she, “you do please us so much when you tell us, of an evening, some pretty story. Only think, then, how much more pleased we should be, if you would tell us your own!" It is not late; the night is a very fine one, and nobody wishes to go to sleep.” AJI the family of Peter joined in the same request; they formed a circle round him; Louisa seated herself at his feet, and begged that every body would keep silence. Each mother took on her knee the child whose crying might disturb the attention; every body listened; and the good old man, caressing Louisa with one hand, and holding the hand' of Theresa with the other, began his story.

It is a long time ago since I was eighteen, and Theresa was sixteen. She was the only child of Aymar, the richest farmer in the country. I was the poorest peasant in the village, bnt I was never aware of my poverty till I fell in love with Theresa.

“I did all in my power to stifle a passion which could only make me miserable. I was very sure that my want of fortune would be an eternal obstacle to my obtaining the hand of Theresa, and that I must either give up all thoughts of her, or find out some means of obtaining riches. But to procure riches, I must quit the village where Theresa lived: this was an effort which I could not make; and I, therefore, preferred offering myself as a servant to Theresa's father.

"I was hired. You may guess with what vigour I worked. I soon gained the friendship of Aymar, and still sooner that of his daughter. You, my children, who all married from love, you well know, when the heart is once given, what delight lovers enjoy in each other's society, and how they mutually seek and find each other, to enjoy it! Theresa loved me as dearly as I loved her. I thought of nothing but Theresa ; I lived but with her; I saw her daily; and I never imagined that my happiness could have an end.

“I was quickly undeceived. A farmer of a neighbouring village asked Theresa in marriage from her father. Aymar went to examine what number of acres was possessed by the man who wished to become his son-in-law; and, having made this examination, he decided that he was just the person who would suit his daughter. The marriage was settled.

“It was in vain that we wept; our tears were of no service to us. The unrelenting Aymar gave his daughter to understand that he was displeased with her sadness. It was necessary for us to add to our sufferings, by putting a constraint upon our feelings.

“The fatal day was at hand; we were deprived of every hope; Theresa was about to become the wife of a man whom she hated. Her death, she was sure, would be the consequence; I was equally sure that I could not survive her; we took the only step which remained; we fled together, and Heaven punished us.

" Theresa and'I quitted the village in the middle of the night. She was mounted on a little horse, which one of her uncles had given to her. I had decided that there could be no harm in taking away the horse, as it did not belong to her father. A small bag, containing her clothes and mine, some provisions, and a very little money, which she had contrived to save; this was all that Theresa took away with her. For my part I was determined to take nothing. So true it is that youth makes a virtue of what it pleases! I carried off a daughter from her father, and yet I scrupled to take any of the property which his house contained..

“We travelled all night. At break of day we were on the Bohemian frontier, and out of all fear of being overtaken. We stopped in a valley, by the side of one of those little brooks which lovers are so pleased to meet with. Theresa alighted, and sat down by me on the grass, and we made a frugal but delicious meal. When we had done, we turned our thoughts to the steps which it would be necessary for us to take.

“After having had a long conversation, in the course of which we counted over our money twenty times, and reckoned the horse at its highest value, we found that we could not calculate the whole of our fortune at more than twenty ducats. Twenty ducats are soon spent! We resolved, however, that it was proper, in the first place, to make the best of our way to some large town, that in case of pursuit we might be less exposed, and that we might get married as soon as possible. Having come to this wise resolution, we took the road to Egra.

“On our arrival, we hastened to the church, and the priest united us. We gave him the half of our little treasure, and never was money spent with more goodwill. It seemed to us as if all our troubles were over, and we had nothing now to fear. For eight days every thing went on well.

“At the end of that time we sold the little horse. At a month's end we had nothing left. What was to be done? What was to become of us? I understood no labour but that of husbandry, and the inhabitants of great cities have little respect for that art by which they are fed! Theresa was not more skilful than myself; she was wretched; she trembled to look forward. We mutually concealed our sufferings; and this concealment was a torture a thousand times more terrible than the sufferings themselves. At length, having no other resource, I enlisted in the regiment of cavalry which was in garrison at Egra. The bounty-money I gave to Theresa, who wept while she received it. .

“My pay was sufficient to provide for my wants; and the litile things which Theresa made, for poverty had been a teacher to her, gave her the means of supporting our humble station. A child now came, to draw closer the ties which united us. It was you, my dear Gertrude. Theresa and myself looked upon you as being sent to be the comfort of our old age. At the birth of every child that Heaven gave us, we said the same; and we have never been mistaken. I put you out to nurse, because my wife could not suckle you ; she was inconsolable that she could not, and she passed whole days near your cradle; while I, by a strict performance of my duty, was striving to acquire the friendship and esteem of my officers,

“ Frederic, my captain, was only twenty years of age. He was distinguished, beyond all the other officers, by his affability and his person. He took a liking to me, and I told him my story. He saw Theresa, and was interested in our fate. He promised every day that he would intercede with Aymar in our behalf; and, as I was absolutely dependent on him, he gave me his word that I should have my liberty as soon as he had pacified my father-in-law. Frederic had already written to our village, but had received no answer.

[ocr errors]

6 Time passed away. My young captain still seemed equally warm in our favour. Theresa, however, became every day more dejected. When I asked the reason, she spoke of her father, and turned the conversation to some other subject. Little did I imagine that Frederic was the cause of her grief.

“ This young man, with those ardent feelings which are common at his age, had seen Theresa with the same eyes with which I saw her, and his virtue was weaker than his passion. He was acquainted with our misfortunes; he knew how necessary his aid was to us; and he had the boldness to intimate to Theresa the price which he expected for his protection. My wife was indignant at his conduct, and she let him know that she was so; but, being aware of my impetuous and jealous temper, she concealed from me the fatal secret. She repulsed Frederic, without saying any thing to me; while I, too credulous, was every day extolling to her the generous friendship of the captain.

“One day, when I had come off guard, I was returning home to my wife, and, judge of my surprise, when I met with Aymar on my road. “At last I have found you, ravisher !” exclaimed he. “ Give me back my daughter! Give me back the comfort of which you robbed me, as a reward for the friendship which I showed to you!" I threw myself on my knees before Aymar; I 'bore the first burst of his indignation; I softened him by my tears; and he consented to hear me. “I will not,” said I, “ attempt to justify myself; the mischief is done; Theresa is mine; she is my wife. My life is in your hands, punish me; but spare your child, your only daughter. Do not dishonour her husband'; do not make her die of grief; forget me, to think of her alone.” Then, instead of "conducting him to Theresa, 1 led him to the house where you, my child, were at nurse. “Come,” added I, “and behold another, to whom your pity must be extended.”

“You were in your cradle, Gertrude; you slept; your countenance, where the white and the vermillion were blended, was the very picture of health and innocence. Aymar looked at you, and his eyes filled with tears. I took you in my arms, and gave you to him. “ This, »), is your child,” said I. `You awoke as I moved

you; and, as if Heaven had inspired you, instead of crying you smiled; and, stretching out your little arms to the old Aymar, you took hold of his white locks, and twining your fingers in them, drew his face towards your's. The old man covered you with kisses, pressed me to his bosom, and still keeping you in his arms, stretched out his hand to me, exclaiming, “ Come, my son, let us hasten to my daughter.” You may imagine with what joy, my children, I conducted him to our home.

6 While we were on our road, it occurred to me that the sudden shock of unexpectedly seeing her father might overcome Theresa. Wishing to prevent this, I hastened forward before Aymar, ran up stairs, opened the door, and saw Frederic struggling with Theresa, who was obliged to exert all her strength to save herself from his violence. The moment that I witnessed this scene my sword was plunged into his bosom. Bathed in his blood, he screamed and fell; those who were within hearing rushed in; the guard came; my sword was still reeking; I was seized; and the unfortunate Aymar arrived with the crowd to see his sonin-law loaded with chains.

“I embraced him, and recommended to him my child and my wife, who was now insensible! I embraced you too, my dear Gertrude, and then followed my comrades, who conducted me to a dungeon.

“I remained there, in a state which you may conceive, for two days and three nights. I knew nothing of what was going forward; I knew nothing of the fate of Theresa ; I saw nobody but my ill-looking gaoler, who gave me no other answer to my questions, than that I might be sure that I should speedily bé condemned.

“ On the third day the gates were opened, and I was told to come out. A detachment was waiting for me; it formed a circle round me, and conducted me to the parade. I saw, at a distance, the regiment drawn up, and saw also the terrible instrument which was to put an end to my existence. The idea that my misfortunes had now reached their height, restored to me the strength which I had lost. A convulsive motion quick

« ElőzőTovább »