Page images


"France!" said, triumphantly, Loeb Herz, for such was the worthy's name, "far from here, and yet friendly to the Poles."

things did not escape Noah's penetration; namely, these fine things are done?" said a mistrustful old that, despite the traveller's foreign airs and graces, he knew the country too well to ask for anything in the way of refreshment which he was not likely to meet with at that sort of place; and he never alluded to the illusory notion of a bed, but merely spoke of a bench and his cloak, by way of accommodation for the night. His inquisitiveness, too, about the boors, struck Noah as not perfectly natural in a man of his appearance.

The stranger took his seat at one of the tables where the better sort of peasants were regaling themselves with beer and honey, and said, in tones loud enough to command general attention :

"You've heard the grand-the glorious


Once their interest and their curiosity roused on a subject so personal to themselves, the boors were like children. They drank in every word that dropped from the stranger as if it had been the balm of life; and the Jews were in raptures as he recounted the revolution of the 27th, 28th, and 29th of July, in a manner to electrify his auditors; the few latitudes that he permitted himself, so far as the real facts were concerned, being of a nature to render the account more palatable. Instead of the armed mobs of fauxbourgs, it was the peas

"No," said Noah ; "is the world enriched by antry from distant villages that had boldly marched some new prince?"

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

to the capital, and forced it with their arms, scythes, and flails. Instead of granting the charte, Louis Philippe had abolished the robot in France. His brave peasants were no longer bound to their own villages, but might roam at pleasure all over the country. Schools were to be established in each village, and the villagers were, henceforth, to be judged and punished no longer by petty masters and their bailiffs, but by a general law-that of the land.

"Surely," said the old peasant, shaking his head, "you are laughing at us; you have come from afar to have your joke at our expense."

"No, no; what I tell you is true; you might read it all in the newspapers, if you had any, and had been taught to read and write; and that's why these, your rights, have been withheld from you."

Loeb Herz's master, an ardent Polish patriot, had contributed by his own personal bravery towards the great event that had not only changed

"What do they rejoice about?" said a stal- the face of France, but was destined to shake Euwart Gallician peasant.

"What? Why, liberty, to be sure."

The peasant stared at him with vague, indefinite curiosity. "One king or another," continued he, "what does it signify?"

"Ay, my friend; but liberty, no robot! no tithes, no blood tax, malt tax, butter, and butcher tax, and tenths, and firstlings, and what not! Freedom is to pay one general tax and no more; to owe duty to one single master, and he so far off that it never inconveniences one; to have rights of one's own. The king cannot till his land with the cattle of the poor, and make them work the better part of the week for himself, and leave them only the fag-end of it."

At these words the indifference of the boors gave way. They started up and pressed round the stranger.

"And what do the lords do?" asked one of the elders among the peasants-" who tills their land?"

"The peasants, to be sure; and pretty well paid they are too."

"And how is that country called where all

rope to its centre. He had instantly dispatched Loeb Herz, whose talents for intrigue were well known to him, on a secret mission to Poland, to pave the way in villages, and out of the way places, for the rising which the sanguine Poles were determined should at last liberate and restore their unhappy country. He could not have entrusted the mission to more able or more faithful hands. Son of an oppressed race, from childhood upwards the tool of others, Loeb Herz's secret sympathies were bound up in that yet pendant cause, pendant since the beginning of time, betwixt the high and the low, betwixt the few that command, and the many that obey-that cause ever agitated under various forms, never settled, which has steeped the earth in blood and the human heart in unutterable, unquenchable hatred. Where fate had cast him, there Loeb's heart had taken root. Born of the people, he cared but for the people. It was a glorious triumph to have his travelling and other expenses richly remunerated, his trouble overpaid, and to be thus enabled to preach his own doctrine, to work a channel for his own hidden but most cherished aspirations. He was paid

ters of this nature, and treating them after Loeb Herz's own fashion. The seed, too, flung among the boors, ripened; and they drank many an additional glass of brandy, though that might have been deemed an impossible feat, in trying to digest the mental food he had left for their discussion.

to rouse the sluggish peasantry against the foreign | the long winter evenings, discoursing upon matyoke; but he taught them to hate all yokes, domestic as well as foreign. On the other hand, it would have been useless to touch more exalted chords with the peasantry than were likely to vibrate in their hearts. However cloudy the understanding, or uncultivated the mind, there is none so dull or so barren but the seed of self-interest will spring up gladly within it, and none are so sublimated by refinement as to exclude its growth. This the adroit agitator well knew; and he sent the peasants home to dream of freedom, such as they understood it, a word till that day but little known to them. The Jews, who had at first listened with a livelier interest than the boors, had, the moment they perceived the dangerous ground the conversation was shifting to, skulked away one after another, terrified lest at any future period their names might be mixed up with the passages of that evening. Noah was half-inclined to remain; but the pleading eyes of Salome at last withdrew him from the fascinating Loeb, who was thus left alone with Pavel.

In the course of their conversation, Loeb Herz implanted in his companion's young breast those principles which he intended should one day bear fruit. So engrossed were they with this subject, that daylight still found them face to face; and after their frugal breakfast, Pavel accompanied his new friend to the nearest village, whose male population so frequently visited Noah's ale-house that he was enabled to give a tolerably correct account of them.

"Well, my young friend," said the agent, when about to take leave of Pavel, "I hope to see you in time a man, such as every Pole should be, hating all oppression, native as well as foreign. If ever you should wish to hear of me," added Loeb, thoughtfully, "here is the address of a friend of mine in Posen, who will always know where to send me a letter." So saying, he tore a slip of paper containing the address from his pocket-book. But," he added, "should you leave this place, where shall I find you?"


Spring came and went; but the interim had been one of unwonted excitement, even to the inhabitants of the lonely road-side ale-house. The struggle between the Poles and Russians had taken place; and Pavel had been so completely absorbed by his interest in the contest, that, in the wrongs of his country, he had somewhat forgotten his own. He had helped the wounded and the flying, executed dangerous missions, and of late, despite his youth, become somewhat initiated in the mysteries of the frontier. He had been present at a night attack, when his active limbs and bold heart saved Noah from much difficulty. All this was fast making a man of him, when a fortuitous circumstance again threw his thoughts into disarray.

One summer evening, as Noah and his family, including Pavel and Peter, were lazily watching from the gate the lengthening shadows over the flat and sandy prospect, their attention became roused by the approach of a travelling carriage and-four. As it drew nearer it proved to be the commodious britzska of the country-not the vehicle known by that name in England, but one singularly elongated, padded throughout to the softness of a bed, and frequently serving that purpose, with plenty of accommodation before and behind for servants. There was nothing unusual in the circumstance, families of distinction being continually on the wing during summer; and as no such equipage ever stopped at Noah's humble tenement, beyond the first moment of vague curiosity, his eye took in the object with the rest of the landscape without any peculiar train of ideas being connected with it, when suddenly his interest was excited, and the whole family sprang to their feet with a cry of consternation.

Not far from Noah's home, a small stream, be"Itween steep and sloping banks, divided the road. It was innocent enough, being partially dry in summer, though in autumn and winter it swelled to a torrent, and was dangerous to the wayfarer. A few trunks of trees loosely tied together, stretch

"I can give no direction," replied Pavel; do not know yet what I shall do with myself." “Tell me at least the village to which, or the lord to whom, you belong." Pavel shook his


"You are then free? or do you belong to crown ing from bank to bank, and covered with a few lands?"

Pavel remained silent.

"Chance must direct me, then," said Loeb; "indeed, you have told me nothing about your circumstances when we next meet, you must be more explicit. I may give you some good advice, and perhaps a good shove, forward; but as yet you are too young-another time, I hope we shall have leisure to improve our acquaintance."

boards, served as a bridge-a contrivance which did very well so long as it was kept in repair, but which required continual attention. On came the carriage at that furious rate which the people of the north delight in, and was half-way over the bridge, when, with a loud crash, it broke in the middle, precipitating carriage, horses, and servants, pell-mell into the brook. Some peasants, working in a neighboring field, flew to the rescue. The imagination of Noah and Pavel fed for Pavel was not slow in joining them; and, by their months on the events of the Parisian three days, joint efforts, they got the carriage on its wheels, and the similarity of their sentiments made them and raised the fallen. The horses, having been more intimate than they had hitherto been. When harnessed in the slovenly Polish fashion, with the tap-room was empty, they spent hours, during ropes-which, however, easily give way in a case


of emergency like the present-stood trembling in this way presently, when I shall take possession the stream, and alone showed symptoms of terror. of it, and some of my people will wait here till Habit, indeed, inures one to everything; the ladies this is mended. On the whole," she added, with inside had not given vent to one scream. True, a merry laugh, that was echoed by the rest, we the carriage was, as we have said, so padded and have been fortunate this journey, having upset but shaped as to ensure them from personal harm; and three times. The roads are really getting better. the servants flung from the rumble met with a│I remember, when travelling with my mother, we soft reception in the sandy bed of the stream. The broke down so often that at last she said, like poor peasants having hauled the britzska with difficulty Count Cobentzel, when travelling through Russia, -for the ladies refused to alight-up the opposite It 's of no use in the world setting up my carbank, were about to harness the horses, when they riage; since it will not stand, even let it lie!'" perceived that one of them had broken his knee, As Pavel, from his accustomed corner, into the shoulder of another was chafed, and the two which he had slunk, gazed on the speaker, and remaining ones appeared much shaken. Pavel,|listened to her words, a dream of the past again whose only weakness was in favor of horses, has- stole over his senses. Those silk dresses, gauze tened to inform the ladies of the incident, declar-bonnets, fleecy, floating draperies-that vague pering it to be impossible that they should proceed fume exhaled from broidered handkerchiefs-all immediately, and that there was a stable hard by, these things had been strangers to him since his where every care and attention would be bestowed eyes had last rested on the countess; and simple on them. Whilst he was speaking, two scornful as was the attire of these ladies, to him, now acblack eyes were fixed upon him. customed to filth and rags, it seemed as if sun"The inn-boy-I understand-no, no; the beams, spirits of light and life, were playing in horses will do very well."

"But won't they be in pain if they drag us on in that state, mamma ?" said the soft voice of a child.

"I don't know," was the careless reply. "What I do know is, that I must be over the frontier before nightfall."

the darkness around him.

"We shall do very well here," resumed the lady; "it is rather close; come here, Constance;" the little girl immediately ran up to her; "let me take off your bonnet," and the maternal hand soon relieved the child of all that might cumber her; and she now stood, with her snowy shoulders Pavel withdrew from the carriage door with a covered with a profusion of fair, silken ringlets, feeling of loathing for the lovely specimen of in- her large blue eyes smiling as the summer heaven, humanity who thus expressed herself; nor would her cherub-like countenance full of ethereal life, he trouble himself to explain that high-bred horses, she seemed to Pavel a being of another and a like hers, might easily, under the circumstances, brighter sphere. With the Oriental eyes and endanger her own life. "Let her," thought he-olive complexion of Salome and her children, he "let her have her brains dashed out against the involuntarily associated penury, want, privation, next tree; it will be one bad heart the less; and, as Noah says, there'll always remain plenty of them."

and suffering-a humble station, and an unhappy fate. With these rosy cheeks and cerulean eyes, visions of lighted halls, fiery steeds, gay trappings, the pomps and splendors of the world seemed naturally connected, and surrounded the little head with a glory that dazzled his imagination.

Pavel was mistaken. The lady was not at bottom worse-hearted than most people; but the habitual indulgence of an uncurbed will rendered her unmindful of sufferings that never could ap- "How well she looks thus!" said the mother, proach her. Perhaps, had she thought twice about tossing about with her slender fingers the golden the matter, she would have controlled her impa- curls; then turning to her companion, she added tience to proceed, which now manifested itself in in French-"How my poor friend, Vanda Stoperemptory orders to the postilions. Fate, how-noika, would have been delighted with Constance ! ever, interposed an unforeseen obstacle. Scarcely Poor Vanda! I could not refuse the pressing inhad the britzska moved a few paces when it was found to be in no condition for the road; and its occupants were at length obliged to descend and enter the inn, the carriage being dragged after them, and the horses safely stabled. Pavel's first care was, assisted by Peter, to examine their hurts; and having washed them and applied what he thought necessary, he entered the common room, where the party was assembled.

It consisted of a lady, no longer in her prime, but still beautiful; a young female, who seemed to be a humble companion; a couple of maid-servants; and a lovely little girl, about ten years old.

"Well, I suppose," said the elder lady, "our britzska, which broke down yesterday, will pass

vitation of the count-he is so proud of his beau-
tiful young wife, and I understand has every rea-
son to be so; but for me the charm of the house
is gone. I was at school with Vanda; we agreed
even then, if we ever had children, to marry them
together; and it so turned out that my Constance
was to become her Leon's bride. And now, where
are they, poor Vanda and her child? You can't
think what a beautiful boy that Leon was.
used to sit on my knee, listening to stories by the
hour; he was a mere baby then. I do wonder
the count got so quickly over both his losses."


Though for years the French language, once more familiar to him than his native tongue, had not met his ear, and though many a word was forgotten, still Pavel fully understood the substance

culinary utensils. Thus the traveller in those
parts, provided with a proper equipage, is perfect-
ly independent of chance; and the inexperienced
foreigner finds public accommodation more indif-
ferent than he would be led to imagine, from his
knowledge of the ways and means of other lands,
a circumstance which may, perhaps, be traced to
the utter want of enterprise natural to the bonds-
man, who has no capital and no credit, to spur
him on to industry. The carriage of the countess
having been disburthened of its resources,
the even-
ing found her and her family sitting round a cheer-
ful tea-table, with every convenience for passing
the night around them, wax-lights, books, cards,
and bedding, having been produced in turn.

of what had been just uttered. That jewelled road, even sometimes to the extent of beds and hand had been passed in tenderness over his black locks; that haughty, cold eye, whose contemptuous stare he had but so lately encountered, had once rested on him with sympathy. And that child, that lovely child, was once destined to be the spirit of his home, as the gentle countess had been that of the general. All the bitterness of the past was revived by those few words; and the cruelty of his fate came back upon him with more severity than ever. That angel of light standing there before him would never now help to soften the asperities of his life; but neither should any darkbrowed peasant girl sit in his hut! No humble Salome should obtrude her solicitude between his lonely fate and the remembrance of what it should have been; and that vision of a day-that glimpse of the past the fugitive reminiscence of a mere shadow flung across his path-exerted a serious influence over the boy's future life. It closed his heart against the softening influence of love. Forevermore between him and her who might have inspired it, rose up the indistinct, dreamy form of an elegant, beautiful, young creature, glittering with jewels, nestling in swan's-down; and to that Daybreak found Pavel the most eager in repairimage alone would his perverse imagination clinging the bridge. The work was scarcely completed -an image which, perhaps, had he remained the heir of Stanoiki, would not have tarried one hour on his memory.

Noah, not presuming to offer his own or his family's services, which on an occasion like this would probably have been repulsed with a reprimand, did not approach the common room, and Pavel, who was at last perceived in his corner being unceremoniously thrust out by the countess' servants, the new-comers were left in undisturbed possession of the place.

of one accustomed to be obeyed—

"What are you about there, you lad?—why don't you bestir yourself?"

when the expected carriage was seen slowly advancing along the road, and soon after it rolled into Noah's yard. Pavel, with arms folded across Pavel could not tear himself from the spot, yet his breast, watched the process of unpacking and he knew not under what pretext to linger. He packing the carriages, originally consorts on the followed with his eyes little Constance, who played road, but already twice parted by an adventure and capered around the room in apparent uncon- similar to that which had now separated them, sciousness of her miserable condition, until, at last, viz., the mending of the one whilst the other profatigued with her gambols, she sat down quietly ceeded on its route. Chancing to raise his eyes, by her mother, teasing her and the companion to Pavel encountered those of the countess, who, in tell her stories. Tired of immobility, she threw fault of better occupation, was inspecting from the her handkerchief on the floor, and looked into the window what was passing in the yard. Perceivcompanion's face in a way to intimate that she ex-ing him standing idly by, she called out, in a tone pected it to be handed to her. The meek girl to whom this mute appeal was made either failed to observe, or would not notice it; but the mother soon roused her to a sense of this neglect of duty. "Don't you see, my dear," she said, "that Constance's handkerchief has fallen?" A bitter smile stole over Pavel's lips. He remembered the time when his mother used to remind his French tutor that Count Leon's handkerchief had "That boy wants a good flogging," observed fallen, and when he compared his utter helpless-the lady, looking after him. Pavel's ear caught ness in those days with his present self-reliance-the words, and they cut deep into his heart. He when he remembered how he then used to shrink went to shut himself up in his loft, and ponder from the dark passage, and now did not mind facing over them in bitterness; but when he heard bethe wolf at dusk in the lone wood-when he re- neath the preparations for departure, and the glad membered how he froze beneath his silken cover-young voice of Constance, he could not resist the lids in his heated chamber, and could now brave the Siberian hardships of his loft in winter-he smiled triumphantly at the thought of what he had gained in manhood in compensation for what he had lost in luxury; and a determination rose in his mind to cultivate that solitary advantage to the utmost limit which his powerful nature would admit of.

The Polish travelling britzska contains all manner of provisions and luxuries necessary for the

Pavel feigned not to hear, but the command being repeated by her servants in a manner which roused his natural spirit of contention, he turned and left the yard, feeling the danger of any discussion.

impulse that again hurried him below. He descended in time to see the family settle themselves in the carriage, to get one last glimpse of the pink gauze veil and azure eyes of the little Constance, and observe, with painful emotion, Noah's inclined figure bending to the proud lady, like an Eastern slave, from whose condition the unfortunate Jew was not many degrees removed. His cringing bows and fawning humility appeared to Pavel for the first time, because for the first time exhibited

in his presence in so marked a manner, as the seal | row to take Pavel along with him, the term of his of baseness and degradation stamped upon a re- licensed absence from the estate of his owner havproved race. Innocent of the desire to contrasting expired. "I began to hope that they had forwith this self-abasement, and obeying but a mere impulse as if in vindication of the honor of the pot-house and its inhabitants, young Pavel drew himself up and cast a look of scorn and defiance at the tenants of the britzska as it rolled from the yard.

"What a sulky boy they have at that inn!" said the lady, returning his look with a broad stare. It is strange how often the darker passions clothe themselves, to the unobservant eye, in the garb of sulkiness.

Before Noah's back had resumed its ordinary position, or Pavel had dismissed the frown from his brow, the carriage was out of sight.

"When," said Noah, with a deep breath, as he drew up his figure to more than its natural erectness, "when shall the happy day dawn on which that curse will be removed from the land! when there shall be no more countesses to rattle in britzskas, and no more britzskas to be laden with that heap of insolence, folly, frippery, and heartlessness, called a fine lady? Ah! blessed world where there were no such high hill and deep chasm as a proud countess and a poor JewI hate them!" he added, shaking both his fists in the empty air" would that a hurricane swept them all from the face of the earth."

Pavel hated, too, but he could not bend to the object of his hatred; and there was regret, love, and despair mixed up with hate, and a feeling that in the class among whose members he was destined to live he could find no friend. He could feel what they felt, but not as they felt it. That day and the next he wholly devoted to the woods, nor even returned to sleep beneath Noah's roof. This storm of emotion passed away, but left a refrigerating and a darkening influence over the boy's


During the ensuing winter, Pavel often left the Jew's roof on smuggling and other excursions in the neighboring villages, ever foremost in any enterprise of pleasure or necessity which was likely to draw forth and exercise the presence of mind and strength of limb, steadiness of nerves and insensibility to pain and fatigue which it was his chief ambition to acquire. Noah did not seek to check his tendencies in any one respect, but left him to enjoy a sufficient quantity of that inestimable blessing, liberty, which he was ever declaring to be priceless, but which, unlike most who profess to value it, he was not the first to crush. Summer came and glided by without any change in Pavel's condition, and he had well nigh forgotten his so-called cousin and the vagrant who had presumed to style herself his mother, when he was reminded of the existence of both in an unexpected


One autumnal afternoon, on his return from a hunting expedition in the neighborhood, Noah informed him that his cousin had been there during the day, and spoken of coming again on the mor


gotten you, my poor boy," continued Noah, "but trust a master or his steward for that-they may forget to pay an honest man his due, but remember, to a man, the number of their vassals! no, there is no hope of their forgetting that. So it can't be helped; you must even go, Pavel. I'll not say but I am sorry to part with you. You've been a good boy to me, and a useful; and I would fain have kept you with me, though for the last two years I have not received a penny from your friends. Nay, never be cast down-it is not with you I am angry, but with them. I repeat, I would gladly have kept you in spite of their neglect. I feel much concern on your account, Pavel. Your vacant place will be long felt among us; but remember, should you ever need a friend, old Noah's pot-house is not far from the Galician frontier."

Pavel made no reply. Not that, after his own fashion, he did not feel regret at parting with those who had shown him such unvaried good-will as Noah and Salome, but it was not in his nature to show it. Then, although he was, at first, startled by the announcement of so sudden a departure from a home where he had been so long domesticated, and a renunciation of habits which had become his second nature, it was only through the man who called himself his cousin, and that dreaded woman who had haunted his childhood, that he could gain any clue to his past history; and if he suffered too much with them, why, he was no longer a child; he would be able to right himself, or again cross the frontier as best suited his convenience.

That evening Noah and Salome invited the boy to a last meal beneath their roof. "When friends part," said Noah, "one never knows if they shall meet again, so a little solemnity is not inappropriate to the occasion."

This repast of love was to take place much later than the usual supper hour, in order that no chance visitor might break in upon the festivity. Accordingly, when the children and menials had sought their beds, Noah carefully closed the shutters, fastened and secured the outer gates, unchained the savage yard-dogs, and, all these precautions being taken, trimmed and lighted the Sabbath lamp, laid the cloth, and, rare luxury, a clean one, whilst Salome brought in the dishes, whose contents, simple enough in reality, seemed sumptuous to those who were about to partake of them. Noah, in his but once worn silk gown, so far restored as Salome's skill could devise, sat at the head of his table, on which he had spread his most secret treasures, namely, a silver sugar-basin, with tongs to match, several tea-spoons of the same metal, but by no means of one make or date, and, above all, prized beyond the rest by a Jew, two small baskets of silver, very curiously chased, evidently of Eastern manufacture, containing one of the few Oriental luxuries to which the Jews of Poland and Germany have remained faithful, comfitures and comfits. Salome had discarded her common dress for one of a

« PreviousContinue »