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on both sides. I am told that you Englishmen consider it cowardly to cry; as for me, I wept and roared incessantly : when Mary squeezed me for the last time, the tears came out of me as if I had been neither more nor less than a great wet sponge. My cousin's eyes were stoically dry; her ladyship had a part to play, and it would have been wrong for her to be in love with a young chit of fourteen-so she carried herself with perfect coolness, as if there was nothing the matter. I should not have known that she cared for me, had it not been for a letter which she wrote me a month afterwards—then, nobody was by, and the consequence was that the letter was half washed away with her weeping; if she had used a watering-pot the thing could not have been better done.
Well, I arrived at Strasburg—a dismal, old-fashioned, rickety town in those days—and straightway presented myself and letter at Schneider's door ; over it was written
COMITÉ DE SALUT PUBLIC. Would
believe it? I was so ignorant a young fellow that I had no idea of the meaning of the words; however, I entered the citizen's room without fear, and sate down in his ante-chamber until I could be admitted to see him.
Here I found very few indications of his Reverence's profession; the walls were hung round with portraits of Robespierre, Marat, and the like; a great bust of Mirabeau, mutilated, with the word Trailre underneath; lists and republican proclamations, tobacco-pipes and firearms. At a deal-table, stained with grease and wine, sate a gentleman with a huge pig-tail dangling down to that part of his person which immediately succeeds his back, and a red night-cap, containing a tricolor cockade, as large as a pancake. He was smoking a short pipe, reading a little book, and sobbing as if his heart would break. Every now and then he would make brief remarks upon the personages or the incidents of his book, by which I could judge that he was a man of the very keenest sensibilities—"ah brigand !" "oh malheureuse !” “ oh Charlotte, Charlotte!" The work which this gentleman was perusing is called “ The Sorrows of Werter;" it was all the rage in those days, and my friend was only following the fashion. I asked him if I could see Father Schneider ?" he turned towards me a hideous, pimpled face, which I dream of now at forty years' distance.
“ Father who ?” said he. you imagine that citizen Schneider has pot thrown off the absurd mummery of priesthood? If you were a little older you would go to prison for calling him Father Schneidermany a man has died for less ;” and he pointed to a picture of a guillotine which was hanging in the room,
I was in amazement.
“ What is he? Is he not a teacher of Greek, an abbé, a monk, until monasteries were abolished, the learned editor of the songs of 'Anacreon ?'"
“ He was all this,” replied my grim friend; "he is now a Member of the Committee of Public Safety, and would think no more of ordering your head off than of drinking this tumbler of beer.”
He swallowed, himself, the frothy liquid, and then proceeded to give me the history of the man to whom my uncle had sent me for instruction !
Schneider was born in 1756: was a student at Würzburg, and afterwards entered a convent, where he remained nine years. He here became distinguished for his learning, and his talents as a preacher, and became chaplain to Duke Charles of Wurtemberg. The doctrines of the Illuminati began about this time to spread in Germany, and Schneider speedily joined the sect. He had been a professor of Greek at Cologne; and being compelled, on account of his irregularity, to give up his chair, he came to Strasburg at the commencement of the French Revolution, and acted for some time a principal part as a revolutionary agent at Strasburg.
Heaven knows what would have happened to me had I continued long under his tuition ! (said the Captain.) I owe the preservation of my morals entirely to my entering the army. A man, Sir, who is a soldier, has very little time to be wicked ; except in the case of a siege and the sack of a town, when a little license can offend nobody.
By the time that my friend had concluded Schneider's biography, we had grown tolerably intimate, and I imparted to him (with that experience so remarkable in youth) my whole history—my course of studies -my pleasant country life—the names and qualities of my dear relations, and my occupations in the vestry before religion was abolished by order of the republic. In the course of my speech I recurred so often to the name of my cousin Mary, that the gentleman could not fail to perceive what a tender place she had in my heart.
Then we reverted to “The Sorrows of Werter,” and discussed the merits of that sublime performance. Although I had before felt some misgivings about my new acquaintance, my heart now quite yearned towards him. He talked about love and sentiment in a manner which made me recollect that I was in love myself; and you know that, when a man is in that condition, his taste is not very refined; any maudlin trash of prose or verse appearing sublime to him, provided it correspond in some degree with his own situation.
“ Candid youth !” cried my unknown, “ I love to hear thy innocent story, and look on thy guileless face. There is, alas! so much of the contrary in this world, so much terror, and crime, and blood, that we who mingle with it are only too glad to forget it. Would that we could shake off our cares as men, and he boys as thou art, once more!"
Here my friend began to weep once more, and fondly shook my hand. I blessed my stars that I had at the very outset of my career met with one who was so likely to aid me. What å slanderous world it is! thought I, the people in our village call these Republicans wicked and bloodyminded-a lamb could not be more tender than this sentimental bottlenosed gentleman ! The worthy man then gave me to understand that he held a place under Government. I was busy in endeavouring to discover what his situation might be, when the door of the next apartment opened, and Schneider made his appearance.
At first he did not notice me, but he advanced to my new acquaintance, and gave him, to my astonishment, something very like a blow.
“ You drunken, talking fool,” he said, "you are always after your time. Fourteen people are cooling their heels yonder, waiting until you have finished your beer and your sentiment !”
My friend slunk muttering out of the room. . That fellow,” said Schneider, turning to me, “ is our public exe
cutioner: a capital hand, too, if he would but keep decent time; but the brute is always drunk, and blubbering over the 'Sorrows of Werter!'"
I know not whether it was his old friendship for my uncle, or my proper merits, which won the heart of this the sternest ruffian of Robespierre's crew; but certain it is that he became strangely attached to me, and kept me constantly about his person. As for the priesthood and the Greek, they were of course very soon out of the question. The Austrians were on our frontier—every day brought us accounts of battles won--and the youth of Strasburg, and of all France, indeed, were bursting with military ardour. As for me, I shared the general mania, and speedily mounted a cockade as large as my friend's the executioner.
The occupations of this worthy were unremitting. Saint Just, who had come down from Paris to preside over our town, executed the laws and the aristocrats with terrible punctuality; and Schneider used to make country excursions in search of offenders, with this fellow as a Provost Marshal at his back. In the mean time, having entered my sixteenth year, and being a proper lad of my age, I had joined a regiment of cavalry, and was scampering now after the Austrians who menaced us, and now threatening the Emigrés, who were banded at Coblentz. My love for my dear cousin increased as my whiskers grew; and when I was scarcely seventeen I thought myself man enough to marry her, and to cut the throat of any one who should venture to say me này.
I need not tell you that during my absence at Strasburg great changes had occurred in our little village, and somewhat of the revolutionary rage had penetrated even to that quiet and distant place. The hideous “ Fête of the Supreme Being” had been celebrated at Paris; the practice of our ancient religion was forbidden; its professors were most of them in concealment or in exile, or had expiated on the scaffold their crime of Christianity. In our poor village my uncle's church was closed, and he, himself, an inmate in my brother's house, only owing his safety to his great popularity among his former flock, and the inAuence of Edward Ancel.
The latter had taken in the revolution a somewhat prominent part; that is, he had engaged in many contracts for the army, attended the clubs regularly, corresponded with the authorities of his department, and was loud in his denunciations of the aristocrats in his neighbourhood. But, owing, perhaps, to the German origin of the peasantry, and their quiet and rustic lives, the revolutionary fury which prevailed in the cities had hardly reached the country people. The occasional visit of a Commissary from Paris or Strasburg served to keep the flame alive, and to remind the rural swains of the existence of a Republic in France.
Now and then, when I could gain a week's leave of absence, I returned to the village, and was received with tolerable politeness by my uncle, and with a warmer feeling by his daughter.
I won't describe to you the progress of our love, or the wrath of my uncle Edward, when he discovered that it still continued. He swore and he stormed, he locked Mary into her chamber, and vowed that he would withdraw the allowance he made me if ever I ventured near her. His
daughter, he said, should never marry a hopeless, penniless subaltern; and Mary declared she would not marry without his consent. What had I to do?-to despair and to leave her. As for my poor uncle Jacob, he had no council to give me, and, indeed, no spirit left: his little church was turned into a stable, his surplice torn off his shoulders, and he was only too lucky in keeping his head on them. A bright thought struck him: suppose you were to ask the advice of my old friend Schneider regarding this marriage ? he has ever been your friend, and may help you now as before.
(Here the Captain paused a little.) You may fancy (continued he) that it was droll advice of a reverend gentleman like uncle Jacob to counsel me in this manner, and to bid me make friends with such a niurderous cut-throat as Schneider; but we thought nothing of it in those days; guillotining was as common as dancing, and a man was only thought the better patriot the more severe he might be. I departed forth with to Strasburg, and requested the vote and interest of the Citizen President of the Committee of Public Safety.
He heard me with a great deal of attention. I described to him most minutely the circumstance, expatiated upon the charms of my dear Mary, and painted her to him from head to foot. Her golden hair and her bright blushing cheeks; her slim waist and her tripping tiny feet; and, furthermore, I added that she possessed a fortune which ought, by rights, to be mine, but for the miserly old father. “ Curse him for an aristocrat!” concluded I in my wrath.
As I had been discoursing about Mary's charms, Schneider listened with much complacency and attention: when I spoke about her fortune his interest redoubled ; and when I called her father an aristocrat the worthy ex-Jesuit gave a grin of satisfaction, which was really quite terrible. O fool that I was to trust him so far!
The very same evening an officer waited upon me with the following note from Saint Just :Strasburg, Fifth Year of the Republic, one and indivisible,
11 Ventose. “ The citizen Pierre Ancel is to leave Strasburg within two hours, and to carry the enclosed despatches to the President of the Committee of Public Safety at Paris. The necessary leave of absence from his military duties has been provided. Instant punishment will follow the slightest delay on the road. - Salut et Fraternité."
There was no choice but obedience, and off I sped on my weary way to the capital.
As I was riding out of the Paris gate, I met an equipage which I knew to be that of Schneider. The ruffian smiled at me as I passed, and wished me a bon voyage. Behind his chariot came a curious machine or cart; a great basket, three stout poles, and several planks, all painted red, were lying in this vehicle, on the top of which was seated my friend with the big cockade. It was the portable guillotine which Schneider always carried with him on his travels. The bourreau was reading “ The Sorrows of Werter,” and looked as sentimental as usual.
I will not speak of my voyage in order to relate to you Schneider's. My story had awakened the wretch's curiosity and avarice, and he was determined that such a prize as I had shown my cousin to be should fall into no hands but his own. No sooner, in fact, had I quitted his room, than he procured the order for my absence, and was on the way to Steinbach as I met him.
The journey is not a very long one; and on the next day my uncle Jacob was surprised by receiving a message that the citizen Schneider was in the village and was coming to greet his old friend. Old Jacob was in an ecstasy, for he longed to see his college acquaintance, and he hoped also that Schneider had come into that part of the country upon the marriage-business of your humble servant. Of course Mary was summoned to give her best dinner and wear her best frock; and her father made ready to receive the new state-dignitary.
Schneider's carriage speedily rolled into the court-yard, and Schneider's cart followed as a matter of course. The ex-priest only entered the house; his companion remaining with the horses to dine in private. Here was a most touching meeting between him and Jacob. They talked over their old college pranks and successes; they capped Greek verses, and quoted ancient epigrams upon their tutors, who had been dead since the seven years' war. Mary declared it was quite touching to listen to the merry friendly talk of these two old gentlemen.
After the conversation had continued for a time in this strain, Schneider drew up all of a sudden, and said quietly that he had come on particular and unpleasant business-hinting about troublesome times, spies, evil reports, and so forth. Then he called uncle Edward aside, and had with him a long and earnest conversation : so Jacob went out and talked with Schneider's friend; they speedily became very intimate, for the ruffian detailed all the circumstances of his interview with me. When he returned into the house some time after this pleasing colloquy, he found the tone of the society strangely altered. Edward Ancel, pale as a sheet, trembling and crying for mercy; poor Mary weeping; and Schneider pacing energetically about the apartment, raging about the rights of man, the punishment of traitors, and the one and indivisible republic.
Jacob,” he said, as my uncle entered the room," I was willing for the sake of our old friendship to forget the crimes of your brother. He is a known and dangerous aristocrat—he holds communications with the enemy on the frontier“he is a possessor of great and ill-gotten wealth, of which he has plundered the republic. Do you know,” said he, turning to Edward Ancel," where the least of these crimes, or the mere suspicion of them, would lead you ?”.
Poor Edward sate trembling in his chair, and answered not a word. He knew full well how quickly in this dreadful time punishment followed suspicion ; and, though guiltless of all treason with the enemy, perhaps he was aware that in certain contracts with the government he had taken to himself a more than patriotic share of profit.
“ Do you know," resumed Schneider, in a voice of thunder," for what purpose I came hither, and by whom I am accompanied ? I am the administrator of the justice of the Republic. The life of yourself and your family is in my hands : yonder man who follows me is the executor of the law; he has rid the nation of hundreds of wretches like yourself. A single word from me, and your doom is sealed without hope, and your last hour is come. Ho! Gregoire !” shouted he; “ is all ready ?"