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Perhaps yet more,' replied Girhardi ; 'for methinks you are only half acquainted with your plant, unless you know the nature of the little beings which so often visit her, and fly and buzz around her. By the examination of these creatures we discover some of the hidden springs, the secret laws, which connect the insect and the flower, as they are bound to the rest of the universe. While he spoke, a butterfly of gorgeous colours, as if to verify his words, alighted on a sprig of Picciola, shaking its wings in a peculiar
Girhardi paused. Of what are you thinking?' said Charney. 'I am thinking,' returned the other, “that Picciola herself will help to answer your former question. Behold this butterfly, she has just deposited the hope of her posterity on one of the branches.'
Charney gazed with attention, and beheld the gay insect fly away, after having hardened the eggs with a sort of gummy juice, which caused them to adhere firmly to the tender bark.
“Think you,' continued Girhardi, that all this happens by chance ? Believe it not. Nature, which is God, provides a different sort of plant for every different sort of insect. Every vegetable thing has its guests to lodge and to feed! This butterfly, you know, was itself at first a caterpillar, and in that state was nourished by the juices of such a plant as this, but though, since her transformation, in her winged state she has roved from flower to flower, now that the hour of maternity approaches, she forgets her wandering habits, and returns to the plant which nourished herself in a former state. And yet she cannot remember her parent, and will never see her offspring; for the butterfly's purpose is accomplished—it will shortly die. It cannot be a recollection of the plant which prompts the action, for its appearance is very different from that it bore in the spring. Who has given the insect this knowledge ? Observe, too, the branch which it has chosen ; it is one of the oldest and strongest--one not likely to be destroyed by the frost of winter, nor broken by the wind.'
‘But,' said Charney, “is this always so ? Are you sure that it is not your imagination which sees order in mere chance ?'
Silence, sceptic,' replied Girhardi with a faint smile ; 'have patience, and Picciola herself shall instruct you. When the spring comes, and the first young leaves begin to open, the insect will burst from its shell; then, but not till then, not till the proper food is within its reach. Of course you know that different trees burst into foliage at different periods; and in the same manner the eggs of different insects open at different times. Were it otherwise, there would indeed be distress and confusion. Were the insects to arrive first, there would be no food; and were the leaves full grown before the arrival of the caterpillars, they would be too hard to be separated by their tender jaws. But Nature provides all things aright, the plant to the insect, the insect to the plant.'
'Picciola! Picciola !' murmured Charney, 'what new wonders hast thou to shew me?'
• They are infinite,' continued the old man; 'imagination is exhausted in attempting to conceive the variety, yet exactness, of the means employed to continue the existence of different creatures. The telescope conveys to us an idea-faint and imperfect though it be-of the vastness of creation; the microscope shews us that the particles of matter are, in their minuteness, equally incomprehensible. Think of the cable of a spider-let us call it so—being composed of a hundred threads ; and these, doubtless, are again as divisible. Look at others of the insect tribe, how curiously their bodies are provided and protected-some with a scaly armour to protect them from injury; a net-work to defend their eyes-so fine, that neither a thorn, nor the sting of an enemy, could deprive them of sight : creatures of prey have nimble feet to chase their victims, and strong jaws to devour them, or to hollow out the earth for a dwelling, in which they place their booty or deposit their eggs. Again, how many are provided with a poisoned sting with which to defend themselves from their enemies. Ah, the more close our examinations, the more clearly do we perceive that every living thing is formed according to its wants and circumstances; so wondrously perfect, that man-supposing, for an instant, he had the power of creation-must injure, did he dare to alter, the merest trifle; so wondrously perfect, that man is awed by the very thought and contemplation of such infinite wisdom. Man, who is sent naked into the world, incapable of flying like the bird, of running like the stag, of creeping like the serpent; without the means of defence among enemies armed with claws and stings; without protection from the inclemency of the seasons among animals clothed in wool, or scales, or furs; without shelter, when each has its nest, or its shell, its den, or its hole. Yet to him the lion gives up its dwelling, and he robs the bear of its skin to make his first garments; he plucks the horn from the bull, and this is his first weapon; and he digs the ground beneath his feet to seek instruments of future power. Already, with the sinew of an animal and the bough of a tree, he makes a bow; and the eagle which, seeing his feebleness, thinks him at first a sure and easy prey, is struck to the earth only to furnish him with a plume for his head-dress. Among the animal creation, it is man alone who could exist on such conditions. But man has the spiritual gift of intelligence, which enables him to do these things; to take a lesson from the nautilus, ere he constructs his first frail bark; or to find that science only reveals the geometrical precision with which the bees work.'
But, my teacher,' interrupted Charney, it seems to me that the inferior animals are more perfect than we, and ought to excite our envy.'
No; for man alone is endowed with memory, foresight, the
knowledge of right and wrong, the power of contemplation; and for him alone is there the provision of a future state. Such as the lower animals are they have ever been ; if they are created perfect, it is because for them there is no higher destiny. From the beginning of the world, the beavers have built their dwellings on the same plan; caterpillars and spiders have spun their webs in the same fashion ; and the ant-lions have traced, without compasses, circles and arches. One universal law has governed all; man alone is permitted to exercise free-will, and therefore for man alone can virtue or vice exist. The world, too, is his to traverse from pole to pole ; he pitches his tent in the desert, or builds a city on the banks of a fertilising river ; he can dwell among the snows of the Alps, or beneath the sun of the tropics; he bends the material laws to his purpose, yet receives a lesson from the insect or the flower. Oh yes,' he cried; "believe what Newton says—“the universe is one perfect whole; all is harmony; all the evidence of one Almighty Will. Our feeble minds cannot grasp it at once, but we know from the perfection of parts that it is so !” Oh that proud man would learn from the flower, and the bee, and the butterfly!'
At that moment a letter was brought to Girhardi. It was from Teresa, and ran thus : 'Is it not a happiness that they permit us to correspond? Kiss this letter a thousand times, for I have done so, and thus transmit my kisses to you. Will it not be delightful to exchange our thoughts ? But if they should permit me to see you again! Oh, pause here, my father ; pause, and bless General Menon, to whom we owe so much. Father, I come to see you soon, in a day or two; and-and-oh, pray for fortitude to bear the good tidings--I come to lead you to your home-to take you from captivity!'
Yet his joy was moderated by the thought that Charney would again be solitary. She came.
Charney heard her step in the next room; he conjectured what her person could be—he could not picture it. Yet he trembled with apprehension : the polished courtier grew bashful and awkward as a school-boy. The introduction was appointed to take place in the presence of Picciola, and the father and daughter were seated on the bench when Charney approached. Notwithstanding the exciting scenes with which they had been mutually connected, there was restraint in their meeting; and in the beautiful face of the young Italian, Charney at first persuaded himself there was nothing but indifference to be read. Her noble conduct had only proceeded from a love of adventure and obedience to her father's commands. He half regretted that he had seen her, since her presence dispelled the dim and shadowy thoughts he so long had nourished. But whilst they were seated on the bench, Girhardi gazing at his daughter, and Charney uttering some cold and unmeaning phrases, Teresa turned suddenly to her father, by which means there escaped
from the folds of her dress a locket, which she wore suspended round her neck. Charney perceived at a glance that a lock of her father's white hair was on one side, and on the other, carefully preserved beneath the crystal, a withered flower. It was that he had sent her by Ludovic !
A cloud seemed to pass away from before the eyes of Charney. In Teresa he recognised Picciola, the fair girl of his dreams, with the flower resting on her heart, not in her hair. He could but murmur some words of rejoicing; but the ice was broken, and they understood how much they had mutually thought of each other. She listened to his history from his own lips; and when he came to the recital of all he endured when Picciola was about to be sacrificed, Teresa exclaimed with tenderness, ' Dear Picciola, thou belongest to me also, for I have contributed to thy deliverance !' And Charney thanked her in his heart for this adoption ; for he felt it established more than ever a holy communion between them.
Willingly would Charney have sacrificed for ever liberty, fortune, and the world, could he have prolonged the happiness he experienced during the three days which passed before the necessary forms for Girhardi's liberation were completed. But, in proportion to this happiness, must be the pang of separation; and now he dared to ask himself the bold question, ‘Was it possible that Teresa loved him?' No; he would not dare so to misinterpret her tenderness, her pity, her generosity; and he tried to believe that he rejoiced; that it would have been an additional pang to think he had ruffled the serenity of her heart. “But I,' he exclaimed—'I will love her for ever, and substitute this exquisite reality for all my unsatisfying dreams. This love, however, must be cherished in secret ; for it would be a crime to impart it. They were about to be separated for ever ; she to return to the world, doubtless to marry; and he to remain in his prison alone with Picciola, and her memory. He tried to assume coldness of manner, but his haggard countenance betrayed him; while Teresa, equally conscious and equally generous, willing to endure all, so that his peace of mind were not injured, assumed a gaiety of manner that ill accorded with the scene. Modesty and timidity, also, conspired to make her conceal her emotions. Yet there are moments when the heart will speak its language without control; and that of their parting was one. But few and broken ejaculations were heard, though Teresa's last words were, stretching out her arms to the plant, “I call Picciola for my witness!'
Happiness must be tasted and lost to be appreciated ; and so Charney felt. Never had he so appreciated the father's wisdom and the daughter's excellence, as now that they were no longer beside him. Yet memory was sweet, and his former demon of thought was exorcised for ever.
One day, when Charney least expected it, the doors of his prison
were thrown open. The persons who had been appointed to examine
And now it was Charney's turn to quit the gloomy fortress of
Now, too, Ludovic, stifling his emotion, extended his rough hand to the count, his friend; for he was no longer the jailer. Charney shook it with emotion, exclaiming, "We shall meet again.' 'God bless you! Adieu, Count! adieu, Picciola !'
Six months afterwards, a splendid carriage stopped at the state prison of Fenestrelle. A traveller descended, and asked for Ludovic Ritti. A lady leant upon his arm; they were the Count and Countess Charney. Once again they visited the prison-chamber. Of all the sentences of despair and unbelief which had soiled its white walls, only one remained. It ran thus : ‘Science, wit, beauty, youth, and fortune, cannot confer happiness !' Teresa addedWithout love !'
Charney came to request Ludovic to attend a fête which he designed to give at the christening of his first child, whose birth was expected towards the close of that year; and to beseech that he would quit Fenestrellc for ever, and take up his abode with him. The jailer inquired after Picciola, and learned that she was placed close to the count's private study, that he watered and tended her himself, and forbade a servant to touch her.
Ludovic arrived at the count's splendid chateau a few days before the christening. Almost the first thought of the honest fellow was to visit his old friend the prison-flower; but, alas! amid the emotions of love and happiness which had ushered the yet more dearly loved one into the world, Picciola had been forgotten, and was now fading to decay. Her mission had been happily fulfilled.