« ForrigeFortsæt »
acted by halves. Conscious of her former prejudice against poor Helen, and her consequent injustice, a complete revolution had taken place in her feelings. Further intercourse, too, with the object of her former distrust had made her aware that the mind of the latter was much more highly cultivated than is common in her station. She now treated Helen rather as a friend than as a servant, and frequently consulted her on subjects beyond the limited sphere of the situation she held in the household.
On the present occasion, Helen said, in reply to her patroness : No, ma'am, I do not think it would be an encouragement to vice. If I thought so, I would not ask you, even for the sake of the person who saved my own life. Jessie has been punished very severely, both in the eyes of the world and in what she has suffered in her own heart. Don't you think, ma'am, it might be an encouragement to repentance, to shew it is possible to regain a character after having lost it? O ma'am, I know by what I have sometimes felt myself, that it is hard, hard to be honest when one is starving and disgraced, as poor Jessie must be, if no one will have compassion on her, and give her a chance.'
Mrs Young said no more, but only signified her intention of complying with Helen's request. The latter went herself to communicate the good news to Jessie.
Jessie was at first much distressed at the idea of returning to the scene of her disgrace; but she herself, as well as her friend, the ladyvisitor, perceived at once the advantage it would be to her character; and with heartfelt gratitude to Mrs Young and Helen, she accepted the offer.
At last the day of her liberation arrived. Jessie's heart, though touched with a sensation of that joy which a restoration to freedom naturally bestows, was full of emotion at parting with her kind prisonfriends, while a feeling of shame pressed heavily on her spirit as she thought of those she should meet without the walls, and of the cold, strange looks she must encounter on every side. Helen Gray came to take her away at the appointed hour.
The prison was a little out of the town. It was a pleasant autumn day, cheerful and sunny, with the yellow corn waving in the fresh breeze, and the reapers talking merrily, as they cut it down with their glittering sickles. As Jessie stood once more beneath the broad free sky, and gazed on the trees and the harvest-fields, the face of nature seemed more friendly than the face of man. She would fain not have been obliged to go through the town.
She had only proceeded a few steps when she met Robin Rae-instantly she covered her face with her hands; but he drew them asunder, and with gentle force placed one of them within his own arm. 'I ha' come to take ye hame, Jessie,' he said hoarsely.
'No, no, she answered quickly, her face becoming crimson with shame and distress; "ye maunna be seen wi' the like ome!'
But Robin persevered, and Helen took his part. 'Jessie,' she said, 'I am sure you mean to be an honest woman all the rest of your life.'
'O yes, yes !' sobbed the poor girl, turning away her head to avoid meeting Robin's eye.
'Then Robin is right, Jessie. You need not be ashamed to accept his kindness, knowing that as he knows it too.'
I pass over Jessie's return : even supported by the presence of Helen and Robin, it was terrible : without them, she felt it must have been unbearable. At first, Mrs Young treated Jessie very coldly and severely : she trusted her with nothing, and locked cupboards and chests before her face, as if to shew her she had no confidence in her. This treatment was very trying to poor Jessie; but she bore it meekly, for she felt it was only what she deserved. By degrees, however, her mistress relented, as she observed the sincerity of her repentance. Jessie was trusted once more with the keys, and was placed almost on the same footing of confidence as Helen.
About the end of a year, Robin renewed his addresses ; but for many months Jessie would not listen to them. She didna deserve sic happiness. Robin's wife should ne'er be pointed at wi' the finger of shame.' But at last, when she became convinced, by the persuasions of all, that Robin could be happy in no other way, she consented, but with the humble protest : She didna deserve sic happiness.
And to the present hour, when occasion offers, she continues to express the same opinion.
PROLOGUE. NGLISH travellers who visited France between 1760 COD and 1785, and who have left a record of their observa
tions, speak of the hopelessly miserable condition of affairs, and the probability of an impending political
convulsion. What form the disturbance would take could not be precisely indicated; but in the apparent absence of any means of rational redress of innumerable crying grievances, it was in a general way obvious that some overwhelming national calamity was at hand. These anticipations were sorrowfully confirmed. Things arrived at a crisis in 1789. The convulsion took the shape of a revolution, so sweeping in character that the whole social and political fabric perished. The neglect and criminal errors of past ages were so frightfully avenged, that until this day, when inore than eighty years have elapsed, France still experiences a tendency to disorganisation, and is seen to be hopelessly groping for a satisfactory and permanent form of government. Let us glance at what are usually considered to be the causes of this
extraordinary disaster. From their Celtic ancestry the Gauls, the French people inherited a certain heedlessness of character, or want of foresight as to consequences. The Romans communicated to them their language; the Franks, a Teutonic people, by whom they were conquered in the fifth century, gave them a national designation ; but to neither Romans nor Franks were they materially indebted for those qualities which ordinarily stamp the national or individual character. We have therefore to keep in mind that, through all the vicissitudes of modern history, the French people have remained essentially Celtic. With many good qualities-bold, tasteful, quickwitted, ingenious—they have some less to be admired—impulsive, restless, vain, bombastic, fond of display, and, as Cæsar described them, lovers of novelty. They have ever boasted of being at the head of civilisation,' but with all their acknowledged advancement in literature and science, they have at every stage in their political career demonstrated a singular and absolutely pitiable want of common sense. How these peculiarities were displayed in their revolutionary tumults will, in the present brief narrative, be painfully conspicuous.
It is not necessary here to go into an account of the different monarchical dynasties. A few prominent facts may alone be mentioned. On the occasion of a vacancy of the throne, and default of heirs, in the tenth century, Hugh Capet, Count of Paris and Orleans, was, by a species of usurpation, installed as king. Hence the origin of the Capets, whose line was continued in the branches of Valois and Bourbon. Henry IV., first of the Bourbons, died by assassination, 1610. The succeeding princes of this line were Louis XIII., who died 1643, leaving two sons, the elder of whom succeeded to the throne as Louis XIV., and the younger was Philip, Duke of Orleans. Louis XIV. had a long and magnificent reign. He died 1715, being succeeded by his great-grandson, Louis XV., who at the time was only five years old. Until he became of age, affairs were administered by the Duke of Orleans (son of the first duke) as Regent. Louis XV., noted for his profligacy, died 1774, and was succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI., who was lucklessly destined to suffer the penalty due to the errors of his predecessors. This unfortunate prince was born August 23, 1754; on the oth May 1770, he was married to Marie Antoinette, youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Germany, and whose fate was as unhappy as that of her husband.
Readers of history are aware that the French sovereignty was for ages little else than a feudal superiority over dukes, counts, and other dignitaries, who exercised unlimited sway in their respective provinces-Burgundy, Normandy, Brittany, Picardy, Provence, and so on. By marriage, treaty, or military force, these provincial governments were at length absorbed by the French monarchy. The consolidation took place chiefly under the ministry of Cardinal Richelieu, in the reign of Louis XIII., and it is customary to refer to Louis XIV, as the first who obtained an entire sway over the country. Louis XIV. certainly added an important territory to the kingdom, by unscrupulously taking Alsace from Germany, 1681. Lorraine, also, as a result of the war between France and Germany arising out of the election of a king for Poland (1733), was taken from Germany, given in liferent to Stanislaus, ex-king of Poland, and father-in-law of Louis XV. At the death of Stanislaus in 1766, Lorraine was incorporated with France. Among the latest acquisitions was Avignon, an old patrimony of the pope, which the revolutionists, who stuck at nothing, unceremoniously seized and incorporated. By whatever circumstances the several absorptions were effected, the country at large, at the outbreak of the revolution, had little of a homogeneous character. The provincial distinctions as regards local management, manners, and usages continued to diversify general society.
In Great Britain national stability has been secured, not only by centuries of considerate legislation, but by a variety of conditions which, from our very familiarity with them, we are apt to undervalue --the equality of all before the law, no matter what be the titular rank or wealth of individuals; freedom of meeting and discussion; the free municipal system in the boroughs; a body of landed nobility and gentry settled all over the country, taking a lead in public affairs, lending dignity to the social system, and having, by the rules of heritage, something of the nature of so many corporations; the scope offered to industrial enterprise and personal ambition, by which the humblest individual may be absorbed into the ranks of the aristocracy, and by his ability aspire to the highest offices in the state ; the general spread of education, and thorough toleration in matters of religious worship and belief ; along with all which we may include loyalty to the crown, a profound respect for law, and a habitual exercise of that degree of patience which trustfully waits for a remedy of alleged abuses through the efficacy of slow but constitutional measures. In France, every one of these conditions was absent. There was an aristocracy possessing privileges of an odious and exclusive character, who for the most part had deserted their possessions in the country, and spent their lives and fortunes in Paris, leaving the rural population a prey to tyrannical local officials and land-stewards. Only those in the ranks of the nobility were eligible for the superior offices of government, the law, the army, and the navy. The middle classes, however wealthy, could not rise out of their sphere or hope to attain social distinction. The humbler classes, kept in deplorable ignorance, were sunk as an inferior order of beings. The church was exclusive and aristocratical in its organisation-the dignitaries enjoying immense revenues, and living too frequently in total disregard of their duties. The working and more estimable clergy were poor and devoid of influence. There was no