" Eh me,

[ocr errors]

ent, never daunted, came back in all of us, s heavily on my arm. - And we went on for as we returned into the ways of life. We a long time without another word, threadsaid nothing to each other, indeed, for a ing the dark paths, which were steep and time ; but when we got clear of the trees slippery with the damp of the winter. and reached the opening near the house, The air was very still not more than where we could see the sky, Dr. Moncrieff enough to make a faint sighing in the himself was the first to speak. “I must branches, that mingied with the sound of be going,” he said; "it's very late, I'm the water to which we were descending: afraid. I will go down the glen, as I | When we spoke again, it was about indif. came.”

ferent matters -about the height of the " But not alone. I am going with you, river, and the recent rains. We parted doctor."

with the minister at his own door, where “Well, I will not oppose it. I am an his old housekeeper appeared in great perold man, and agitation wearies more than turbation, waiting for him. work. Yes; I'll be thankful of your arm. minister! the young gentleman will be To-night, colonel, you've done me more worse ? " she cried. good turns than one.”

“ Far from that — better. God bless I pressed his hand on my arm, not feel. | bim!” Dr. Moncrieff said. ing able to speak. But Simson, who I think if Simson had begun again to turned with us, and who had gone along me with his questions, I should have all this time with his taper flaring, in en pitched him over the rocks as we returned tire unconsciousness, came to himself, up the glen; but he was silent, by a good apparently at the sound of our voices, inspiration. And the sky was clearer and put out that wild little torch with a than it had been for many nights, shining quick movement, as if of shame. “Let high over the trees, with here and there å me carry your lantern," he said ; "it is star faintly gleaming through the wilderheavy." He recovered with a spring, and ness of dark and bare branches. The air, in a moment, from the awestricken spec- as I have said, was very soft in them, tator he had been, became himself scep with a subdued and peaceful cadence. It tical and cynical." I should like to ask was real, like every natural sound, but you a question,” he said.

“Do you be came to us like a hush of peace and relieve in purgatory, doctor? It's not in the lief. I thought there was a sound in it as tenets of the Church, so far as I know.” of the breath of a sleeper, and it seemed

“Sir,” said Dr. Moncrieff, “an old man clear to me that Roland must be sleeping, like me is sometimes not very sure what satisfied and calm. We went up to his he believes. There is just one thing I am room when we went in. There we found certain of — and that is the loving-kind- the complete hush of rest.

My wife ness of God.”

looked up out of a doze, and gave me a But I thought that was in this life. I smile; “I think he is a great deal better; am no theologian

but you are very late," she said in a whis. “Sir," said the old man again, with a per,'shading the light with her hand that tremor in him which I could feel going the doctor might see his patient. The over all his frame, “ if I saw a friend of boy had got back something like his own mine within the gates of hell, I would not color. He woke as we stood all round. despair but his father would find him his bed. His eyes had the happy halfstill — if he cried like yon.

awakened look of childhood, glad to shut " I allow it is very strange - very again, yet pleased with the interruption strange. I cannot see through it. That and glimmer of the light. I stooped over there must be human agency, I feel sure. him and kissed his forehead, which was Doctor, what made you decide upon the moist and cool. “It is all well, Roland,” person and the naine ?”

said. He looked up at me with a glance The minister put out his hand with the of pleasure, and took my hand and laid iinpatience which a man night show if he his cheek upon it, and so went to sleep. were asked how he recognized his brother. “ Tuts !” he said, in familiar speech ihen more solemnly, "how should I not For some nights after, I watched recognize a person that I know better- among the ruins, spending ali the dark far better than I know you?”

hours up to midnight patrolling about “ Then you saw the man ?”

the bit of wall which was associated with Dr. Moncrieff made no reply. He so many emotions; but I heard nothing, moved his hand again with a little impa- and saw nothing beyond the quiet course tient movement, and walked on, leaning of nature: nor, so far as I am aware, has

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

anything been heard again. Dr. Mon about them one Sunday afternoon in the crieff gave me the history of the youth, idleness of that unemployed day, Simson whom he never hesitated to name. I did with his stick penetrated an old window not ask, as Simson did, how he recognized which had been entirely blocked up with him. He had been a prodigal — weak, fallen soil. He jumped down into it in foolish, easily imposed upon, and “led great excitement, and called me to follow. away,” as people say. All that we had There we found a little hole — for it was heard had passed actually in life, the doc- more a hole than a room - entirely hidden tor said. The young man had come home under the ivy and ruins, in which there thus a day or two after his mother died – was a quantity of straw laid in a corner, who was no more than the housekeeper as if some one had made a bed there, and in the old house — and distracted with the some remains of crusts about the floor. news, had thrown himself down at the Some one had lodged there, and not very door and called upon her to let him in. long before, he made out; and that this The old man could scarcely speak of it for unknown being was the author of all the tears. To me it seemed as if- beaven mysterious sounds we heard he is conhelp us, how little do we know about any- vinced. “ I told you it was human agen. thing! - a scene like that might impress cy,” he said triumphantly. He forgets, I itself somehow upon the hidden heart of suppose, how he and I stood with our nature. I do not pretend to know how, lights seeing nothing, while the space but the repetition had struck me at the between us was audibly traversed by time as, in its terrible strangeness and something that could speak, and sob, and incomprehensibility, almost mechanical suffer. There is no argument with men

as if the unseen actor could not exceed of this kind. He is ready to get up a or vary, but was bound to re-enact the laugh against me on this slender ground. whole. One thing that struck me, how." I was puzzled myself— I could not make ever, greatly, was the likeness between it out but I always felt convinced human the old minister and my boy in the man. agency was at the bottom of it. And here ner of regarding these strange phenom. it is

and a clever fellow he must have Dr. Moncrieff was not terrified, as been,” the doctor says. I had been myself, and all the rest of us. Bagley left my service as soon as he It was no "ghost," as I fear we all vul- got well. He assured me it was no want garly considered it, to him - but a poor of respect; but he could not stand “them creature whom he knew under these con- kind of things.” And the man was so ditions, just as he had koown him in the shaken and ghastly that I was glad to flesh, having no doubt of his identity. give him a present and let him And to Roland it was the same. This my own part, I made a point of staying spirit in pain — if it was a spirit — this out the time, two years, for which I had voice out of the unseen a poor taken Brentwood; but I did not renew fellow.creature in misery, to be succored my tenancy. By that time we had settled, and helped out of his trouble, to my boy: and found for ourselves a pleasant home He spoke to me quite frankly about it of our own. when he got better. "I knew father I must add that when the doctor defies would find out some way,” he said. And me, I can always bring back gravity to bis this was when he was strong and well, countenance, and a pause in his railing, and all idea that he would turn hysterical when I remind him of the juniper-bush. or become a seer of visions had happily To me that was a matter of little imporpassed away.

tance. I could believe I was mistaken. I did not care about it one way or other; but on his inind the effect was different.

The miserable voice, the spirit in pain, he I MUST add one curious fact which does could think of as the result of ventrilonot seem to me to have any relation to quism, or reverberation, or — anything the above, but which Simson made great you please: an elaborate prolonged hoax use of, as the human agency which he was executed somehow by the tramp that had determined to find somehow. We had found a lodging in the old tower. But examined the ruins very closely at the the juniper-bush staggered him. Things time of these occurrences; but afterwards, have effects so different on the minds of when all was over, as we went casually different men.



go. For





From Temple Bar. for wit among those present, and awakA VISIT TO VOLTAIRE.

ened a congratulatory“ titter," to which The following incidents are drawn from the great man was by no ineans insensian authentic record made by Signor ble. After a short pause he exclaimed: C-s, after a visit to Voltaire at the date " They tell me that the Italians are not named in the sequel.

satisfied with Algarotti's style — they critThe facts as here given are reliable; icise his language.” and if they fail, on historic grounds, to “I cannot but endorse their views,” interest the student, they may at least replied the Venetian. “In all that he serve partially to raise the curtain on the writes there lurks a strong Gallic savor. domestic life, and candid opinions on You will pardon me for saying that, to my contemporary writers, of one whose say- mind, bis style is pitiable.” ings were once deemed worthy of the at- “ But do not French phrases, gracetention of Europe. Rochefoucauld has fully turned, give more effect to your lantold us that it belongs to great men to guage

?" possess great defects. Voltaire proved it. The young man shook his head. His life, social and public, was but a com- my opinion, sir, they render it insupportapound of the little and the great. If his ble, even as the French language would pen was too apt to drop“ more aloes than be if interlarded with Italian or German." honey,” an excuse is found in the fact that “ You are right. Yes, upon reflection I he essentially belonged to that genus irri- think that you are right. A language tabile vatum, which stings without pity in should be pure. Some wiseacres have order to awaken in the human breast a criticised Livy on those grounds; they say just sense of man's insignificance and fal. that his Latin savors too much of the jarJibility.

gon of Padua. May I ask, presuming that

you are interested in literature, to what In the middle of August, 1769, a young authors you devote yourself?” Venetian, bearing a letter of introduction “ To none, sir, but that will perhaps from the celebrated Albert de Haller, pre. come later on. Meanwhile I read as sented himself at Ferney. He found the much as possible during my travels. I salon full of ladies and gentlemen, pow. am fond of travelling, and delight in the dered, patched, and bewigged in the study of mankind.” orthodox fashion of that period. In the “That is the best method of acquiring centre of this society stood a man, some- a thorough knowledge of man,” replied what above middle' height, of meagre Voltaire, “but the book is too ponderous countenance, and a slender form. His too diffuse ; you would attain your obeye was quick and penetrating. An air of ject more easily by reading history:" pleasantry, tinged with malignity, reigned The young man shook his head by way in his features, and when he spoke, his of dissent, and muttered something about action betrayed remarkable quickness and the disingenuousness of historians, and vivacity: It was Voltaire, the Coryphæus their perversion of fact in order to give a of France.

proper coloring to their views.

“ Horace After an interchange of courtesies Vol. is my guide, sir,” he added presently, “ I taire said : “ As a Venetian you are prob- find him everywhere.” ably acquainted with Count Algarotti?” “I presume, then, that you like po

I know him," replied the visitor, etry ? " " but not as a Venetian, for nine-tenths of The Venetian nodded assent. my compatriots ignore his existence.” " Have you written any sonnets? the

“I ought then to have said “as a man | Italians are mad about sonnets.” of letters'?"

“ I have written a few,” replied the vis“ To tell the truth, sir,” replied the Veitor, “but I find sonnets very difficult to netian ingenuously, “Count Algarotti's compose, because it is not permissible sole merit, in my eyes, lies in bis openly either to prolong or to curtail a thought avowed admiration for Monsieur de Vol- so as to make it exactly fit the requisite taire.

fourteen lines." "I feel the force of your compliment,” Voltaire smiled at his visitor's obvious replied the philosopher with a smile,“ but desire to transform sonnets into a kind of you must permit me to say that it is not bed of Procrustes. “It is on that acnecessary to be admired by any one in count,” he added, " that you Italians have particular in order to win the esteem of the so few good sonnets. I must confess that whole world."

we have none whatever, but then, that is These words, so full of vanity, passed the fault of our language."



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“And of the French themselves, who clined to open for him the gates of im. maintain that a dilated thought loses all its mortality. We may smile at this now, force and éclat."

but no writer can afford to insult with “Which of your poets do you most ad- impunity a nation so richly endowed with mire?” inquired Voltaire with evident the highest products of genius. desire to change the conversation.

It was on the occasion of which we “ I admire Ariosto most, all others pale speak that Voltaire handed to his visitor before him. When, fifteen years ago, I his well-known translation of the stanza, read your philippic against Ariosto, I was

Quindi avvien che tra principi e signori rash enough to predict that, so soon as you had read him, you would retract.”

The conversation deviated a moment “I thank you for having supposed that from the subject of “Orlando,” and VolI had not read him," replied Voltaire taire was much surprised to hear his visitor politely. “The fact is that I had read hazard an opinion that the immortality of hiin, but in my youth, at a time when I Ariosto had been assured by a particular possessed but a superficial knowledge of portion of that long poem. your language. I remember the circum- “ To what portion do you allude ?” stances under which my criticism was

“To the last stanzas of the twenty-third written only too well. I was inisled by canto, sir,” replied the Venetian, unasome Italian savans whose enthusiasm bashed, “that portion in which the poet, for Tasso was great. Under their infiu with almost painful minuteness, describes ence I was foolish enough to publish a the process of insanity." judgment which I considered as my own,

“Ah! I recollect them,” said Voltaire. but which in reality was only an echo of

“ Poor fellow! he fell a prey to jealousy. the sentiment of others. I venerate But he wrote too much. An epic of fiftyAriosto."

two cantos is more than one has a right At these words the Venetian ventured to expect, even from the genius of Ariosto. to implore the great man to revoke the Like other poets, he would have gained work in which he had held up the author by the destruction of at least half; those of " Orlando to ridicule. But Voltaire genealogical and historical portions are only shrugged his shoulders, and said, wearisome, and I can never read them “To what end? My works are all inter- with patience.” dicted."

Speaking of Horace he said, “ I know Voltaire's power was not confined to Horace by heart. Yes, I know him in the desk. He had a great talent for reci- spite of his tedious epistles, which are in tation, and was easily induced by his vis. my opinion far below those of Boileau.” itor to recite some portions of Ariosto's

'Voltaire expressed his opinion that the chef-d'euvre. He chose those portions crowning sin of Boileau lay in his prowhich relate to an imaginary conversation pensity to flatter. The conversation grad. beld between Duke Astolpho and St. John ually turned upon English literature, from the Apostle ;, and so retentive was his whose wide range, Voltaire selected by memory that he recited those lines with preference Garth's * Dispensatory; out missing a verse, and without cominit. Prior's “ Henry and Emma;” Pope's proting the smallest error in prosody. He logue to “ Cato;” and indeed tlie smalldrew forth all their beauties with his ac- est work of Pope. But of Shakespeare or customed sagacity, and with all the per-| Milton he could hardly speak with paception of a great genius. It would have tience. In a vein of satirical audacity he been impossible for the best elocutionist said in “Hamlet” Shakespeare had blun. in all Italy

more famous in those days dered. than now to have done better. His

“ The first act ends with the king giving auditors were delighted, and gave vent to his royal orders (which must not be distheir feelings by unaffected applause. obeyed) to fire all the cannon round the Whatever may have caused Voltaire in ramparts, and this two hundred years his “salad days " to disparage Ariosto, before gunpowder was invented! What he made ample amends afterwards. This think you of that?” was politic at all events. So strong is the The company receives this sally in si. feeling in Italy for the honor of Ariosto - lence. Voltaire now burst into a tiiviestie so bitter was ihe animus which Voltaire's of the sublime soliloquy that follows the philippic aroused – it has been more than exit of the king and Polonius in the third once confidently asserted that had Vol.act: taire not publicly rectified bis error in “To dance, or not to dance, judgment, the Italians would have de- ! To drink, or not to drink,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

To dress, or not to dress,

The supplementary characters To ride, or not to ride,

were always selected from the Ferney To pay, or not to pay,

establishment. The giggling dairy-maid To sing, or not to sing; that is tne question.”

was often enveloped in the habit of a You are severe, monsieur,” exclaimed priestess; while Voltaire's wizen-faced the Venetian. “I should have thought old cuisinière not unfrequently figured as that you possessed a profound veneration a young vestal. The eccentricities of for the great dramatist. He has been i Voltaire often marred the pleasure which pronounced faultless.”

these entertainments were so well calcuFaultless, indeed!” quoth the great lated to promote. If anything happened man in high dudgeon. Who is fault. to displease him, he would at once interless? The English have gone too far. I rupt the performance, and this quaint once had the folly to express my views in figure, clad in a dressing.gown, would be Shakespeare's favor, and ever since that seen shuffling across the stage for the time the English have gone mad in their purpose of adıninistering a severe rebuke judgments."

to the offending person. He would not The young man, feeling somewhat un. hesitate to unrobe a monarch in the prescomfortable at the indignation he had ence of his courtiers, and kick his crown unwittingly aroused, turned the conversa into the parterre. It happened once to tion nearer home, and asked Voltaire be bis coachman's duty — in the characwhich of his own tragedies he considered ter of a Turkish slave – to support Volas the best.

taire in the hour of death. The unwary Olympia,'” replied the great man Jehu mistook his cue, and entered late. tartly; " for the same reason that a man Voltaire, highly incensed, promptly is proud of having a child at seventy- changed his tragic rôle into broad farce, five."

and whimsically demanded a receipt in “Would you like to see my uncle's the full for the wages he had just paid that atre?" asked a lady, who proved to be no functionary. For,” said he, “I am sure other than the celebrated Madame Denis. that you consider me in your debt, or you “My uncle would like you to see his the would not have thus used me, and allowed atre. It is a bijou."

me to die like a beggar.” “Monsieur must please himself," quoth With similar contempt for that lingering Voltaire bluntly.

pathos which crowns the solemn finale of "I need scarcely say that I should feel tragedy, and lulls a deeply impressed auhighly honored by being permitted to in. dience to momentary silence, Voltaire spect that famous building,” exclaimed invariably broke the spell by a series of the young man, bowing deferentially to jests more vulgar, if possible, than those Madame Denis.

of a clown at a country fair. Nor did he “ This way then,” exclaimed Voltaire, show more courtesy towards his orchesas he opened a door leading into the gar

tra. However effectively they rendered den. " Ladies and gentlemen, we shall the best music of Lulli, Voltaire would soon return," and so saying left the room. maliciously cut the piece short – now by

Voltaire's theatre, of which alas ! noth- a clatter from his warning-bell, now by ing now remains, stood in an outhouse some verbal drollery too well calculated close to the château. It was neatly fitted to provoke laughter and drown all efforts up, and was capable of seating an audi- of harmony. Madame Denis, whom he ence of two hundred persons. There was loved and cordially admired, had great ample space on the stage; but the scen- musical talent; but he did not spare her ery was limited to two changes. At the on that account. He could not resist the time of which we speak, French tragedy impulse to say bitter things. His feelwas confined to palace plot, and cabinet |ings were never under proper control, conspiracy. Comedies portrayed little be. and sometimes, with childlike petulance, yond parlor intrigue. No writer dreamed he would acknowledge the masterly renof preserving the “unities.” The world dering of a musical interlude by holding had not yet learned that without a preser- her up to ridicule. All this may seem vation of the unities “there may be strange to those who have not studied poetry, but there can be no drama.”* the character of that remarkable man of The principal characters at Voltaire's the whom Haller so well said :

" C'est un atre were generally played by the most homme qui mérite d'être connu, quoique, eligible among his friends and acquaint, malgré les lois de la physique, bien des

gens l'aient trouvé plus grand de loin que • See preface to “Sardanapalus."

de près."

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »