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much for him they have shortened the poor creature's days, and I fear I have them to answer for.-Shame on the world! said I to myself-Did we but love each other as this poor soul loved his ass- -'twould be something.STERNE.
THEY were the sweetest notes I ever heard; and I instantly let down the fore-glass to hear them more distinctly. Tis Maria, said the postilion, observing I was listening-Poor Maria, continued he, (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line betwixt us), is sitting upon a bank playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow uttered this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four-and-twenty sous piece, when I got to Moulines.
And who is poor Maria? said I.
The love and pity of all the villages around us, said the postilion-it is but three years ago, that the sun did not shine upon so fair, so quick-witted, and amiable a maid; end better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her banns orbid, by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them.
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a short pause, put the pipe to her mouth and began the air again-they were the same notes ;-yet were ten times sweeter: It is the evening service to the Virgin, said the young man- -but who has taught her to play it-or how she came by her pipe, no one knows; we think that Heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only consolation-she has never once had the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postilion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help deciphering something in his face above his condition, and should have sifted out his history, had not poor Maria's taken such full possession of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where
Maria was sitting: she was in a thin white jacket, with her hair, all but two tresses, drawn up into a silk net, with a few olive leaves twisted a little fantastically on one sideshe was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heart-ach, it was the moment I saw her.
God help her! poor damsel! above a hundred masses, said the postilion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around, for her,—but without effect; we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the Virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postilion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous, that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria looked wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat, and then at me—and then at her goat again, and so on, alternately.
-Well, Maria, said I softly-what resemblance do you find?
I do entreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a beast man is, that I asked the question; and that I would not have let fall an unseasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of Misery, to be entitled to all the wit that Rabelais ever scattered.
Adieu, Maria!-adieu, poor hapless damsel! some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lipsbut I was deceived; for that moment she took her pipe and told me such a tale of woe with it, that I rose up, and with broken and irregular steps walked softly to my chaise.
WHEN We had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar-she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand-a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bade the postilion go on with the chaise to Moulines and La Fleur to bespeak my supper-and that I would walk after him.
She was dressed in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted within a silk net. She had, superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale-green riband which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end of which hung her pipe. Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle: as I looked at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string-" Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio," said she. I looked in Maria's eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover or her little goat; for as she uttered them the tears trickled down her cheeks.
I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away, as they fell, with my handkerchief. I then steeped it in my own—and then in hers-and then in mine-and then I wiped hers again—and as I did it, I felt such indescribable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.
I am positive I have a soul; nor can all the books with which materialists have pestered the world ever convince me of the contrary.
When Maria had come a little to herself, I asked her if she remembered a pale thin person of a man who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before she said, she was unsettled much at that time, but remembered it upon two accounts-that ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theft-she had washed it, she said, in the brook, and kept it ever since in her pocket to restore it to him in case she should ever see him again, which, she added, he had half-promised her. As she told me this, she took the handkerchief out of her pocket to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine leaves, tied round with a tendril-on opening it I saw an S marked in one of the corners.
She had since that, she told me, strayed as far as Rome, and walked round St Peter's once-and returned
back-that she found her way alone across the Apennineshad travelled overall Lombardy without money-and through the flinty roads of Savoy without shoes-how she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tell-but God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I; and wast thou in my own land, where I have a cottage, I would take thee to it and shelter thee; thou shouldst eat of my own bread, and drink of my own cup-I would be kind to thy Sylvioin all thy weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee and bring thee back-when the sun went down I would say my prayers, and when I had done, thou shouldst play thy evening song upon thy pipe, nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering Heaven along with that of a broken heart.
Nature melted within me, as I uttered this; and Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steeped too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in the stream. And where will you dry it, Maria? said I. I will dry it in my bosom, said she-it will do me good.
And is your heart still so warm, Maria? said I.
I touched upon the string on which hung all her sorrows --she looked with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then, without saying any thing, took her pipe, and played her service to the Virgin-The string I had touched ceased to vibrate-in a moment or two Maria returned to herself let her pipe fall-and rose up.
And where are you going, Maria? said I.-She said, to Moulines-Let us go, said I, together.-Maria put her arm within mine, and lengthening the string, to let the dog follow-in that order we entered Moulines.
Though I hate salutations and greetings in the marketplace, yet when we got into the middle of this, I stopped to take my last look and last farewell of Maria.
Adieu, poor luckless maiden! imbibe the oil and wine which the compassion of a stranger, as he journeyeth on his way, now pours into thy wounds-the Being who has twice bruised thee can only bind them up for ever. STERNE.
1.-TRUE PLEASURE DEFINED.
WE are affected with delightful sensations, when we see the inanimate parts of the creation, the meadows, flowers, and trees, in a flourishing state. There must be some rooted melancholy at the heart, when all nature appears smiling about us, to hinder us from corresponding with the rest of the creation, and joining in the universal chorus of joy. But if meadows and trees in their cheerful verdure, if flowers in their bloom, and all the vegetable parts of the creation in their most advantageous dress, can inspire gladness into the heart, and drive away all sadness but despair; to see the rational creation happy and flourishing, ought to give us a pleasure as much superior, as the latter is to the former in the scale of being. But the pleasure is still heightened, if we ourselves have been instrumental in contributing to the happiness of our fellow-creatures, if we have helped to raise a heart drooping beneath the weight of grief, and revived that barren and dry land, where no water was, with refreshing showers of love and kindness. SEED.
2. RELIGION NEVER TO BE TREATED WITH LEVITY. IMPRESS your minds with reverence' for all that is sacred'. Let no wantonness of youthful spirits', no compliance with the intemperate mirth of others', ever betray you into profane sallies. Besides the guilt' which is thereby incurred, nothing gives a more odious appearance of petulance` and presumption' to youth, than the affectation of treating religion with levity. Instead of being an evidence of superior' understanding, it discovers a pert and shallow' mind; which, vain of the first smatterings' of knowledge, presumes to