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WHEN states and empires have their periods of declension, and feel in their turns what distress and poverty is, I stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house of d'E**** in Brittany into decay. The Marquis d'E**** had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still show to the world, some little fragments of what his ancestors had been, their indiscretion had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscurity, but he had two boys, who looked up to him for light-he thought they deserved it. He had tried his sword-it could not open the way-the mountain was too expensive-and simple economy was not a match for itthere was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France save Brittany, this was smiting the root for ever of the little tree his pride and affection wished to see reblossom, but in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he availed himself of it; and taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the marquis, attended with his two sons, entered the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claimed, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his side-" Here," said he, "take it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it."
The president accepted the marquis's sword-he staid a few minutes to see it deposited in the archives* of his house, and departed.
The marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and after about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlooked-for bequests from distant branches of his house, returned home to reclaim his nobility, and to support it.
It was an incident of good fortune, which will never happen to any traveller but a sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of his solemn requisition; I call it solemn-it was so to me.
The marquis entered the court with his whole family; he supported his lady, his eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his mother-he put his handkerchief to his face twice.
There was a dead silence. When the marquis had approached within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his family, he reclaimed his sword. His sword was given him, and the moment he got it into his hand he drew it almost out of the scabbard-it was
*I.e. the place where important deeds, papers, or other valuable property were kept for security.
the shining face of a friend he had once given up. He looked attentively a long time at it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the same, when, observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye, and bending his head down over it, I think I saw a tear fall upon the place: I could not be deceived by what followed.
"I shall find," said he, "some other way to get it off."
When the marquis had said this, he returned his sword into its scabbard, made a bow to the guardian of it, and, with his wife and daughters, and his sons following him, walked out.
O, how I envied him his feelings!
The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.
THIS immortal poet, moralist, and essayist, was born at Bristol, in 1770, and died at Highgate, in 1834. His classical and literary attainments still possess many a fortunate living witness.
It is an ancient mariner,
"By thy long gray beard and glittering eye
"The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.
And now there came both mist and snow,
And ice, most high, came floating by,
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled;
At length did cross an albatross,
As if it had been a Christian soul,
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hallo!
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
God save thee, ancient mariner,
The Sun now rose upon the right:
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day, for food or play,
* On the solitary habits of this bird, and its habit of following ships in order to obtain the refuse thrown overboard, see Wood's "Natural History," pp.374-5. The superstition in respect to killing an albatross, on which this poem is founded, no longer holds good, although sailors are at all times apt enough to entertain such fancies.
And I had done a hellish thing,
Nor dim nor red, like God's own head,
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, T'was sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break