Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Picciola’
By Joseph Xavier Boniface Saintine (1798–1865)
          [The Count of Charney, a rich, young, and intellectual nobleman, has vainly and successively tried to find satisfaction in literature, science, metaphysics, and dissipation. In disgust with existing social conditions, he conspires against the government of Napoleon, is arrested, and cast into the fortress of Fenestrella. He is allowed neither books, pens, nor paper; and is forced to exercise all his ingenuity to find the slightest diversion from his hopeless thoughts.]

ONE day at the prescribed hour Charney was walking in the court-yard; his head bowed, his arms crossed behind his back, pacing slowly, as if he could so make the narrow space which he was permitted to perambulate seem larger.
  Spring announced its coming; a softer air dilated his lungs; and to live free, and be master of the soil and of space, seemed to him the goal of his desires.  2
  He counted one by one the paving-stones of his little court,—doubtless to verify the exactness of his former calculations, for it was by no means the first time he had numbered them,—when he perceived, there under his eyes, a little mound of earth raised between two stones, and slightly opened at the top. He stopped; his heart beat without his being able to tell why. But all is hope or fear for a captive: in the most indifferent objects and the most insignificant events, he seeks some hidden cause which speaks to him of deliverance.  3
  Perhaps this slight derangement on the surface might be produced by some great work underground; perhaps a tunnel, which would open and make a way for him to the fields and mountains. Perhaps his friends or his former accomplices were mining to reach him, and restore him to life and liberty.  4
  He listened attentively, and fancied he heard a low, rumbling noise under ground; he raised his head, and the tremulous air bore to him the rapid stroke of the tocsin, and the continued roll of drums along the ramparts, like a signal of war. He started, and with a trembling hand wiped from his forehead great drops of sweat.  5
  Was he to be free? Had France changed its master?  6
  This dream was only a flash. Reflection destroyed the illusion. He had no accomplices, and had never had friends. He listened again: the same sounds struck his ear, but gave rise to other thoughts. This stroke of the tocsin, and the roll of the drum, were only the distant sound of a church bell that he heard every day at the same hour, and the accustomed call to arms, which need only excite emotion in a few straggling soldiers of the citadel.  7
  Charney smiled bitterly, and looked upon himself with pity, when he thought that some insignificant animal—a mole who had without doubt lost his way, or a field-mouse who had scratched up the earth under his feet—had caused him to believe for an instant in the affection of men and the overthrow of a great empire.  8
  In order to make his mind quite clear about it, however, he stooped over the little mound and carefully removed some of the particles of earth; and saw with astonishment that the wild agitation which had overcome him for an instant had not even been caused by a busy, burrowing, scratching animal, armed with claws and teeth, but by a feeble specimen of vegetation with scarcely strength to sprout, weak and languishing.  9
  Raising himself, profoundly humiliated, he was about to crush it with his heel, when a fresh breeze laden with the perfume of honeysuckle and hawthorn was wafted to him,—as if to implore mercy for the poor plant, which perhaps one day would also have perfume to give him.  10
  Another thought came to him to arrest his destructive intention. How was it possible for that little plant—so tender, soft, and fragile, that a touch might break it—to raise, separate, and throw out earth dried and hardened by the sun, trodden under foot by him, and almost cemented to the two blocks of granite between which it was pressed?  11
  He bent over it again, and examined it with renewed attention. He saw at its upper extremity a sort of a double fleshy valve, which folded over the first leaves, preserved them from the touch of anything that might injure them, and at the same time enable them to pierce that earthy crust in search of air and sun.  12
  “Ah,” said he to himself, “behold all the secret. It receives from nature this principle of strength; like the young birds, who before they are born are armed with a bill hard enough to break the thick shell which confines them. Poor prisoner! thou possessest at least the instruments which can aid thee to gain thy freedom.”  13
  He stood gazing at it a few moments, and no longer dreamed of crushing it.  14
  The next day, in taking his ordinary walk, he was striding along in an absent-minded manner, and nearly trod on it by accident. He drew back quickly; and surprised at the interest with which his new acquaintance inspired him, he paused to note its progress.  15
  The plant had grown, and the rays of the sun had caused it to lose somewhat of its sickly pallor. He reflected upon the power which that pale and slender stem possessed to absorb the luminous essence with which to nourish and strengthen itself, and to borrow from the prism the colors with which to clothe itself,—colors assigned beforehand to each one of its parts. “Yes, its leaves, without doubt,” thought he, “will be tinted with a different shade from its stem; and then its flowers, what color will they be? Yellow, blue, red? Why, nourished by the same sap as the stalk, do they not clothe themselves in the same livery? How do they draw their azure and scarlet from the same source where the other has only found a bright or sombre green? So it is to be, however; for notwithstanding the confusion and disorder of affairs here below, matter follows a regular though blind march. Blind indeed,” repeated he. “I need no other proof of it than these two fleshy lobes which have facilitated its egress from the earth, but which now, of no use in its preservation, nourish themselves still from its substance, and hang down, wearying it by their weight: of what use are they?”  16
  As he said this, day was declining, and the chilly spring evening approached. The two lobes rose slowly as he watched them, apparently desiring to justify themselves against his reproach: they drew closer together, and inclosed in their bosom—to protect it against the cold and the attacks of insects—the tender and fragile foliage which was about to be deprived of the sun; and which, thus sheltered and warmed, slept under the two wings that the plant had just softly folded over it.  17
  The man of science comprehended more fully this mute but decided response, in observing that the outside of the vegetable bivalve had been slightly cut by the nibbling of a snail the night before, of which the traces still remained.  18
  This strange colloquy between thought on one side and action on the other—between the man and the plant—was not to end here. Charney had been too long occupied with metaphysical discussions to surrender himself easily to a good reason.  19
  “This is all very well,” said he: “here as elsewhere a happy concurrence of fortuitous circumstances has favored this feeble creation. It was born armed with a lever to lift the soil, and a buckler to protect its head,—two conditions necessary to its existence: if it had happened that these had not been fulfilled, the plant must have died, stifled in its germ, like myriads of other individuals of its species whom Nature has no doubt created,—unfinished, imperfect, incapable of preserving and reproducing themselves, and who have had but an hour of life on earth. Who can calculate the number of false and impotent combinations Nature has made, before succeeding in producing one single specimen fitted to endure? A blind man may hit the mark, but how many arrows must he lose before he attains this result! For thousands of ages matter has been triturated by the double movement of attraction and repulsion: is it then strange that chance should so many times produce the right combinations? I grant that this envelope can protect these first leaves; but will it grow and enlarge so as to shelter and preserve also the other leaves against the cold and the attacks of their enemies? Next spring, when new foliage will be born as fragile and tender as this, will it be here to protect it again? No. Nothing then has been planned in all this; nothing is the result of intelligent thought, but rather of a happy chance.”  20
  Sir Count, Nature has more than one response with which to refute your argument. Have patience, and observe that feeble and isolated production, sent forth and thrown into the court of your prison, perhaps less by a stroke of chance than by the benevolent foresight of Providence. These excrescences, in which you have divined a lever and a shield, had already rendered other services to this feeble plant. After having served it as envelope in the frozen ground through the winter, the right time having arrived, they lent it their nourishing breast,—as it were suckling it when, a simple germ, it had not yet roots with which to seek moisture from the ground, or leaves to breathe the air and the sun. You were right, Sir Count: these protecting wings which have until now brooded so maternally over the young plant, will not be developed with it,—they will fall; but not till they have accomplished their task, and when their ward will have gained strength sufficient to do without their aid. Do not be anxious about its future! Nature watches over this as over its sister plants; and as long as the north winds—the chilly fogs and snowflakes—descend from the Alps, the new leaves yet in the bud will find there a safe asylum; a dwelling arranged for them, closed from the air by a cement of gum and resin which will expand according to their need, only opening under a favorable sky and atmosphere. They will not come out without a warm covering of fur,—a soft cottony down which will defend them from the late frosts or any atmospheric caprices. Did ever mother watch more lovingly over the preservation of her child? Behold, Sir Count, what you might have known long since, if, descending from the abstruse regions of human science, you had deigned to lower your eyes to examine the simple works of God. The further north your steps had turned, the more these common marvels would have manifested themselves to you. Where the danger is greater, there the cares of Providence are redoubled.  21
  The philosopher had followed attentively all the progress and the transformations of the plant. Again he had contended with her by reasoning, and she had ever an answer for all his arguments.  22
  “Of what use are these prickly hairs that garnish thy stem?” said he. And the next day she showed them to him covered with a slight hoar-frost, which,—thanks to them,—kept at a distance, had not chilled her tender skin.  23
  “Of what use in the fine days will be your warm coat, wadded with down?”  24
  The fine days arrived: she cast off her winter cloak to adorn herself with her spring toilet of green; and her new branches sprang forth free from these silken envelopes, henceforward useless.  25
  “But if the storm rages, the wind will bruise thee, and the hail will cut thy leaves, too tender to resist it.”  26
  The wind blew; and the young plant, too feeble yet to dare to fight, bent to the earth, and was defended in yielding. The hail came: and by a new manœuvre the leaves, rising along the stem and shielding it, pressed against each other for mutual protection, presenting only their under side to the blows of the enemy, and opposed their solid ribs to the weight of the atmospheric projectiles; in their union was their strength. This time the plant had come forth from the combat not without some slight mutilations; but alive and still strong, and ready to expand before the rays of the sun, which would heal her wounds.  27
  “Is chance then intelligent?” said Charney: “must I spiritualize matter, or materialize mind?” And he did not cease to interrogate his mute instructress; he delighted to watch her growth, and mark her gradual metamorphoses.  28
  One day, after he had contemplated it for a long time, he was surprised to find that he had been lost in thought; that his reveries had an unaccustomed tenderness, and that his happy thoughts continued during his walk in the court. Raising his head, he saw at the barred window of the great wall the “flycatcher,” who seemed to be observing him. At first he blushed, as if the man could read his thoughts; but then he smiled, for he no longer despised him. Had he the right to do so? Was not his mind also absorbed in the contemplation of one of the lowest ranks of creation?  29
  “Who knows,” said he, “but this Italian may have discovered in a fly as much worthy of study as I in my plant?”  30
  On returning to his chamber, that which first struck his eye was this maxim of the fatalist, inscribed by him upon the wall two months before:—
  He took a bit of charcoal and wrote underneath:—
*        *        *        *        *
  ONE day soon after, at the appointed hour, Charney was at his post near his plant, when he saw a heavy black cloud obscuring the sun, hanging like a gray floating dome over the towers of the fortress. Soon large drops of rain began to fall: he started to go quickly under shelter, when hailstones mingled with the rain pattered on the pavement of the court. La Povera, whirled and twisted by the storm, seemed on the point of being uprooted from the earth; her wet leaves, fretting one against the other, trembling with the tossing of the wind, uttered as it were plaintive murmurs and cries of distress.  33
  Charney paused. He remembered the reproaches of Ludovic, and looked eagerly around for some object with which to protect his plant; he found nothing: the hailstones became larger and fell more quickly, and threatened its destruction. He trembled for her;—for her whom he had seen so lately resist so well the violence of the wind and the hail; but now he loved his plant too well to suffer it to run any risk of injury, for the sake of getting the better of it in an argument.  34
  Taking then a resolution worthy of a lover,—worthy of a father,—he drew near; he placed himself before his protégée, and interposed himself as a wall between her and the wind; he bent over her, serving as a shield against the shock of the hail: and there, motionless, panting from his struggles with the storm, from which he sheltered her,—protecting her with his hands, with his body, with his head, with his love,—he waited till the cloud had passed.  35
  The storm was over. But might not a similar danger menace it when he, its protector, was held from it by bolts and bars? Moreover, the wife of Ludovic, followed by a large dog, sometimes came into the court. This dog in his gambols might, with one snap of his mouth or a stroke of his paw, destroy the darling of the philosopher. Charney spent the rest of the day in meditating upon a plan; and the next day prepared to put it in execution.  36
  The small portion of wood allowed him was scarcely enough for his comfort in this climate, where the evenings and mornings are so chilly. What matter? has he not the warmth of his bed? He can retire earlier and rise later. In this way, sparing his wood, he soon amassed enough for his purpose. When Ludovic questioned him about it, he said, “It is to build a palace for my mistress.” The jailer winked his eye as if he understood; but he did not.  37
  During this time Charney split, shaped, and pointed his sticks, laid together the most supple branches, preserved carefully the flexible osier which was used to tie together his daily bundle of fagots. Then he found the lining of his trunk to be of a coarse, loosely woven fabric: this he detached, and drew from it the coarsest and strongest threads. His materials thus prepared, he set himself bravely to work as soon as the laws of the jail and the scrupulous exactness of the jailer would allow.  38
  Around his plant, between the pavement of the court, he carefully inserted the sticks of various sizes.—making them firm at their base by a cement, composed of earth gathered bit by bit here and there in the interstices between the stones, and of plaster and saltpetre purloined from the old moat of the castle. The principal framework thus arranged, he interlaced it with light twigs; thus making a sort of hurdle, capable in case of need of protecting La Povera from any blow, or the approach of the dog.  39
  He was greatly encouraged during this work to find that Ludovic—who at the commencement, shaking his head with a low grumbling sound of evil augury, had seemed uncertain whether to allow him to continue his work—had now decided in his favor: and sometimes, while quietly smoking his pipe, leaning against the door at the entrance of the court, he would smilingly watch the inexperienced worker; occasionally taking his pipe from his mouth to give him some counsel, which Charney did not always know how to profit by.  40
  But inexpert as he was, his work progressed. In order to complete it, he impoverished himself, by robbing his scanty bed of straw with which to make a sort of matting, to use when needed for the protection of his tender plant from the sharp gusts of Alpine wind which threatened it on one side, or the midday rays of the sun reflected from the granite.  41
  One evening the wind blew violently. Charney from his window saw the court strewed with bits of straw and little twigs. The matting of straw and the twigs had not been firmly enough bound to resist the wind. He promised himself to repair the misfortune the next day; but the next day, when he descended, it was all rebuilt. A hand more skillful than his had firmly interlaced the straw and the branches, and he knew well whom to thank in his heart.  42
  Thus, against all peril, thanks to him, thanks to them, the plant was sheltered by rampart and roof; and Charney became more and more warmly attached to it, watching with delight its growth and development, as it unceasingly opened to him new marvels for admiration.  43
  Time gave firmness and solidity to the plant; the covering of the stem, at first so delicate, gave from day to day assurance of increasing fitness to endure: and the happy possessor of the plant was seized with a curious and impatient desire to see it blossom.  44
  At last then, he desired something: this man of a worn-out heart and frozen brain—this man so priding himself in his intellect—stoops from the proud heights of science to be absorbed in the contemplation of an herb of the field.  45
  But do not hasten to accuse him of puerile weakness or of lunacy. The celebrated Quaker, John Bertram, after having passed long hours in examining the structure of a violet, determined to devote the powers of his mind to the study of the vegetable wonders of nature; and so gained a place among the masters of science.  46
  If a philosopher of India became mad in seeking to explain the phenomena of the sensitive-plant, perhaps Charney on the contrary will learn from this plant true wisdom. Has he not already found in it the charm which has the power to dissipate his ennui and enlarge his prison?  47
  “Oh, the flower! the flower!” said he; “that flower whose beauty will expand only for my eyes, whose perfume will exhale for me alone,—what form will it take? What shades will color its petals? Without doubt it will offer me new problems to solve, and throw a last challenge to my reason. Well, let it come! Let my frail adversary show herself armed at all points; I will not shrink from the contest. Perhaps only then shall I be able to comprehend in her completeness that secret which her imperfect formation has thus far hidden from me. But wilt thou flower,—wilt thou show thyself to me one day in all the glory of thy beauty and its adornment, Picciola?”  48
  Picciola! that is the name by which he called her, when, in the necessity of hearing a human voice, he conversed aloud with the companion of his captivity, while lavishing upon her his cares. “Povera Picciola!” (poor little one): such had been the exclamation of Ludovic, moved with pity for the poor little thing, when it had nearly died for want of water. Charney remembered it.  49
  “Picciola! Picciola! wilt thou flower soon?” repeated he, while carefully opening the leaves at the extremities of the stems to see if there was any promise of blossom. And this name, Picciola, was very pleasant to his ear; for it brought to his mind at once the two beings who peopled his world,—his plant and his jailer.  50
  One morning, when at the hour of his daily promenade he interrogated Picciola leaf by leaf, his eyes were suddenly arrested by something peculiar in its appearance; his heart beat violently; he laid his hand upon it, and the blood suffused his face. It was a long time since he had experienced so keen an emotion. What he saw was at the end of the main stem: a new excrescence, green, silky, of a spherical form, covered with delicate scales placed one upon the other, like the slates upon the rounded dome of a kiosk.  51
  He cannot doubt,—it is the bud: the flower will soon be here.  52
  [Under the influence of Picciola, Charney softens to friendliness for his fellow captive, the Italian Girhardi, and for the young daughter Thérèse, who is voluntarily sharing his imprisonment. He learns too to appreciate the gruff conscientiousness and genuine kindness of Ludovic, his jailer.  53
  Picciola grows larger, and the paving-stones between which it is forcing its way, lacerate its stem, and threaten its destruction. After a struggle with his pride, Charney writes on a handkerchief a petition to Napoleon, which Girhardi agrees to forward. At much risk to herself, Thérèse, after vainly seeking Napoleon, who is on the field of Marengo, presents the petition to Josephine.]  54
  While Josephine was giving her orders, an opening in the crowd showed her Thérèse, imploring, restrained by strong arms, yet resisting. At a gracious sign from the Empress, which every one about her knew how to interpret, they released the captive, who finding herself free sprang forward, threw herself panting on her knees at the foot of the throne, and drawing quickly from her bosom a handkerchief, which she waved in the air, cried, “Madame, madame, a poor prisoner!”  55
  Josephine could not understand the meaning of this handkerchief offered to her.  56
  “Do you wish to present a petition to me?” said she.  57
  “This is it, madame, this is it: the petition of a poor prisoner.” And the tears sprang from the eyes of the supplicant, while a smile of hope illuminated her countenance. The Empress replied to her by another smile, gave her her hand, forced her to rise, and bending towards her with a manner full of kindness, said, “Come, come, my child, be reassured. He interests you very much, then, this poor prisoner?”  58
  Thérèse blushed and cast down her eyes.  59
  “I have never spoken to him,” replied she; “but he is so unhappy! Read, madame!”  60
  Josephine unfolded the handkerchief, moved to pity in thinking how much misery and privation this linen, so painfully written upon with an artificial ink, bore witness to; then stopping at the first line,—“But it is addressed to the Emperor.”  61
  “What matters! are you not his wife? Read, read, madame, in mercy read! it is so urgent!”  62
  The combat was at its height. The Hungarian column, although under fire from the artillery of Marmont, renewed its forward movement. Zach and Desaix were face to face, and the result of their encounter was to decide the salvation or the loss of the army.  63
  The cannon thundered on every side; the field of battle was aflame; the shouts of the soldiers, mingled with the clang and roar of battle, caused an agitation of the air as if a tempest was raging.  64
  The Empress read that which follows:—

  Two stones less in the court of my prison will not shake the foundations of your empire, and such is the only favor that I ask of your Majesty. It is not for myself that I ask your protection; but in this desert of stones, where I am expiating my offenses against you, one single being has brought some solace to my pain,—one single being has thrown some charm upon my life. It is a plant, Sire, which has spontaneously sprung up between the pavements of the court where I am permitted sometimes to breathe the air and see the sky. Accuse me not of delirium or folly. This flower has been for me an object of study so sweet and so consoling! My eyes fixed upon this plant have been opened to the truth; to it I owe reason, repose, life perhaps. I love it as you love glory.
  At this moment my poor plant is dying for want of space in the ground; it is dying, and I cannot succor it;—the commandant of Fenestrella would send my complaint to the governor of Turin, and when they have decided, my plant will be dead. Therefore, Sire, I address you: you who by one word can do all, can save my plant. Permit the lifting of these two stones, which weigh upon me as upon it. Save it from destruction—save me from despair! Give the order: it is the life of my plant that I ask of you. I implore, I entreat you upon my bended knees, and I swear to you that on my heart shall be inscribed the record of your goodness.
  Why should it die? It has, I acknowledge, lightened the punishment that your powerful hand has inflicted upon me; but it has also humbled my pride, and brings me now, a suppliant, to your feet. From the height of your double throne look down upon us. Can you comprehend what ties may bind a man to a plant, in this isolation which leaves for a man only a vegetable existence? No, you cannot know; and may God guard you from ever knowing what effect imprisonment may produce upon the firmest and proudest spirit. I do not complain of my captivity: I support it with resignation; prolong it, let it continue through my life: but mercy for my plant!
  Remember, Sire, that this mercy that I implore of your Majesty is in vain if it is not granted immediately—even to-day. You may hold the sword suspended for a time over the head of the condemned one, and raise it at last to grant him pardon. But nature follows other laws than the justice of man: two days more, and even the Emperor Napoleon can do nothing for the flower of the captive of Fenestrella.
  On the evening of that day, Josephine and Napoleon, after the official dinner at which they had been present, were in one of the apartments that had been prepared for them in the Hôtel de Ville of Alessandria: the one dictating letters to his secretary, pacing the room, and rubbing his hands with an air of satisfaction; the other before a lofty mirror, admiring with naïve coquetry the elegance of her robes, and the splendor of the jewels with which she was adorned.  66
  When the secretary was dismissed, Napoleon seated himself; and leaning both his elbows upon a table covered with crimson velvet fringed with gold, rested his head on his hands, and fell into a revery,—the subject of which was far from painful, judging from the expression of his face.  67
  But Josephine soon wearied of the silence which ensued. He had already once that day treated her rudely in the matter of the petition; and aware that she had been maladroit in too great precipitation, she resolved to choose the moment more wisely next time. She believed that now the right time had come: and seating herself on the other side of the table opposite her husband, she too leaned upon her elbows, and like him affected an air of abstraction; soon their eyes met with a smile.  68
  “What are you thinking of?” said Josephine to him, with a caressing tone and look.  69
  “I am thinking,” said he, “that the diadem is very becoming to you, and that it would be a great pity if I had neglected to place one in your jewel casket.”  70
  The smile of Josephine gradually faded; while that of Napoleon became more decided, for he loved to combat the painful apprehensions which always took possession of her when she contemplated the height to which they had lately risen. Noble woman! it was not for herself that she trembled.  71
  “Are you not better pleased to see me Emperor than General?” pursued he.  72
  “Certainly: as Emperor you have the right to grant mercy, and I have a favor to ask of you.”  73
  Now it was on the face of the husband that the smile faded, to brighten on the face of the wife. Knitting his brows, he prepared to be firm, fearing that the influence which Josephine exercised upon his heart might lead him into some foolish weakness.  74
  “Again, Josephine! You have promised me not to attempt in this way again to interrupt the course of justice. Do you think that the right to exercise mercy is granted us only to satisfy the caprices of our hearts? No: we ought to use it only to soften the too rigorous punishment of the law, or to repair the errors of the tribunal. Always to extend the hand of forgiveness to one’s enemies is only to augment their number and their insolence.”  75
  “Nevertheless, Sire,” replied Josephine, with difficulty restraining a burst of laughter, “you will accord me the favor that I implore of your Majesty.”  76
  “I doubt it.”  77
  “And I do not doubt it. First and before all, I demand the removal of two oppressors! Yes, Sire, let them be displaced; let them be driven out, forced away, if necessary!”  78
  And speaking thus, she covered her mouth with her handkerchief; for, seeing the astonished face of Napoleon, she could no longer restrain her mirth.  79
  “How? you urge me to punish! you, Josephine! And who are the guilty ones?”  80
  “Two paving-stones, Sire, which are in the way in a courtyard.”  81
  And the laughter so long restrained broke forth in a merry peal.  82
  He rose quickly, and crossing his arms behind him, regarded her with an air of doubt and surprise.  83
  “How? what do you mean? Two paving-stones! Are you jesting?”  84
  “No,” said she; and rising, she approached him, and with her graceful Creole nonchalance leaning her two clasped hands on his shoulder, said: “On these two stones depends a precious existence. Listen to me, Sire; I invoke all your good-will while I speak.”  85
  She then recounted to him the whole story of the petition, and all that she had learned from the young girl concerning the prisoner (whose name however she did not mention), and of the devotion of the poor child; and in speaking of the prisoner, of his flower, and the love which he bore it, the words flowed from her lips gracious, tender, caressing, full of charm and of that eloquence in which her heart so naturally expressed itself.  86
  In listening, the Emperor smiled; and the smile was born of admiration of his wife.  87
  AT last Charney said adieu to the priest and the colonel. One day, when he least expected it, the prison doors opened for him.  88
  On his return from Austerlitz, Napoleon, importuned by Josephine (who in her turn probably yielded to the importunities of another interceding for the prisoner of Fenestrella), caused an account to be rendered to him of the seizure made by the officers in their visit of search. They brought to the Emperor the cambric manuscripts, until then deposited in the archives of the Minister of Justice. He read them over carefully, and declared loudly that the Count of Charney was a madman; but a harmless one.  89
  “He who can so abase his thoughts as to be absorbed in a weed,” said he, “may make an excellent botanist, but not a conspirator. I grant his pardon. Let his estates be restored to him; and let him cultivate them himself, if such is his good pleasure.”  90
  Charney, in his turn, left Fenestrella; but he did not go alone. Could he be separated from his first, his constant friend? After having her transplanted into a large case of good earth, he took Picciola in triumph with him; his Picciola,—Picciola to whom he owed reason; Picciola to whom he owed his life; Picciola from whose bosom he had drawn consoling faith; Picciola through whom he had learned friendship and love; Picciola, finally, through whom he was to be restored to liberty!  91
  As he was about to cross the drawbridge, a large rough hand was extended towards him.  92
  “Signor Count,” said Ludovic, trying to conceal his emotion, “give me your hand: now we can be friends, since you are going, since you leave us; since we shall see you no more—thank God.”  93
  Charney interrupted him: “We shall see each other again, my dear Ludovic! Ludovic, my friend!”  94
  And after having embraced him and pressed his hand again and again, he left the citadel.  95
  He had crossed the esplanade, left behind him the hill on which the fortress is built, crossed the bridge over the Clusone, and turned into the road to Suza, when a voice from the ramparts reached him, crying “Adieu, Signor Count! adieu, Picciola!”  96
  Six months after, one sunny day in spring, a rich equipage drew up at the gates of the prison of Fenestrella. A traveler alighted and inquired for Ludovic Ritti.  97
  It was his former captive who came to pay a visit to his friend the jailer. A young lady leaned lovingly on the arm of the traveler. That young lady was Thérèse Girhardi, Countess of Charney.  98
  Together they visited the court, and the chamber where once abode ennui, skepticism, disillusion.  99
  Of all the despairing sentences which had been inscribed upon the white walls, one alone remained:—
  Thérèse added:
  The kiss which Charney pressed upon her brow gave confirmation to the truth of what she had written.  102
  Before leaving the count asked Ludovic to be godfather to his first child, as he had been to Picciola. Then saying farewell, the husband and wife returned to Turin, where Girhardi awaited them in his country-seat of La Colline.  103
  There, near the house, in a rich parterre, brightened and warmed by the rays of the rising sun, Charney had ordered his plant to be placed,—alone, that no other might interfere with its development. By his order, no hand but his might touch it or care for it. He alone would watch over it: it was an employment, a duty, a debt imposed upon him by his gratitude.  104
  How rapidly the days flowed by! Surrounded by extensive grounds, on the borders of a beautiful river, under a genial sky, Charney tasted the wine of this world’s happiness. Time added a new charm, new strength, to all these ties; for habit, like the ivy of our walls, cements and consolidates that which it cannot destroy. The friendship of Girhardi, the love of Thérèse, the blessings of all who lived under his roof,—nothing was wanting to his happiness; and yet that happiness was to be made still greater. Charney became a father.  105
  Oh, then his heart overflowed with felicity. His tenderness for his daughter seemed to redouble that which he felt for his wife. He was never weary of gazing upon and adoring them both. To be separated a moment from them was pain.  106
  Ludovic arrived to fulfill his promise. He wished to visit his first godchild, that of the prison. But alas! in the midst of these transports of love, of the prosperity and happiness with which La Colline abounded,—the source of all these joys, of all this happiness, La Povera Picciola, was dead,—dead for want of care!  107

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