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have a senate-courier and an aulic-counsellor with me.”
“ And no guards-no soldiers ?” “ No; no guards."
“ Well, then, what can be more honourable ?” And as he did not perceive that I was at all elated with these marks of honour, he added : “ Come, come, sir, you must submit with a good grace; you are a philosopher.”
“I am a husband and a father,” said I. The little man then simpered : a tear glistened in the eye of madame de Bayer. The chamberlain observed that the hour was very late : “ Retire to rest,
” said he, “ and gain strength to set off to-morrow for Riga.”
I know not why this expected journey to Riga gave me no pain. Was it because it brought me nearer to my wife and children? For, in fact, it was the same thing whether I fell into the hands of the counsellor at Riga, or anywhere else. “ In the common,
continued the chamberlain, you will find a bed; go and take some rest.” In this country they give that name to a pavilion detached from the house, which is occupied by the preceptor, the secretary, and others of that class; and it is likewise furnished with beds for the reception of stran. gers.
As I was leaving the castle to go to the common, five or six peasants suddenly appeared, and accompanied me thither. I imagined mere cusiosity had brought them together; not conceiving that the influence of M. Prostenius could have induced a worthy gentleman to have converted an apartment, hitherto sacred to hospitality, into a state-prison.
On entering the room I found several people in bed, some of whom were asleep. I took no notice of them; but I observed the people on the outside were closing the shutters. This, as I supposed, was a common custom; but, as I do not like to be thus enclosed when I sleep, I begged that they might be left open. My request was not listened to: perhaps they were determined that I should not make a second escape.
Shall I here declare my sentiments ? I affirm, upou my honour, that no idea of another flight entered my head. I likewise declare in the same solemn manner, that had I been in M. de Bayer's place, and like him performing the duties of a good subject, I should not have carried my precautions so far. Admitting that the counsellor could have referred to superior orders, which oblig every one to secure my person whereever I should be found, (which I doubt having been the case,* as he had only a post billet about him, in which my name was not inserted) it would have been sufficient to have placed two sentinels upon me; one one at the door, and another at the window. Had I even succeeded in eluding or bribing my guards, M. de Bayer would not have been any way responsible; he could not have been required to be provided with chains and bolts for the purpose of securing state prisoners. Ah ! Prostenius, Prostenius! most assuredly this was thy work; thou wouldst fain have made my chamber as gloomy as was thy merciless heart. The extreme fatigue under which I laboured soon threw me into a slumber, which, though broken, lasted at intervals till five o'clock.
When I awoke, my first. care was to write to the emperor. I dressed myself and sat down to a table, on which I found all that was necessary for that purpose; and I penned, with great rapidity, what my heart, my innocence, and my indignation, dictated. Breakfast was brought in; my fellow-lodgers had already risen unobserved by me. Having finished my letter to the emperor, I wrote another to count de Pahlen, the emperor's favourite, a third to count de Cobenzel, and a fourth to my dear wife. I had begun a fifth, when the gentle M. Prostenius came into the room, and in a soft tone of voice informed me, that the measures suggested the preceding night could not be put in practice, as the counsellor himself had just made his appearance at the castle.
* He had shewn a sufficient authority.
“ I am then to be given up,” said I. Jle answered, with a shrúg of his shoulders, “What can be done Even the letter to the emperor cannot now be sent to general de Rehbinder: when M de Bayer shall have reflected on this, he will be convinced that it is impracticable.”—“ He promised me without solicitation, and repeated that promise several times.”—“ He would bring himself into trouble ; and therefore that letter must be sent to the governor of Riga.”
“ And the others?”
“ That to your lady must likewise pass through his hands. As to the rest, I would advise you to leave them where they are.” On saying this, he took up the letters I had written to the emperor and my wife. What became of them I am still unable to say. I sup. pose they have been delivered; but such is the servile fear which now takes possession of the heart of every man in office, that I should not be at all surprised to find they were suppressed.* Perhaps their suppression may prove a fortunate circumstanee; and the hard-hearted M. Prostenius may have done me a service. The letter to the emperor was written with too much vehemence. I insisted much on my rights ; on the imperial passport ; and on my innocence. The perusal of it must have rendered the emperor dissatisfied with himself, and all his displeasure would have fallen upon me. Besides, he would have heard of my escape, which he must have considered as rebellion against his commands, and as an act highly deserving of punishment. Part of my letter ran thus :
“ The governor of Courland informed me, in the name of your majesty, that I was going to Petersburgh , yet I discovered that a certain person was con
* It will be seen in the sequel in what a noble manner the governor of Riga acted on this occasion.
ducting me to Siberia : I did not know this person, and he shewed me no order on the part of your majesty. Which of the two am I to believe—the goverpor or this man?”
In a word, the affair was intricate and obscure, and my application could certainly have produced no good effect; it would rather have exasperated the emperor, and I have more than once wished that I had never written the letter. It was the same with regard to the lines I intended for my wife: I had described what I suffered in the woods, and had spoken of my situation as a thing which I considered would last for life. This imprudent letter might have been of fatal consequence to her, had she received it without due preparation. Once more I thank the spruce little man; he has perhaps, without knowing it, been the means of preserving the dearest object I have in the whole world.
My letters to count de Pahlen and count de C) enzel remained in my possession.
Soon after, I found myself alone for a moment with a young man who had slept in the same room with me, and in whose countenance I could read benevolence and compassion. “ If,” said I to him, you have a feeling heart, send off these letters.” hesitated, and appeared somewhat alarmed. They are open,” continued I; peruse their harmless contents, and seal them yourself.” This he promised to do as soon as the present tumult should be subsided. Has he kept his word? I know not. Have my letters produced any effect? Of that too I am ignorant, having heard nothing on the subject.*
A youth of about eighteen or twenty years of age now came into the room, and I took him for young de Löwenstern. He hastily removed all the writing implements, as he said the counsellor was that instant approaching the room. He politely asked me if I
* These circumstances will be cleared up in the sequel.
stood in need of anything for my journey; and I availed myself of his obliging offer so far as to request a little cream of tartar. I now beheld my charming companions again! The counsellor saluted me with with his accustomed wrinkles, but did not utter a single word of reproach. I told him, in the best manner I could, that he must pardon my conduct, as I had naturally been inclined to believe the governor of Courland rather than him. He appeared satisfied with my apologies, and threw all the blame on the ill.timed humanity of the former. I saw him distribute a hundred roubles among the peasants who had mounted guard over me, and I took that opportunity to observe, that if he imagined those boors had taken me, he was much mistaken, for that I had come and surrendered myself here of my own accord. He did not condescend to make me any answer, but heaving a deep sigh, continued to distribute the roubles. He then went out to hasten the preparation for our departure, upon which the young woman who admitted me into the castle the preceding night came into the room, and, advancing in a timid manner, whispered one of the persons present ; and when all had retired, she took the advantage of their absence to present we with a small linen purse, to which some pieces of tape were sewed. “ This contains a hundred roubles, (said she) which my mistress has sent you, sir ;* you will stand in need of them, for I know your money will immediately be taken from you; fasten it quickly about your waist.” She then turned away
I did not rightly understand her meaning: however I concealed the purse as I had been directed : and scarcely had I done so, when the counsellor came into the room.
Noble woman, whom my misfortunes had thus affected ! I still preserve this purse unviolated; it is a sweet remembrancer of your humanity! Whenever
* I then believed it came from madame de Bayer.