Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

I look at it, tears rush into my eyes. With a mingled sensation of pleasure and pain, I recollect, that in the most afflicting moment of my life, a feeling heart participated in my sorrow. Extreme indeed must be the distress that compels me to open this sacred purse. I have several times been reduced to great want since I received it, have denied myself many things that would have been of much use to me, because I never could prevail on myself to touch this hallowed store. it is a relic, the benediction of a good woman accompanies it, and I do not renounce the hope of one day being able to return it into her hands, which I will batle with tears of gratitude.

The moment of separation being arrived, young De Löwenstern brought me some cream of tartar, a bed-gown lined with fur, a cloth mantle with large sleeves, two cotton night-caps, a pair of boots, and several other things. I embraced him, and requested him to inform my wife of my situation. He solemnly promised me to do so, and the tears which ran down his cheeks are my vouchers that he has kept his word. He then, with all that keen sensibility, all that candour which characterizes the early stage of life, and with all the illusive confidence which it inspires, took the counsellor by the hand, and intreated him to take care of my health, and to overlook my fault. The counsellor replied with the same cold politeness which he had before shewn to my wife. The chambermaid stood at the window and wept. Prostenius had finished his task, and. was no longer visible, at least I did not observe him; nor did I again see either the master or mistress of the house. We repaired to an open cart which stood before the inn, for my carriage had been left at the post-house. I was put into the cart, with all my things, exposed to the observation of the multitude and to the pity of a few. The counsellor placed himself at my side, the courier behind me, and in an hour after we alighted at the inn where we had slept.

Thus terminated the unfortunate attempt to make my escape, which certainly was far from being a blameable measure, in whatever point of view it may be considered. While I imagined I was travelling to Petersburgh, to undergo an examination there, it was a duty I owed inyself to submit, and had I in such case attempted to escape, my innocence would have been justly suspected. The existing state of affairs justified the emperor in employing all possible means of precaution to prevent civil disorders, and I respect the rights of sovereigns. As soon, however, as I was convinced that neither papers nor innocence were to be taken into consideration, but on the contrary, that the most severe treatment would precede any examination, what law, human or divine, required that I should remain a prisoner?

The corpulent mistress of the post-house felt great delight at seeing me re-taken: she told the counsellor that she expected every moment a band of soldiers she had sent for from a neighbouring barrack, and advised him, in future, to be provided with guards wherever we passed the night. One of the horses that had been employed in the pursuit of me being. almost dead through fatigue, she immediately perceived it, and, venting her ill-humour upon me, loaded me with the grossest abuse. At another time I might have been offended at this, but it was now of no more consequence than the sting of a gnat to a man just taken off the rack. I answered her with a sneering smile, which threw her into a still greater passion, and I really believe that when she had ex. hausted all her abusive epithets, she would have gratified her anger by beating me, had not the counsellor interposed. This noise, however, drew many people to the spot, and at least thirty gaping boors filled the room with their nauseous odour. The counsellor drove them all out, and desired the mistress of the house to leave him alone with me.

I was rather confounded, though no longer alarmed, yet I

66

soon began to feel that resolution which despair is apt

to inspire.

When we were alone, the counsellor politely said to me:

You must not take it amiss, sir, that I shall now have recourse to more severe measures.” The idea of fetters instantly came into my head ; and growing quite wild with anguish, 1 laid hold of my scissors, with the design of putting an end to my life: but he quickly explained. I had, as has been already mentioned, a little box stored with several useful things; he requested the key of this box, in order to deposit in it the money I had about me, promising at the same time, to supply me out of it as often as I should have occasion,

Finding this was all he required, I submitted without saying a word. I had been already accustomed to turn my pockets inside out; and whatever they now contained, keys, money, scissors, pencils, scraps of paper, and even my watch, I delivered up, with a very good grace. The counsellor himself condescended to search my pockets with his own hands, to see if I had really given everything up, and he then locked the box.

The open carriage was changed for my own, and we immediately departed. I shall not attempt to describe the state of my mind as we drove along. Let it suffice to observe, that I could neither eat nor sleep, and if I did not entirely lose my senses, it is solely attributable to the jolting of the vehicle. Every time we stopped to change horses, my head grew giddy ; I was anxious to get on again, and delighted when we came to a hard or uneven road, or a paved causeway. During the first two days of the route, I did not utter half-a-dozen words. Whenever anything was offered to

"No!” was my With wild and fixed eyes I looked at the country before me, without seeing it. Wind or rain, heat or cold, was alike unfelt by me, and I was driven to such a state of distraction, that I could no longer get in and out of the carriage without assistance. If by chance I met with a looking-glass, the sight of my haggered countenance made me start backwards. *

me,

<

answer.

The counsellor seemed to be concerned at my situation. With him, however, it was no affair of compassion, but only the apprehension of not being able to execute his honourable commission to its full ex. tent, which probably would have been considered as a crime. He exerted himself to pacify me; both he and the courier represented Tobolsk as the first city in the universe, and the manner of living there as very gay and agreeable. The strongest recommendation of Tobolsk, in the opinion of the courier, was the goodness and low price of provisions of all kinds. « What fish !” said he ; “ what fish! for ten kopeks you may buy the finest esterlets, for which the dainty

* I must here relate an anecdote. At the first dinner. hour after my having been retaken, we arrived at a small town, the name of which I do not remember, but I only know it belonged to a certain staroste de Korf, who in. habited an antique castle there. Though we did not change horses, yet we stopped in the castle yard. He came down and pressed the counsellor to stay and do him the favour to dine with him; ordered the courier to be taken good care of, but said not a word to me, or sent me anything to eat or drink. He had taken care, however, that I should be well guarded, for he had ordered the gates to be shut, and a crowd of people to be stationed round my carriage, who kept staring me in the face, and sneering at my situation. In this manner I remained the object of their impertinence for a whole hour. Afterwards, the staroste re-conducted his well-replenished guests to the carriage. In spite of all this want of decency with regard to me, the extreme thirst I suffered mastered my stubborn heart; I asked for something to drink, and a glass of beer was brought me. I relate this anecdote, merely because I have since heard at Riga, that M. de Korf had boasted of having entertained me at his table, and of having treated me. in general with the most polite attention!

people of Peterburgh would be glad to pay ten roubles ; and the ceterinos, what ceterinos ! meat, bread, brandy, all to be had in the greatest plenty !” to this the counsellor added some particulars, which to me were far more interesting. “ The moment you arrive there,” said he, “ you will be free, perfectly free; you may run about, you may go where you please ; you may hunt, shoot, ramble over the country, and make your own acquaintances. You will be allowed to write to the emperor, to your lady, to your friends; you may have servants, and whatever will afford you pleasure : in a word, you may live according to your fancy. At Tobolsk, too, there are balls, masquerades, and a good play-house.” At the word play-house, I smiled in spite of myself. I only asked him, if he could en. gage

that my correspondence would not be stopped. He gave me his word it would not, and this assertion revived my hopes. But, said I to myself, the emperor, who sends me to Tobolsk, might likewise chuse to send me to Irkutzk, which lies three thousand verstes beyond it. Endeavouring to guess at the real motives of my arrest, I had recollected that ten years ago, while I was printing count Benyowsky, the late empress wrote to Revel, to the governor of that place, and charged him to ask me, without men. tioning that it was her majesty's order, what view I had had in writing that play. I naturally replied, that the history of count Benyowsky had struck me as a fit subject for the drama; and that it had even been adopted, before I attempted it, by M. Vulpius. Nothing more was said on the subject; that great princess, as it may easily be imagined, thought no more of the matter.

The emperor, thought 1, offended at the subject of this piece, is perhaps determined to inflict the same kind of punishment on me as I have described in the case of the exile : should it be so, I shall be sent to Kamtschatka, which lies six thousand verstes from Irkutzk.

« PoprzedniaDalej »