Paul and Virginia
Bernardin de Saint Pierre

Part 1 out of 3

Etext prepared by Dagny,
and John Bickers,

Paul and Virginia

by Bernardin de Saint Pierre



In introducing to the Public the present edition of this well known
and affecting Tale,--the /chef d'oeuvre/ of its gifted author, the
Publishers take occasion to say, that it affords them no little
gratification, to apprise the numerous admirers of "Paul and
Virginia," that the /entire/ work of St. Pierre is now presented to
them. All the previous editions have been disfigured by
interpolations, and mutilated by numerous omissions and alterations,
which have had the effect of reducing it from the rank of a
Philosophical Tale, to the level of a mere story for children.

Of the merits of "Paul and Virginia," it is hardly necessary to utter
a word; it tells its own story eloquently and impressively, and in a
language simple, natural and true, it touches the common heart of the
world. There are but few works that have obtained a greater degree of
popularity, none are more deserving it; and the Publishers cannot
therefore refrain from expressing a hope that their efforts in thus
giving a faithful transcript of the work,--an acknowledged classic by
the European world,--may be, in some degree, instrumental in awakening
here, at home, a taste for those higher works of Fancy, which, while
they seek to elevate and strengthen the understanding, instruct and
purify the heart. It is in this character that the Tale of "Paul and
Virginia" ranks pre-eminent. [Prepared from an edition published by
Porter & Coates, Philadelphia, U.S.A.]


Love of Nature, that strong feeling of enthusiasm which leads to
profound admiration of the whole works of creation, belongs, it may be
presumed, to a certain peculiarity of organization, and has, no doubt,
existed in different individuals from the beginning of the world. The
old poets and philosophers, romance writers, and troubadours, had all
looked upon Nature with observing and admiring eyes. They have most of
them given incidentally charming pictures of spring, of the setting
sun, of particular spots, and of favourite flowers.

There are few writers of note, of any country, or of any age, from
whom quotations might not be made in proof of the love with which they
regarded Nature. And this remark applies as much to religious and
philosophic writers as to poets,--equally to Plato, St. Francois de
Sales, Bacon, and Fenelon, as to Shakespeare, Racine, Calderon, or
Burns; for from no really philosophic or religious doctrine can the
love of the works of Nature be excluded.

But before the days of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Buffon, and Bernardin de
St. Pierre, this love of Nature had not been expressed in all its
intensity. Until their day, it had not been written on exclusively.
The lovers of Nature were not, till then, as they may perhaps since be
considered, a sect apart. Though perfectly sincere in all the
adorations they offered, they were less entirely, and certainly less
diligently and constantly, her adorers.

It is the great praise of Bernardin de St. Pierre, that coming
immediately after Rousseau and Buffon, and being one of the most
proficient writers of the same school, he was in no degree their
imitator, but perfectly original and new. He intuitively perceived the
immensity of the subject he intended to explore, and has told us that
no day of his life passed without his collecting some valuable
materials for his writings. In the divine works of Nature, he
diligently sought to discover her laws. It was his early intention not
to begin to write until he had ceased to observe; but he found
observation endless, and that he was "like a child who with a shell
digs a hole in the sand to receive the waters of the ocean." He
elsewhere humbly says, that not only the general history of Nature,
but even that of the smallest plant, was far beyond his ability.
Before, however, speaking further of him as an author, it will be
necessary to recapitulate the chief events of his life.

HENRI-JACQUES BERNARDIN DE ST. PIERRE, was born at Havre in 1737. He
always considered himself descended from that Eustache de St. Pierre,
who is said by Froissart, (and I believe by Froissart only), to have
so generously offered himself as a victim to appease the wrath of
Edward the Third against Calais. He, with his companions in virtue, it
is also said, was saved by the intercession of Queen Philippa. In one
of his smaller works, Bernardin asserts this descent, and it was
certainly one of which he might be proud. Many anecdotes are related
of his childhood, indicative of the youthful author,--of his strong
love of Nature, and his humanity to animals.

That "the child is the father of the man," has been seldom more
strongly illustrated. There is a story of a cat, which, when related
by him many years afterwards to Rousseau, caused that philosopher to
shed tears. At eight years of age, he took the greatest pleasure in
the regular culture of his garden; and possibly then stored up some of
the ideas which afterwards appeared in the "Fraisier." His sympathy
with all living things was extreme.

In "Paul and Virginia," he praises, with evident satisfaction, their
meal of milk and eggs, which had not cost any animal its life. It has
been remarked, and possibly with truth, that every tenderly disposed
heart, deeply imbued with a love of Nature, is at times somewhat
Braminical. St. Pierre's certainly was.

When quite young, he advanced with a clenched fist towards a carter
who was ill-treating a horse. And when taken for the first time, by
his father, to Rouen, having the towers of the cathedral pointed out
to him, he exclaimed, "My God! how high they fly." Every one present
naturally laughed. Bernardin had only noticed the flight of some
swallows who had built their nests there. He thus early revealed those
instincts which afterwards became the guidance of his life: the
strength of which possibly occasioned his too great indifference to
all monuments of art. The love of study and of solitude were also
characteristics of his childhood. His temper is said to have been
moody, impetuous, and intractable. Whether this faulty temper may not
have been produced or rendered worse by mismanagement, cannot not be
ascertained. It, undoubtedly became afterwards, to St. Pierre a
fruitful source of misfortune and of woe.

The reading of voyages was with him, even in childhood, almost a
passion. At twelve years of age, his whole soul was occupied by
Robinson Crusoe and his island. His romantic love of adventure seeming
to his parents to announce a predilection in favour of the sea, he was
sent by them with one of his uncles to Martinique. But St. Pierre had
not sufficiently practised the virtue of obedience to submit, as was
necessary, to the discipline of a ship. He was afterwards placed with
the Jesuits at Caen, with whom he made immense progress in his
studies. But, it is to be feared, he did not conform too well to the
regulations of the college, for he conceived, from that time, the
greatest detestation for places of public education. And this aversion
he has frequently testified in his writings. While devoted to his
books of travels, he in turn anticipated being a Jesuit, a missionary
or a martyr; but his family at length succeeded in establishing him at
Rouen, where he completed his studies with brilliant success, in 1757.
He soon after obtained a commission as an engineer, with a salary of
one hundred louis. In this capacity he was sent (1760) to Dusseldorf,
under the command of Count St. Germain. This was a career in which he
might have acquired both honour and fortune; but, most unhappily for
St. Pierre, he looked upon the useful and necessary etiquettes of life
as so many unworthy prejudices. Instead of conforming to them, he
sought to trample on them. In addition, he evinced some disposition to
rebel against his commander, and was unsocial with his equals. It is
not, therefore, to be wondered at, that at this unfortunate period of
his existence, he made himself enemies; or that, notwithstanding his
great talents, or the coolness he had exhibited in moments of danger,
he should have been sent back to France. Unwelcome, under these
circumstances, to his family, he was ill received by all.

It is a lesson yet to be learned, that genius gives no charter for the
indulgence of error,--a truth yet /to be/ remembered, that only a
small portion of the world will look with leniency on the failings of
the highly-gifted; and, that from themselves, the consequences of
their own actions can never be averted. It is yet, alas! /to be/ added
to the convictions of the ardent in mind, that no degree of excellence
in science or literature, not even the immortality of a name can
exempt its possessor from obedience to moral discipline; or give him
happiness, unless "temper's image" be stamped on his daily words and
actions. St. Pierre's life was sadly embittered by his own conduct.
The adventurous life he led after his return from Dusseldorf, some of
the circumstances of which exhibited him in an unfavourable light to
others, tended, perhaps, to tinge his imagination with that wild and
tender melancholy so prevalent in his writings. A prize in the lottery
had just doubled his very slender means of existence, when he obtained
the appointment of geographical engineer, and was sent to Malta. The
Knights of the Order were at this time expecting to be attacked by the
Turks. Having already been in the service, it was singular that St.
Pierre should have had the imprudence to sail without his commission.
He thus subjected himself to a thousand disagreeables, for the
officers would not recognize him as one of themselves. The effects of
their neglect on his mind were tremendous; his reason for a time
seemed almost disturbed by the mortifications he suffered. After
receiving an insufficient indemnity for the expenses of his voyage,
St. Pierre returned to France, there to endure fresh misfortunes.

Not being able to obtain any assistance from the ministry or his
family, he resolved on giving lessons in the mathematics. But St.
Pierre was less adapted than most others for succeeding in the
apparently easy, but really ingenious and difficult, art of teaching.
When education is better understood, it will be more generally
acknowledged, that, to impart instruction with success, a teacher must
possess deeper intelligence than is implied by the profoundest skill
in any one branch of science or of art. All minds, even to the
youngest, require, while being taught, the utmost compliance and
consideration; and these qualities can scarcely be properly exercised
without a true knowledge of the human heart, united to much practical
patience. St. Pierre, at this period of his life, certainly did not
possess them. It is probable that Rousseau, when he attempted in his
youth to give lessons in music, not knowing any thing whatever of
music, was scarcely less fitted for the task of instruction, than St.
Pierre with all his mathematical knowledge. The pressure of poverty
drove him to Holland. He was well received at Amsterdam, by a French
refugee named Mustel, who edited a popular journal there, and who
procured him employment, with handsome remuneration. St. Pierre did
not, however, remain long satisfied with this quiet mode of existence.
Allured by the encouraging reception given by Catherine II. to
foreigners, he set out for St. Petersburg. Here, until he obtained the
protection of the Marechal de Munich, and the friendship of Duval, he
had again to contend with poverty. The latter generously opened to him
his purse and by the Marechal he was introduced to Villebois, the
Grand Master of Artillery, and by him presented to the Empress. St.
Pierre was so handsome, that by some of his friends it was supposed,
perhaps, too, hoped, that he would supersede Orloff in the favor of
Catherine. But more honourable illusions, though they were but
illusions, occupied his own mind. He neither sought nor wished to
captivate the Empress. His ambition was to establish a republic on the
shores of the lake Aral, of which in imitation of Plato or Rousseau,
he was to be the legislator. Pre-occupied with the reformation of
despotism, he did not sufficiently look into his own heart, or seek to
avoid a repetition of the same errors that had already changed friends
into enemies, and been such a terrible barrier to his success in life.
His mind was already morbid, and in fancying that others did not
understand him, he forgot that he did not understand others. The
Empress, with the rank of captain, bestowed on him a grant of fifteen
hundred francs; but when General Dubosquet proposed to take him with
him to examine the military position of Finland, his only anxiety
seemed to be to return to France: still he went to Finland; and his
own notes of his occupations and experiments on that expedition prove,
that he gave himself up in all diligence to considerations of attack
and defence. He, who loved Nature so intently, seems only to have seen
in the extensive and majestic forests of the north, a theatre of war.
In this instance, he appears to have stifled every emotion of
admiration, and to have beheld, alike, cities and countries in his
character of military surveyor.

On his return to St. Petersburg, he found his protector Villebois,
disgraced. St. Pierre then resolved on espousing the cause of the
Poles. He went into Poland with a high reputation,--that of having
refused the favours of despotism, to aid the cause of liberty. But it
was his private life, rather than his public career, that was affected
by his residence in Poland. The Princess Mary fell in love with him,
and, forgetful of all considerations, quitted her family to reside
with him. Yielding, however, at length, to the entreaties of her
mother, she returned to her home. St. Pierre, filled with regret,
resorted to Vienna; but, unable to support the sadness which oppressed
him, and imagining that sadness to be shared by the Princess, he soon
went back to Poland. His return was still more sad than his departure;
for he found himself regarded by her who had once loved him, as an
intruder. It is to this attachment he alludes so touchingly in one of
his letters. "Adieu! friends dearer than the treasures of India!
Adieu! forests of the North, that I shall never see again!--tender
friendship, and the still dearer sentiment which surpassed it!--days
of intoxication and of happiness adeiu! adieu! We live but for a day,
to die during a whole life!"

This letter appears to one of St. Pierre's most partial biographers,
as if steeped in tears; and he speaks of his romantic and unfortunate
adventure in Poland, as the ideal of a poet's love.

"To be," says M. Sainte-Beuve, "a great poet, and loved before he had
thought of glory! To exhale the first perfume of a soul of genius,
believing himself only a lover! To reveal himself, for the first time,
entirely, but in mystery!"

In his enthusiasm, M. Sainte-Beuve loses sight of the melancholy
sequel, which must have left so sad a remembrance in St. Pierre's own
mind. His suffering, from this circumstance, may perhaps have conduced
to his making Virginia so good and true, and so incapable of giving

In 1766, he returned to Havre; but his relations were by this time
dead or dispersed, and after six years of exile, he found himself once
more in his own country, without employment and destitute of pecuniary

The Baron de Breteuil at length obtained for him a commission as
Engineer to the Isle of France, whence he returned in 1771. In this
interval, his heart and imagination doubtless received the germs of
his immortal works. Many of the events, indeed, of the "Voyage a l'Ile
de France," are to be found modified by imagined circumstances in
"Paul and Virginia." He returned to Paris poor in purse, but rich in
observation and mental resources, and resolved to devote himself to
literature. By the Baron de Breteuil he was recommended to D'Alembert,
who procured a publisher for his "Voyage," and also introduced him to
Mlle. de l'Espinasse. But no one, in spite of his great beauty, was so
ill calculated to shine or please in society as St. Pierre. His
manners were timid and embarrassed, and, unless to those with whom he
was very intimate, he scarcely appeared intelligent.

It is sad to think, that misunderstanding should prevail to such an
extent, and heart so seldom really speak to heart, in the intercourse
of the world, that the most humane may appear cruel, and the
sympathizing indifferent. Judging of Mlle. de l'Espinasse from her
letters, and the testimony of her contemporaries, it seems quite
impossible that she could have given pain to any one, more
particularly to a man possessing St. Pierre's extraordinary talent and
profound sensibility. Both she and D'Alembert were capable of
appreciating him; but the society in which they moved laughed at his
timidity, and the tone of raillery in which they often indulged was
not understood by him. It is certain that he withdrew from their
circle with wounded and mortified feelings, and, in spite of an
explanatory letter from D'Alembert, did not return to it. The
inflictors of all this pain, in the meantime, were possibly as
unconscious of the meaning attached to their words, as were the birds
of old of the augury drawn from their flight.

St. Pierre, in his "Preambule de l'Arcadie," has pathetically and
eloquently described the deplorable state of his health and feelings,
after frequent humiliating disputes and disappointments had driven him
from society; or rather, when, like Rousseau, he was "self-banished"
from it.

"I was struck," he says, "with an extraordinary malady. Streams of
fire, like lightning, flashed before my eyes; every object appeared to
me double, or in motion: like OEdipus, I saw two suns. . . In the
finest day of summer, I could not cross the Seine in a boat without
experiencing intolerable anxiety. If, in a public garden, I merely
passed by a piece of water, I suffered from spasms and a feeling of
horror. I could not cross a garden in which many people were
collected: if they looked at me, I immediately imagined they were
speaking ill of me." It was during this state of suffering, that he
devoted himself with ardour to collecting and making use of materials
for that work which was to give glory to his name.

It was only by perseverance, and disregarding many rough and
discouraging receptions, that he succeeded in making acquaintance with
Rousseau, whom he so much resembled. St. Pierre devoted himself to his
society with enthusiasm, visiting him frequently and constantly, till
Rousseau departed for Ermenonville. It is not unworthy of remark, that
both these men, such enthusiastic admirers of Nature and the natural
in all things, should have possessed factitious rather than practical
virtue, and a wisdom wholly unfitted for the world. St. Pierre asked
Rousseau, in one of their frequent rambles, if, in delineating St.
Preux, he had not intended to represent himself. "No," replied
Rousseau, "St. Preux is not what I have been, but what I wished to
be." St. Pierre would most likely have given the same answer, had a
similar question been put to him with regard to the Colonel in "Paul
and Virginia." This at least, appears the sort of old age he loved to
contemplate, and wished to realize.

For six years, he worked at his "Etudes," and with some difficulty
found a publisher for them. M. Didot, a celebrated typographer, whose
daughter St. Pierre afterwards married, consented to print a
manuscript which had been declined by many others. He was well
rewarded for the undertaking. The success of the "Etudes de la Nature"
surpassed the most sanguine expectation, even of the author. Four
years after its publication, St. Pierre gave to the world "Paul and
Virginia," which had for some time been lying in his portfolio. He had
tried its effect, in manuscript, on persons of different characters
and pursuits. They had given it no applause; but all had shed tears at
its perusal: and perhaps, few works of a decidedly romantic character
have ever been so generally read, or so much approved. Among the great
names whose admiration of it is on record, may be mentioned Napoleon
and Humboldt.

In 1789, he published "Les Veoeux d'un Solitaire," and "La Suite des
Voeux." By the /Moniteur/ of the day, these works were compared to the
celebrated pamphlet of Sieyes,--"Qu'est-ce que le tiers etat?" which
then absorbed all the public favour. In 1791, "La Chaumiere Indienne"
was published: and in the following year, about thirteen days before
the celebrated 10th of August, Louis XVI. appointed St. Pierre
superintendant of the "Jardin des Plantes." Soon afterwards, the King,
on seeing him, complimented him on his writings and told him he was
happy to have found a worthy successor to Buffon.

Although deficient in the exact knowledge of the sciences, and knowing
little of the world, St. Pierre was, by his simplicity, and the
retirement in which he lived, well suited, at that epoch, to the
situation. About this time, and when in his fifty-seventh year, he
married Mlle. Didot.

In 1795, he became a member of the French Academy, and, as was just,
after his acceptance of this honour, he wrote no more against literary
societies. On the suppression of his place, he retired to Essonne. It
is delightful to follow him there, and to contemplate his quiet
existence. His days flowed on peaceably, occupied in the publication
of "Les Harmonies de la Nature," the republication of his earlier
works, and the composition of some lesser pieces. He himself
affectingly regrets an interruption to these occupations. On being
appointed Instructor to the Normal School, he says, "I am obliged to
hang my harp on the willows of my river, and to accept an employment
useful to my family and my country. I am afflicted at having to
suspend an occupation which has given me so much happiness."

He enjoyed in his old age, a degree of opulence, which, as much as
glory, had perhaps been the object of his ambition. In any case, it is
gratifying to reflect, that after a life so full of chance and change,
he was, in his latter years, surrounded by much that should accompany
old age. His day of storms and tempests was closed by an evening of
repose and beauty.

Amid many other blessings, the elasticity of his mind was preserved to
the last. He died at Eragny sur l'Oise, on the 21st of January, 1814.
The stirring events which then occupied France, or rather the whole
world, caused his death to be little noticed at the time. The Academy
did not, however, neglect to give him the honour due to its members.
Mons. Parseval Grand Maison pronounced a deserved eulogium on his
talents, and Mons. Aignan, also, the customary tribute, taking his
seat as his successor.

Having himself contracted the habit of confiding his griefs and
sorrows to the public, the sanctuary of his private life was open
alike to the discussion of friends and enemies. The biographer, who
wishes to be exact, and yet set down nought in malice, is forced to
the contemplation of his errors. The secret of many of these, as well
as of his miseries, seems revealed by himself in this sentence: "I
experience more pain from a single thorn, than pleasure from a
thousand roses." And elsewhere, "The best society seems to me bad, if
I find in it one troublesome, wicked, slanderous, envious, or
perfidious person." Now, taking into consideration that St. Pierre
sometimes imagined persons who were really good, to be deserving of
these strong and very contumacious epithets, it would have been
difficult indeed to find a society in which he could have been happy.
He was, therefore, wise, in seeking retirement, and indulging in
solitude. His mistakes,--for they were mistakes,--arose from a too
quick perception of evil, united to an exquisite and diffuse
sensibility. When he felt wounded by a thorn, he forgot the beauty and
perfume of the rose to which it belonged, and from which perhaps it
could not be separated. And he was exposed (as often happens) to the
very description of trials that were least in harmony with his
defects. Few dispositions could have run a career like his, and have
remained unscathed. But one less tender than his own would have been
less soured by it. For many years, he bore about with him the
consciousness of unacknowledged talent. The world cannot be blamed for
not appreciating that which had never been revealed. But we know not
what the jostling and elbowing of that world, in the meantime, may
have been to him--how often he may have felt himself unworthily
treated--or how far that treatment may have preyed upon and corroded
his heart. Who shall say that with this consciousness there did not
mingle a quick and instinctive perception of the hidden motives of
action,--that he did not sometimes detect, where others might have
been blind, the under-shuffling of the hands, in the by-play of the

Through all his writings, and throughout his correspondence, there are
beautiful proofs of the tenderness of his feelings,--the most
essential quality, perhaps, in any writer. It is at least, one that if
not possessed, can never be attained. The familiarity of his
imagination with natural objects, when he was living far removed from
them, is remarkable, and often affecting.

"I have arranged," he says to Mr. Henin, his friend and patron, "very
interesting materials, but it is only with the light of Heaven over me
that I can recover my strength. Obtain for me a /rabbit's hole/, in
which I may pass the summer in the country." And again, "With the
/first violet/, I shall come to see you." It is soothing to find, in
passages like these, such pleasing and convincing evidence that

"Nature never did betray,
The heart that loved her."

In the noise of a great city, in the midst of annoyances of many kinds
these images, impressed with quietness and beauty, came back to the
mind of St. Pierre, to cheer and animate him.

In alluding to his miseries, it is but fair to quote a passage from
his "Voyage," which reveals his fond remembrance of his native land.
"I should ever prefer my own country to every other," he says, "not
because it was more beautiful, but because I was brought up in it.
Happy he, who sees again the places where all was loved, and all was
lovely!--the meadows in which he played, and the orchard that he

He returned to this country, so fondly loved and deeply cherished in
absence, to experience only trouble and difficulty. Away from it, he
had yearned to behold it,--to fold it, as it were, once more to his
bosom. He returned to feel as if neglected by it, and all his
rapturous emotions were changed to bitterness and gall. His hopes had
proved delusions--his expectations, mockeries. Oh! who but must look
with charity and mercy on all discontent and irritation consequent on
such a depth of disappointment: on what must have then appeared to him
such unmitigable woe. Under the influence of these saddened feelings,
his thoughts flew back to the island he had left, to place all beauty,
as well as all happiness, there!

One great proof that he did beautify the distant, may be found in the
contrast of some of the descriptions in the "Voyage a l'Ile de
France," and those in "Paul and Virginia." That spot, which when
peopled by the cherished creatures of his imagination, he described as
an enchanting and delightful Eden, he had previously spoken of as a
"rugged country covered with rocks,"--"a land of Cyclops blackened by
fire." Truth, probably, lies between the two representations; the
sadness of exile having darkened the one, and the exuberance of his
imagination embellished the other.

St. Pierre's merit as an author has been too long and too universally
acknowledged, to make it needful that it should be dwelt on here. A
careful review of the circumstances of his life induces the belief,
that his writings grew (if it may be permitted so to speak) out of his
life. In his most imaginative passages, to whatever height his fancy
soared, the starting point seems ever from a fact. The past appears to
have been always spread out before him when he wrote, like a beautiful
landscape, on which his eye rested with complacency, and from which
his mind transferred and idealized some objects, without a servile
imitation of any. When at Berlin, he had had it in his power to marry
Virginia Tabenheim; and in Russia, Mlle. de la Tour, the niece of
General Dubosquet, would have accepted his hand. He was too poor to
marry either. A grateful recollection caused him to bestow the names
of the two on his most beloved creation. Paul was the name of a friar,
with whom he had associated in his childhood, and whose life he wished
to imitate. How little had the owners of these names anticipated that
they were to become the baptismal appellations of half a generation in
France, and to be re-echoed through the world to the end of time!

It was St. Pierre who first discovered the poverty of language with
regard to picturesque descriptions. In his earliest work, the often-
quoted "Voyages," he complains, that the terms for describing nature
are not yet invented. "Endeavour," he says, "to describe a mountain in
such a manner that it may be recognised. When you have spoken of its
base, its sides, its summit, you will have said all! But what variety
there is to be found in those swelling, lengthened, flattened, or
cavernous forms! It is only by periphrasis that all this can be
expressed. The same difficulty exists for plains and valleys. But if
you have a palace to describe, there is no longer any difficulty.
Every moulding has its appropriate name."

It was St. Pierre's glory, in some degree, to triumph over this dearth
of expression. Few authors ever introduced more new terms into
descriptive writing: yet are his innovations ever chastened, and in
good taste. His style, in its elegant simplicity, is, indeed,
perfection. It is at once sonorous and sweet, and always in harmony
with the sentiment he would express, or the subject he would discuss.
Chenier might well arm himself with "Paul and Virginia," and the
"Chaumiere Indienne," in opposition to those writers, who, as he said,
made prose unnatural, by seeking to elevate it into verse.

The "Etudes de la Nature" embraced a thousand different subjects, and
contained some new ideas on all. It is to the honour of human nature,
that after the uptearing of so many sacred opinions, a production like
this, revealing the chain of connection through the works of Creation,
and the Creator in his works, should have been hailed, as it was, with

His motto, from his favourite poet Virgil, "Taught by calamity, I pity
the unhappy," won for him, perhaps many readers. And in its touching
illusions, the unhappy may have found suspension from the realities of
life, as well as encouragement to support its trials. For, throughout,
it infuses admiration of the arrangements of Providence, and a desire
for virtue. More than one modern poet may be supposed to have drawn a
portion of his inspiration, from the "Etudes." As a work of science it
contains many errors. These, particularly his theory of the tides,[*]
St. Pierre maintained to the last, and so eloquently, that it was said
at the time, to be impossible to unite less reason with more logic.

[*] Occasioned, according to St. Pierre, by the melting of the ice at
the Poles.

In "Paul and Virginia," he was supremely fortunate in his subject. It
was an entirely new creation, uninspired by any previous work; but
which gave birth to many others, having furnished the plot to six
theatrical pieces. It was a subject to which the author could bring
all his excellences as a writer and a man, while his deficiencies and
defects were necessarily excluded. In no manner could he incorporate
politics, science, or misapprehension of persons, while his
sensibility, morals, and wonderful talent for description, were in
perfect accordance with, and ornaments to it. Lemontey and Sainte-
Beuve both consider success to be inseparable from the happy selection
of a story so entirely in harmony with the character of the author;
and that the most successful writers might envy him so fortunate a
choice. Buonaparte was in the habit of saying, whenever he saw St.
Pierre, "M. Bernardin, when do you mean to give us more Pauls and
Virginias, and Indian Cottages? You ought to give us some every six

The "Indian Cottage," if not quite equal in interest to "Paul and
Virginia, is still a charming production, and does great honour to the
genius of its author. It abounds in antique and Eastern gems of
thought. Striking and excellent comparisons are scattered through its
pages; and it is delightful to reflect, that the following beautiful
and solemn answer of the Paria was, with St. Pierre, the results of
his own experience:--"Misfortune resembles the Black Mountain of
Bember, situated at the extremity of the burning kingdom of Lahore;
while you are climbing it, you only see before you barren rocks; but
when you have reached its summit, you see heaven above your head, and
at your feet the kingdom of Cachemere."

When this passage was written, the rugged, and sterile rock had been
climbed by its gifted author. He had reached the summit,--his genius
had been rewarded, and he himself saw the heaven he wished to point
out to others.


[For the facts contained in this brief Memoir, I am indebted to St.
Pierre's own works, to the "Biographie Universelle," to the "Essai sur
la Vie et les Ouvrages de Bernardin de St. Pierre," by M. Aime Martin,
and to the very excellent and interesting "Notice Historique et
Litteraire," of M. Sainte-Beauve.]


Situated on the eastern side of the mountain which rises above Port
Louis, in the Mauritius, upon a piece of land bearing the marks of
former cultivation, are seen the ruins of two small cottages. These
ruins are not far from the centre of a valley, formed by immense
rocks, and which opens only towards the north. On the left rises the
mountain called the Height of Discovery, whence the eye marks the
distant sail when it first touches the verge of the horizon, and
whence the signal is given when a vessel approaches the island. At the
foot of this mountain stands the town of Port Louis. On the right is
formed the road which stretches from Port Louis to the Shaddock Grove,
where the church bearing that name lifts its head, surrounded by its
avenues of bamboo, in the middle of a spacious plain; and the prospect
terminates in a forest extending to the furthest bounds of the island.
The front view presents the bay, denominated the Bay of the Tomb; a
little on the right is seen the Cape of Misfortune; and beyond rolls
the expanded ocean, on the surface of which appear a few uninhabited
islands; and, among others, the Point of Endeavour, which resembles a
bastion built upon the flood.

At the entrance of the valley which presents these various objects,
the echoes of the mountain incessantly repeat the hollow murmurs of
the winds that shake the neighbouring forests, and the tumultuous
dashing of the waves which break at a distance upon the cliffs; but
near the ruined cottages all is calm and still, and the only objects
which there meet the eye are rude steep rocks, that rise like a
surrounding rampart. Large clumps of trees grow at their base, on
their rifted sides, and even on their majestic tops, where the clouds
seem to repose. The showers, which their bold points attract, often
paint the vivid colours of the rainbow on their green and brown
declivities, and swell the sources of the little river which flows at
their feet, called the river of Fan-Palms. Within this inclosure
reigns the most profound silence. The waters, the air, all the
elements are at peace. Scarcely does the echo repeat the whispers of
the palm-trees spreading their broad leaves, the long points of which
are gently agitated by the winds. A soft light illumines the bottom of
this deep valley, on which the sun shines only at noon. But, even at
the break of day, the rays of light are thrown on the surrounding
rocks; and their sharp peaks, rising above the shadows of the
mountain, appear like tints of gold and purple gleaming upon the azure

To this scene I loved to resort, as I could here enjoy at once the
richness of an unbounded landscape, and the charm of uninterrupted
solitude. One day, when I was seated at the foot of the cottages, and
contemplating their ruins, a man, advanced in years, passed near the
spot. He was dressed in the ancient garb of the island, his feet were
bare, and he leaned upon a staff of ebony; his hair was white, and the
expression of his countenance was dignified and interesting. I bowed
to him with respect; he returned the salutation; and, after looking at
me with some earnestness, came and placed himself upon the hillock on
which I was seated. Encouraged by this mark of confidence I thus
addressed him: "Father, can you tell me to whom those cottages once
belonged?"--"My son," replied the old man, "those heaps of rubbish,
and that untilled land, were, twenty years ago, the property of two
families, who then found happiness in this solitude. Their history is
affecting; but what European, pursuing his way to the Indies, will
pause one moment to interest himself in the fate of a few obscure
individuals? What European can picture happiness to his imagination
amidst poverty and neglect? The curiosity of mankind is only attracted
by the history of the great, and yet from that knowledge little use
can be derived."--"Father," I rejoined, "from your manner and your
observations, I perceive that you have acquired much experience of
human life. If you have leisure, relate to me, I beseech you, the
history of the ancient inhabitants of this desert; and be assured,
that even the men who are most perverted by the prejudices of the
world, find a soothing pleasure in contemplating that happiness which
belongs to simplicity and virtue." The old man, after a short silence,
during which he leaned his face upon his hands, as if he were trying
to recall the images of the past, thus began his narration:--

Monsieur de la Tour, a young man who was a native of Normandy, after
having in vain solicited a commission in the French army, or some
support from his own family, at length determined to seek his fortune
in this island, where he arrived in 1726. He brought hither a young
woman, whom he loved tenderly, and by whom he was no less tenderly
beloved. She belonged to a rich and ancient family of the same
province: but he had married her secretly and without fortune, and in
opposition to the will of her relations, who refused their consent
because he was found guilty of being descended from parents who had no
claims to nobility. Monsieur de la Tour, leaving his wife at Port
Louis, embarked for Madagascar, in order to purchase a few slaves, to
assist him in forming a plantation on this island. He landed at
Madagascar during that unhealthy season which commences about the
middle of October; and soon after his arrival died of the pestilential
fever, which prevails in that island six months of the year, and which
will forever baffle the attempts of the European nations to form
establishments on that fatal soil. His effects were seized upon by the
rapacity of strangers, as commonly happens to persons dying in foreign
parts; and his wife, who was pregnant, found herself a widow in a
country where she had neither credit nor acquaintance, and no earthly
possession, or rather support, but one negro woman. Too delicate to
solicit protection or relief from any one else after the death of him
whom alone she loved, misfortune armed her with courage, and she
resolved to cultivate, with her slave, a little spot of ground, and
procure for herself the means of subsistence.

Desert as was the island, and the ground left to the choice of the
settler, she avoided those spots which were most fertile and most
favorable to commerce: seeking some nook of the mountain, some secret
asylum where she might live solitary and unknown, she bent her way
from the town towards these rocks, where she might conceal herself
from observation. All sensitive and suffering creatures, from a sort
of common instinct, fly for refuge amidst their pains to haunts the
most wild and desolate; as if rocks could form a rampart against
misfortune--as if the calm of Nature could hush the tumults of the
soul. That Providence, which lends its support when we ask but the
supply of our necessary wants, had a blessing in reserve for Madame de
la Tour, which neither riches nor greatness can purchase:--this
blessing was a friend.

The spot to which Madame de la Tour had fled had already been
inhabited for a year by a young woman of a lively, good-natured and
affectionate disposition. Margaret (for that was her name) was born in
Brittany, of a family of peasants, by whom she was cherished and
beloved, and with whom she might have passed through life in simple
rustic happiness, if, misled by the weakness of a tender heart, she
had not listened to the passion of a gentleman in the neighbourhood,
who promised her marriage. He soon abandoned her, and adding
inhumanity to seduction, refused to insure a provision for the child
of which she was pregnant. Margaret then determined to leave forever
her native village, and retire, where her fault might be concealed, to
some colony distant from that country where she had lost the only
portion of a poor peasant girl--her reputation. With some borrowed
money she purchased an old negro slave, with whom she cultivated a
little corner of this district.

Madame de la Tour, followed by her negro woman, came to this spot,
where she found Margaret engaged in suckling her child. Soothed and
charmed by the sight of a person in a situation somewhat similar to
her own, Madame de la Tour related, in a few words, her past condition
and her present wants. Margaret was deeply affected by the recital;
and more anxious to merit confidence than to create esteem, she
confessed without disguise, the errors of which she had been guilty.
"As for me," said she, "I deserve my fate: but you, madam--you! at
once virtuous and unhappy"--and, sobbing, she offered Madame de la
Tour both her hut and her friendship. That lady, affected by this
tender reception, pressed her in her arms, and exclaimed,--"Ah surely
Heaven has put an end to my misfortunes, since it inspires you, to
whom I am a stranger, with more goodness towards me than I have ever
experienced from my own relations!"

I was acquainted with Margaret: and, although my habitation is a
league and a half from hence, in the woods behind that sloping
mountain, I considered myself as her neighbour. In the cities of
Europe, a street, even a simple wall, frequently prevents members of
the same family from meeting for years; but in new colonies we
consider those persons as neighbours from whom we are divided only by
woods and mountains; and above all at that period, when this island
had little intercourse with the Indies, vicinity alone gave a claim to
friendship, and hospitality towards strangers seemed less a duty than
a pleasure. No sooner was I informed that Margaret had found a
companion, than I hastened to her, in the hope of being useful to my
neighbour and her guest. I found Madame de la Tour possessed of all
those melancholy graces which, by blending sympathy with admiration
give to beauty additional power. Her countenance was interesting,
expressive at once of dignity and dejection. She appeared to be in the
last stage of her pregnancy. I told the two friends that for the
future interests of their children, and to prevent the intrusion of
any other settler, they had better divide between them the property of
this wild, sequestered valley, which is nearly twenty acres in extent.
They confided that task to me, and I marked out two equal portions of
land. One included the higher part of this enclosure, from the cloudy
pinnacle of that rock, whence springs the river of Fan-Palms, to that
precipitous cleft which you see on the summit of the mountain, and
which, from its resemblance in form to the battlement of a fortress,
is called the Embrasure. It is difficult to find a path along this
wild portion of the enclosure, the soil of which is encumbered with
fragments of rock, or worn into channels formed by torrents; yet it
produces noble trees, and innumerable springs and rivulets. The other
portion of land comprised the plain extending along the banks of the
river of Fan-Palms, to the opening where we are now seated, whence the
river takes its course between these two hills, until it falls into
the sea. You may still trace the vestiges of some meadow land; and
this part of the common is less rugged, but not more valuable than the
other; since in the rainy season it becomes marshy, and in dry weather
is so hard and unyielding, that it will almost resist the stroke of
the pickaxe. When I had thus divided the property, I persuaded my
neighbours to draw lots for their respective possessions. The higher
portion of land, containing the source of the river of Fan-Palms,
became the property of Madame de la Tour; the lower, comprising the
plain on the banks of the river, was allotted to Margaret; and each
seemed satisfied with her share. They entreated me to place their
habitations together, that they might at all times enjoy the soothing
intercourse of friendship, and the consolation of mutual kind offices.
Margaret's cottage was situated near the centre of the valley, and
just on the boundary of her own plantation. Close to that spot I built
another cottage for the residence of Madame de la Tour; and thus the
two friends, while they possessed all the advantages of neighbourhood
lived on their own property. I myself cut palisades from the mountain,
and brought leaves of fan-palms from the sea-shore in order to
construct those two cottages, of which you can now discern neither the
entrance nor the roof. Yet, alas! there still remains but too many
traces for my remembrance! Time, which so rapidly destroys the proud
monuments of empires, seems in this desert to spare those of
friendship, as if to perpetuate my regrets to the last hour of my

As soon as the second cottage was finished, Madame de la Tour was
delivered of a girl. I had been the godfather of Margaret's child, who
was christened by the name of Paul. Madame de la Tour desired me to
perform the same office for her child also, together with her friend,
who gave her the name of Virginia. "She will be virtuous," cried
Margaret, "and she will be happy. I have only known misfortune by
wandering from virtue."

About the time Madame de la Tour recovered, these two little estates
had already begun to yield some produce, perhaps in a small degree
owing to the care which I occasionally bestowed on their improvement,
but far more to the indefatigable labours of the two slaves.
Margaret's slave, who was called Domingo, was still healthy and
robust, though advanced in years: he possessed some knowledge, and a
good natural understanding. He cultivated indiscriminately, on both
plantations, the spots of ground that seemed most fertile, and sowed
whatever grain he thought most congenial to each particular soil.
Where the ground was poor, he strewed maize; where it was most
fruitful, he planted wheat; and rice in such spots as were marshy. He
threw the seeds of gourds and cucumbers at the foot of the rocks,
which they loved to climb and decorate with their luxuriant foliage.
In dry spots he cultivated the sweet potatoe; the cotton-tree
flourished upon the heights, and the sugar-cane grew in the clayey
soil. He reared some plants of coffee on the hills, where the grain,
although small, is excellent. His plantain-trees, which spread their
grateful shade on the banks of the river, and encircled the cottages,
yielded fruit throughout the year. And lastly, Domingo, to soothe his
cares, cultivated a few plants of tobacco. Sometimes he was employed
in cutting wood for firing from the mountain, sometimes in hewing
pieces of rock within the enclosure, in order to level the paths. The
zeal which inspired him enabled him to perform all these labours with
intelligence and activity. He was much attached to Margaret, and not
less to Madame de la Tour, whose negro woman, Mary, he had married on
the birth of Virginia; and he was passionately fond of his wife. Mary
was born at Madagascar, and had there acquired the knowledge of some
useful arts. She could weave baskets, and a sort of stuff, with long
grass that grows in the woods. She was active, cleanly, and, above
all, faithful. It was her care to prepare their meals, to rear the
poultry, and go sometimes to Port Louis, to sell the superfluous
produce of these little plantations, which was not however, very
considerable. If you add to the personages already mentioned two
goats, which were brought up with the children, and a great dog, which
kept watch at night, you will have a complete idea of the household,
as well as of the productions of these two little farms.

Madame de la Tour and her friend were constantly employed in spinning
cotton for the use of their families. Destitute of everything which
their own industry could not supply, at home they went bare-footed:
shoes were a convenience reserved for Sunday, on which day, at an
early hour, they attended mass at the church of the Shaddock Grove,
which you see yonder. That church was more distant from their homes
than Port Louis; but they seldom visited the town, lest they should be
treated with contempt on account of their dress, which consisted
simply of the coarse blue linen of Bengal, usually worn by slaves. But
is there, in that external deference which fortune commands, a
compensation for domestic happiness? If these interesting women had
something to suffer from the world, their homes on that very account
became more dear to them. No sooner did Mary and Domingo, from this
elevated spot, perceive their mistresses on the road of the Shaddock
Grove, than they flew to the foot of the mountain in order to help
them to ascend. They discerned in the looks of their domestics the joy
which their return excited. They found in their retreat neatness,
independence, all the blessings which are the recompense of toil, and
they received the zealous services which spring from affection. United
by the tie of similar wants, and the sympathy of similar misfortunes,
they gave each other the tender names of companion, friend, sister.
They had but one will, one interest, one table. All their possessions
were in common. And if sometimes a passion more ardent than friendship
awakened in their hearts the pang of unavailing anguish, a pure
religion, united with chaste manners, drew their affections towards
another life: as the trembling flame rises towards heaven, when it no
longer finds any ailment on earth.

The duties of maternity became a source of additional happiness to
these affectionate mothers, whose mutual friendship gained new
strength at the sight of their children, equally the offspring of an
ill-fated attachment. They delighted in washing their infants together
in the same bath, in putting them to rest in the same cradle, and in
changing the maternal bosom at which they received nourishment. "My
friend," cried Madame de la Tour, "we shall each of us have two
children, and each of our children will have two mothers." As two buds
which remain on different trees of the same kind, after the tempest
has broken all their branches, produce more delicious fruit, if each,
separated from the maternal stem, be grafted on the neighbouring tree,
so these two infants, deprived of all their other relations, when thus
exchanged for nourishment by those who had given them birth, imbibed
feelings of affection still more tender than those of son and
daughter, brother and sister. While they were yet in their cradles,
their mothers talked of their marriage. They soothed their own cares
by looking forward to the future happiness of their children; but this
contemplation often drew forth their tears. The misfortunes of one
mother had arisen from having neglected marriage; those of the other
from having submitted to its laws. One had suffered by aiming to rise
above her condition, the other by descending from her rank. But they
found consolation in reflecting that their more fortunate children,
far from the cruel prejudices of Europe, would enjoy at once the
pleasures of love and the blessings of equality.

Rarely, indeed, has such an attachment been seen as that which the two
children already testified for each other. If Paul complained of
anything, his mother pointed to Virginia: at her sight he smiled, and
was appeased. If any accident befel Virginia, the cries of Paul gave
notice of the disaster; but the dear little creature would suppress
her complaints if she found that he was unhappy. When I came hither, I
usually found them quite naked, as is the custom of the country,
tottering in their walk, and holding each other by the hands and under
the arms, as we see represented in the constellation of the Twins. At
night these infants often refused to be separated, and were found
lying in the same cradle, their cheeks, their bosoms pressed close
together, their hands thrown round each other's neck, and sleeping,
locked in one another's arms.

When they first began to speak, the first name they learned to give
each other were those of brother and sister, and childhood knows no
softer appellation. Their education, by directing them ever to
consider each other's wants, tended greatly to increase their
affection. In a short time, all the household economy, the care of
preparing their rural repasts, became the task of Virginia, whose
labours were always crowned with the praises and kisses of her
brother. As for Paul, always in motion, he dug the garden with
Domingo, or followed him with a little hatchet into the woods; and if,
in his rambles he espied a beautiful flower, any delicious fruit, or a
nest of birds, even at the top of the tree, he would climb up and
bring the spoil to his sister. When you met one of these children, you
might be sure the other was not far off.

One day as I was coming down that mountain, I saw Virginia at the end
of the garden running towards the house with her petticoat thrown over
her head, in order to screen herself from a shower of rain. At a
distance, I thought she was alone; but as I hastened towards her in
order to help her on, I perceived she held Paul by the arm, almost
entirely enveloped in the same canopy, and both were laughing heartily
at their being sheltered together under an umbrella of their own
invention. Those two charming faces in the middle of a swelling
petticoat, recalled to my mind the children of Leda, enclosed in the
same shell.

Their sole study was how they could please and assist one another; for
of all other things they were ignorant, and indeed could neither read
nor write. They were never disturbed by inquiries about past times,
nor did their curiosity extend beyond the bounds of their mountain.
They believed the world ended at the shores of their own island, and
all their ideas and all their affections were confined within its
limits. Their mutual tenderness, and that of their mothers, employed
all the energies of their minds. Their tears had never been called
forth by tedious application to useless sciences. Their minds had
never been wearied by lessons of morality, superfluous to bosoms
unconscious of ill. They had never been taught not to steal, because
every thing with them was in common: or not to be intemperate, because
their simple food was left to their own discretion; or not to lie,
because they had nothing to conceal. Their young imaginations had
never been terrified by the idea that God has punishment in store for
ungrateful children, since, with them, filial affection arose
naturally from maternal tenderness. All they had been taught of
religion was to love it, and if they did not offer up long prayers in
the church, wherever they were, in the house, in the fields, in the
woods, they raised towards heaven their innocent hands, and hearts
purified by virtuous affections.

All their early childhood passed thus, like a beautiful dawn, the
prelude of a bright day. Already they assisted their mothers in the
duties of the household. As soon as the crowing of the wakeful cock
announced the first beam of the morning, Virginia arose, and hastened
to draw water from a neighbouring spring: then returning to the house
she prepared the breakfast. When the rising sun gilded the points of
the rocks which overhang the enclosure in which they lived, Margaret
and her child repaired to the dwelling of Madame de la Tour, where
they offered up their morning prayer together. This sacrifice of
thanksgiving always preceded their first repast, which they often took
before the door of the cottage, seated upon the grass, under a canopy
of plantain: and while the branches of that delicious tree afforded a
grateful shade, its fruit furnished a substantial food ready prepared
for them by nature, and its long glossy leaves, spread upon the table,
supplied the place of linen. Plentiful and wholesome nourishment gave
early growth and vigour to the persons of these children, and their
countenances expressed the purity and the peace of their souls. At
twelve years of age the figure of Virginia was in some degree formed:
a profusion of light hair shaded her face, to which her blue eyes and
coral lips gave the most charming brilliancy. Her eyes sparkled with
vivacity when she spoke; but when she was silent they were habitually
turned upwards, with an expression of extreme sensibility, or rather
of tender melancholy. The figure of Paul began already to display the
graces of youthful beauty. He was taller than Virginia: his skin was
of a darker tint; his nose more aquiline; and his black eyes would
have been too piercing, if the long eye-lashes by which they were
shaded, had not imparted to them an expression of softness. He was
constantly in motion, except when his sister appeared, and then,
seated by her side, he became still. Their meals often passed without
a word being spoken; and from their silence, the simple elegance of
their attitudes, and the beauty of their naked feet, you might have
fancied you beheld an antique group of white marble, representing some
of the children of Niobe, but for the glances of their eyes, which
were constantly seeking to meet, and their mutual soft and tender
smiles, which suggested rather the idea of happy celestial spirits,
whose nature is love, and who are not obliged to have recourse to
words for the expression of their feelings.

In the meantime Madame de la Tour, perceiving every day some unfolding
grace, some new beauty, in her daughter, felt her maternal anxiety
increase with her tenderness. She often said to me, "If I were to die,
what would become of Virginia without fortune?"

Madame de la Tour had an aunt in France, who was a woman of quality,
rich, old, and a complete devotee. She had behaved with so much
cruelty towards her niece upon her marriage, that Madame de la Tour
had determined no extremity of distress should ever compel her to have
recourse to her hard-hearted relation. But when she became a mother,
the pride of resentment was overcome by the stronger feelings of
maternal tenderness. She wrote to her aunt, informing her of the
sudden death of her husband, the birth of her daughter, and the
difficulties in which she was involved, burthened as she was with an
infant, and without means of support. She received no answer; but
notwithstanding the high spirit natural to her character, she no
longer feared exposing herself to mortification; and, although she
knew her aunt would never pardon her for having married a man who was
not of noble birth, however estimable, she continued to write to her,
with the hope of awakening her compassion for Virginia. Many years,
however passed without receiving any token of her remembrance.

At length, in 1738, three years after the arrival of Monsieur de la
Bourdonnais in this island, Madame de la Tour was informed that the
Governor had a letter to give her from her aunt. She flew to Port
Louis; maternal joy raised her mind above all trifling considerations,
and she was careless on this occasion of appearing in her homely
attire. Monsieur de la Bourdonnais gave her a letter from her aunt, in
which she informed her, that she deserved her fate for marrying an
adventurer and a libertine: that the passions brought with them their
own punishment; that the premature death of her husband was a just
visitation from Heaven; that she had done well in going to a distant
island, rather than dishonour her family by remaining in France; and
that, after all, in the colony where she had taken refuge, none but
the idle failed to grow rich. Having thus censured her niece, she
concluded by eulogizing herself. To avoid, she said, the almost
inevitable evils of marriage, she had determined to remain single. In
fact, as she was of a very ambitious disposition she had resolved to
marry none but a man of high rank; but although she was very rich, her
fortune was not found a sufficient bribe, even at court, to
counterbalance the malignant dispositions of her mind, and the
disagreeable qualities of her person.

After mature deliberations, she added, in a postscript, that she had
strongly recommended her niece to Monsieur de la Bourdonnais. This she
had indeed done, but in a manner of late too common which renders a
patron perhaps even more to be feared than a declared enemy; for, in
order to justify herself for her harshness, she had cruelly slandered
her niece, while she affected to pity her misfortunes.

Madame de la Tour, whom no unprejudiced person could have seen without
feelings of sympathy and respect, was received with the utmost
coolness by Monsieur de la Bourdonnais, biased as he was against her.
When she painted to him her own situation and that of her child, he
replied in abrupt sentences,--"We shall see what can be done--there
are so many to relieve--all in good time--why did you displease your
aunt?--you have been much to blame."

Madame de la Tour returned to her cottage, her heart torn with grief,
and filled with all the bitterness of disappointment. When she
arrived, she threw her aunt's letter on the table, and exclaimed to
her friend,--"There is the fruit of eleven years of patient
expectation!" Madame de la Tour being the only person in the little
circle who could read, she again took up the letter, and read it
aloud. Scarcely had she finished, when Margaret exclaimed, "What have
we to do with your relations? Has God then forsaken us? He only is our
father! Have we not hitherto been happy? Why then this regret? You
have no courage." Seeing Madame de la Tour in tears, she threw herself
upon her neck, and pressing her in her arms,--"My dear friend!" cried
she, "my dear friend!"--but her emotion choked her utterance. At this
sight Virginia burst into tears, and pressed her mother's and
Margaret's hand alternately to her lips and heart; while Paul, his
eyes inflamed with anger, cried, clasped his hands together, and
stamped his foot, not knowing whom to blame for this scene of misery.
The noise soon brought Domingo and Mary to the spot, and the little
habitation resounded with cries of distress,--"Ah, madame!--My good
mistress!--My dear mother!--Do not weep!" These tender proofs of
affections at length dispelled the grief of Madame de la Tour. She
took Paul and Virginia in her arms, and, embracing them, said, "You
are the cause of my affliction, my children, but you are also my only
source of delight! Yes, my dear children, misfortune has reached me,
but only from a distance: here, I am surrounded with happiness." Paul
and Virginia did not understand this reflection; but, when they saw
that she was calm, they smiled, and continued to caress her.
Tranquillity was thus restored in this happy family, and all that had
passed was but a storm in the midst of fine weather, which disturbs
the serenity of the atmosphere but for a short time, and then passes

The amiable disposition of these children unfolded itself daily. One
Sunday, at day-break, their mothers having gone to mass at the church
of Shaddock Grove, the children perceived a negro woman beneath the
plantains which surrounded their habitation. She appeared almost
wasted to a skeleton, and had no other garment than a piece of coarse
cloth thrown around her. She threw herself at the feet of Virginia,
who was preparing the family breakfast, and said, "My good young lady,
have pity on a poor runaway slave. For a whole month I have wandered
among these mountains, half dead with hunger, and often pursued by the
hunters and their dogs. I fled from my master, a rich planter of the
Black River, who has used me as you see;" and she showed her body
marked with scars from the lashes she had received. She added, "I was
going to drown myself, but hearing you lived here, I said to myself,
since there are still some good white people in this country, I need
not die yet." Virginia answered with emotion,--"Take courage,
unfortunate creature! here is something to eat;" and she gave her the
breakfast she had been preparing, which the slave in a few minutes
devoured. When her hunger was appeased, Virginia said to her,--"Poor
woman! I should like to go and ask forgiveness for you of your master.
Surely the sight of you will touch him with pity. Will you show me the
way?"--"Angel of heaven!" answered the poor negro woman, "I will
follow you where you please!" Virginia called her brother, and begged
him to accompany her. The slave led the way, by winding and difficult
paths, through the woods, over mountains, which they climbed with
difficulty, and across rivers, through which they were obliged to
wade. At length, about the middle of the day, they reached the foot of
a steep descent upon the borders of the Black River. There they
perceived a well-built house, surrounded by extensive plantations, and
a number of slaves employed in their various labours. Their master was
walking among them with a pipe in his mouth, and a switch in his hand.
He was a tall thin man, of a brown complexion; his eyes were sunk in
his head, and his dark eyebrows were joined in one. Virginia, holding
Paul by the hand, drew near, and with much emotion begged him, for the
love of God, to pardon his poor slave, who stood trembling a few paces
behind. The planter at first paid little attention to the children,
who, he saw, were meanly dressed. But when he observed the elegance of
Virginia's form, and the profusion of her beautiful light tresses
which had escaped from beneath her blue cap; when he heard the soft
tone of her voice, which trembled, as well as her whole frame, while
she implored his compassion; he took his pipe from his mouth, and
lifting up his stick, swore, with a terrible oath, that he pardoned
his slave, not for the love of Heaven, but of her who asked his
forgiveness. Virginia made a sign to the slave to approach her master;
and instantly sprang away followed by Paul.

They climbed up the steep they had descended; and having gained the
summit, seated themselves at the foot of a tree, overcome with
fatigue, hunger and thirst. They had left their home fasting, and
walked five leagues since sunrise. Paul said to Virginia,--"My dear
sister, it is past noon, and I am sure you are thirsty and hungry: we
shall find no dinner here; let us go down the mountain again, and ask
the master of the poor slave for some food."--"Oh, no," answered
Virginia, "he frightens me too much. Remember what mamma sometimes
says, 'The bread of the wicked is like stones in the mouth.' "--"What
shall we do then," said Paul; "these trees produce no fruit fit to
eat; and I shall not be able to find even a tamarind or a lemon to
refresh you."-- "God will take care of us," replied Virginia; "he
listens to the cry even of the little birds when they ask him for
food." Scarcely had she pronounced these words when they heard the
noise of water falling from a neighbouring rock. They ran thither and
having quenched their thirst at this crystal spring, they gathered and
ate a few cresses which grew on the border of the stream. Soon
afterwards while they were wandering backwards and forwards in search
of more solid nourishment, Virginia perceived in the thickest part of
the forest, a young palm-tree. The kind of cabbage which is found at
the top of the palm, enfolded within its leaves, is well adapted for
food; but, although the stock of the tree is not thicker than a man's
leg, it grows to above sixty feet in height. The wood of the tree,
indeed, is composed only of very fine filaments; but the bark is so
hard that it turns the edge of the hatchet, and Paul was not furnished
even with a knife. At length he thought of setting fire to the palm-
tree; but a new difficulty occurred: he had no steel with which to
strike fire; and although the whole island is covered with rocks, I do
not believe it is possible to find a single flint. Necessity, however,
is fertile in expedients, and the most useful inventions have arisen
from men placed in the most destitute situations. Paul determined to
kindle a fire after the manner of the negroes. With the sharp end of a
stone he made a small hole in the branch of a tree that was quite dry,
and which he held between his feet: he then, with the edge of the same
stone, brought to a point another dry branch of a different sort of
wood, and, afterwards, placing the piece of pointed wood in the small
hole of the branch which he held with his feet and turning it rapidly
between his hands, in a few minutes smoke and sparks of fire issued
from the point of contact. Paul then heaped together dried grass and
branches, and set fire to the foot of the palm-tree, which soon fell
to the ground with a tremendous crash. The fire was further useful to
him in stripping off the long, thick, and pointed leaves, within which
the cabbage was inclosed. Having thus succeeded in obtaining this
fruit, they ate part of it raw, and part dressed upon the ashes, which
they found equally palatable. They made this frugal repast with
delight, from the remembrances of the benevolent action they had
performed in the morning: yet their joy was embittered by the thoughts
of the uneasiness which their long absence from home would occasion
their mothers. Virginia often recurred to this subject; but Paul, who
felt his strength renewed by their meal, assured her, that it would
not be long before they reached home, and, by the assurance of their
safety, tranquillized the minds of their parents.

After dinner they were much embarrassed by the recollection that they
had now no guide, and that they were ignorant of the way. Paul, whose
spirit was not subdued by difficulties, said to Virginia,--"The sun
shines full upon our huts at noon: we must pass, as we did this
morning, over that mountain with its three points, which you see
yonder. Come, let us be moving." This mountain was that of the Three
Breasts, so called from the form of its three peaks. They then
descended the steep bank of the Black River, on the northern side; and
arrived, after an hour's walk, on the banks of a large river, which
stopped their further progress. This large portion of the island,
covered as it is with forests, is even now so little known that many
of its rivers and mountains have not yet received a name. The stream,
on the banks of which Paul and Virginia were now standing, rolls
foaming over a bed of rocks. The noise of the water frightened
Virginia, and she was afraid to wade through the current: Paul
therefore took her up in his arms, and went thus loaded over the
slippery rocks, which formed the bed of the river, careless of the
tumultuous noise of its waters. "Do not be afraid," cried he to
Virginia; "I feel very strong with you. If that planter at the Black
River had refused you the pardon of his slave, I would have fought
with him."--"What!" answered Virginia, "with that great wicked man? To
what have I exposed you! Gracious heaven! how difficult it is to do
good! and yet it is so easy to do wrong."

When Paul had crossed the river, he wished to continue the journey
carrying his sister: and he flattered himself that he could ascend in
that way the mountain of the Three Breasts, which was still at the
distance of half a league; but his strength soon failed, and he was
obliged to set down his burthen, and to rest himself by her side.
Virginia then said to him, "My dear brother, the sun is going down;
you have still some strength left, but mine has quite failed: do leave
me here, and return home alone to ease the fears of our mothers."--"Oh
no," said Paul, "I will not leave you if night overtakes us in this
wood, I will light a fire, and bring down another palm-tree: you shall
eat the cabbage, and I will form a covering of the leaves to shelter
you." In the meantime, Virginia being a little rested, she gathered
from the trunk of an old tree, which overhung the bank of the river,
some long leaves of the plant called hart's tongue, which grew near
its root. Of these leaves she made a sort of buskin, with which she
covered her feet, that were bleeding from the sharpness of the stony
paths; for in her eager desire to do good, she had forgotten to put on
her shoes. Feeling her feet cooled by the freshness of the leaves, she
broke off a branch of bamboo, and continued her walk, leaning with one
hand on the staff, and with the other on Paul.

They walked on in this manner slowly through the woods; but from the
height of the trees, and the thickness of their foliage, they soon
lost sight of the mountain of the Three Breasts, by which they had
hitherto directed their course, and also of the sun, which was now
setting. At length they wandered, without perceiving it, from the
beaten path in which they had hitherto walked, and found themselves in
a labyrinth of trees, underwood, and rocks, whence there appeared to
be no outlet. Paul made Virginia sit down, while he ran backwards and
forwards, half frantic, in search of a path which might lead them out
of this thick wood; but he fatigued himself to no purpose. He then
climbed to the top of a lofty tree, whence he hoped at least to
perceive the mountain of the Three Breasts: but he could discern
nothing around him but the tops of trees, some of which were gilded
with the last beams of the setting sun. Already the shadows of the
mountains were spreading over the forests in the valleys. The wind
lulled, as is usually the case at sunset. The most profound silence
reigned in those awful solitudes, which was only interrupted by the
cry of the deer, who came to their lairs in that unfrequented spot.
Paul, in the hope that some hunter would hear his voice, called out as
loud as he was able,--"Come, come to the help of Virginia." But the
echoes of the forest alone answered his call, and repeated again and
again, "Virginia--Virginia."

Paul at length descended from the tree, overcome with fatigue and
vexation. He looked around in order to make some arrangement for
passing the night in that desert; but he could find neither fountain,
nor palm-tree, nor even a branch of dry wood fit for kindling a fire.
He was then impressed, by experience, with the sense of his own
weakness, and began to weep. Virginia said to him,--"Do not weep, my
dear brother, or I shall be overwhelmed with grief. I am the cause of
all your sorrow, and of all that our mothers are suffering at this
moment. I find we ought to do nothing, not even good, without
consulting our parents. Oh, I have been very imprudent!"--and she
began to shed tears. "Let us pray to God, my dear brother," she again
said, "and he will hear us." They had scarcely finished their prayer,
when they heard the barking of a dog. "It must be the dog of some
hunter," said Paul, "who comes here at night, to lie in wait for the
deer." Soon after, the dog began barking again with increased
violence. "Surely," said Virginia, "it is Fidele, our own dog: yes,--
now I know his bark. Are we then so near home?--at the foot of our own
mountain?" A moment after, Fidele was at their feet, barking, howling,
moaning, and devouring them with his caresses. Before they could
recover from their surprise, they saw Domingo running towards them. At
the sight of the good old negro, who wept for joy, they began to weep
too, but had not the power to utter a syllable. When Domingo had
recovered himself a little,--"Oh, my dear children," said he, "how
miserable have you made your mothers! How astonished they were when
they returned with me from mass, on not finding you at home. Mary, who
was at work at a little distance, could not tell us where you were
gone. I ran backwards and forwards in the plantation, not knowing
where to look for you. At last I took some of your old clothes, and
showing them to Fidele, the poor animal, as if he understood me,
immediately began to scent your path; and conducted me, wagging his
tail all the while, to the Black River. I there saw a planter, who
told me you had brought back a Maroon negro woman, his slave, and that
he had pardoned her at your request. But what a pardon! he showed her
to me with her feet chained to a block of wood, and an iron collar
with three hooks fastened round her neck! After that, Fidele, still on
the scent, led me up the steep bank of the Black River, where he again
stopped, and barked with all his might. This was on the brink of a
spring, near which was a fallen palm-tree, and a fire, still smoking.
At last he led me to this very spot. We are now at the foot of the
mountain of the Three Breasts, and still a good four leagues from
home. Come, eat, and recover your strength." Domingo then presented
them with a cake, some fruit, and a large gourd, full of beverage
composed of wine, water, lemon-juice, sugar, and nutmeg, which their
mothers had prepared to invigorate and refresh them. Virginia sighed
at the recollection of the poor slave, and at the uneasiness they had
given their mothers. She repeated several times--"Oh, how difficult it
is to do good!" While she and Paul were taking refreshment, it being
already night, Domingo kindled a fire: and having found among the
rocks a particular kind of twisted wood, called bois de ronde, which
burns when quite green, and throws out a great blaze, he made a torch
of it, which he lighted. But when they prepared to continue their
journey, a new difficulty occurred; Paul and Virginia could no longer
walk, their feet being violently swollen and inflamed. Domingo knew
not what to do; whether to leave them and go in search of help, or
remain and pass the night with them on that spot. "There was a time,"
said he, "when I could carry you both together in my arms! But now you
are grown big, and I am grown old." When he was in this perplexity, a
troop of Maroon negroes appeared at a short distance from them. The
chief of the band, approaching Paul and Virginia, said to them,--"Good
little white people, do not be afraid. We saw you pass this morning,
with a negro woman of the Black River. You went to ask pardon for her
of her wicked master; and we, in return for this, will carry you home
upon our shoulders." He then made a sign, and four of the strongest
negroes immediately formed a sort of litter with the branches of trees
and lianas, and having seated Paul and Virginia on it, carried them
upon their shoulders. Domingo marched in front with his lighted torch,
and they proceeded amidst the rejoicings of the whole troop, who
overwhelmed them with their benedictions. Virginia, affected by this
scene, said to Paul, with emotion,--"Oh, my dear brother! God never
leaves a good action unrewarded."

It was midnight when they arrived at the foot of their mountain, on
the ridges of which several fires were lighted. As soon as they began
to ascend, they heard voices exclaiming--"Is it you, my children?"
They answered immediately, and the negroes also,--"Yes, yes, it is."
A moment after they could distinguish their mothers and Mary coming
towards them with lighted sticks in their hands. "Unhappy children,"
cried Madame de la Tour, "where have you been? What agonies you have
made us suffer!"--"We have been," said Virginia, "to the Black River,
where we went to ask pardon for a poor Maroon slave, to whom I gave
our breakfast this morning, because she seemed dying of hunger; and
these Maroon negroes have brought us home." Madame de la Tour embraced
her daughter, without being able to speak; and Virginia, who felt her
face wet with her mother's tears, exclaimed, "Now I am repaid for all
the hardships I have suffered." Margaret, in a transport of delight,
pressed Paul in her arms, exclaiming, "And you also, my dear child,
you have done a good action." When they reached the cottages with
their children, they entertained all the negroes with a plentiful
repast, after which the latter returned to the woods, praying Heaven
to shower down every description of blessing on those good white

Every day was to these families a day of happiness and tranquillity.
Neither ambition nor envy disturbed their repose. They did not seek to
obtain a useless reputation out of doors, which may be procured by
artifice and lost by calumny; but were contented to be the sole
witnesses and judges of their own actions. In this island, where, as
is the case in most colonies, scandal forms the principal topic of
conversation, their virtues, and even their names were unknown. The
passer-by on the road to Shaddock Grove, indeed, would sometimes ask
the inhabitants of the plain, who lived in the cottages up there? and
was always told, even by those who did not know them, "They are good
people." The modest violet thus, concealed in thorny places sheds all
unseen its delightful fragrance around.

Slander, which, under an appearance of justice, naturally inclines the
heart to falsehood or to hatred, was entirely banished from their
conversation; for it is impossible not to hate men if we believe them
to be wicked, or to live with the wicked without concealing that
hatred under a false pretence of good feeling. Slander thus puts us
ill at ease with others and with ourselves. In this little circle,
therefore, the conduct of individuals was not discussed, but the best
manner of doing good to all; and although they had but little in their
power, their unceasing good-will and kindness of heart made them
constantly ready to do what they could for others. Solitude, far from
having blunted these benevolent feelings, had rendered their
dispositions even more kindly. Although the petty scandals of the day
furnished no subject of conversation to them, yet the contemplation of
nature filled their minds with enthusiastic delight. They adored the
bounty of that Providence, which, by their instrumentality, had spread
abundance and beauty amid these barren rocks, and had enabled them to
enjoy those pure and simple pleasures, which are ever grateful and
ever new.

Paul, at twelve years of age, was stronger and more intelligent than
most European youths are at fifteen; and the plantations, which
Domingo merely cultivated, were embellished by him. He would go with
the old negro into the neighbouring woods, where he would root up the
young plants of lemon, orange, and tamarind trees, the round heads of
which are so fresh a green, together with date-palm trees, which
produce fruit filled with a sweet cream, possessing the fine perfume
of the orange flower. These trees, which had already attained to a
considerable size, he planted round their little enclosure. He had
also sown the seed of many trees which the second year bear flowers or
fruit; such as the agathis, encircled with long clusters of white
flowers which hang from it like the crystal pendants of a chandelier;
the Persian lilac, which lifts high in air its gray flax-coloured
branches; the pappaw tree, the branchless trunk of which forms a
column studded with green melons, surmounted by a capital of broad
leaves similar to those of the fig-tree.

The seeds and kernels of the gum tree, terminalia, mango, alligator
pear, the guava, the bread-fruit tree, and the narrow-leaved rose-
apple, were also planted by him with profusion: and the greater number
of these trees already afforded their young cultivator both shade and
fruit. His industrious hands diffused the riches of nature over even
the most barren parts of the plantation. Several species of aloes, the
Indian fig, adorned with yellow flowers spotted with red, and the
thorny torch thistle, grew upon the dark summits of the rocks, and
seemed to aim at reaching the long lianas, which, laden with blue or
scarlet flowers, hung scattered over the steepest parts of the

I loved to trace the ingenuity he had exercised in the arrangement of
these trees. He had so disposed them that the whole could be seen at a
single glance. In the middle of the hollow he had planted shrubs of
the lowest growth; behind grew the more lofty sorts; then trees of the
ordinary height; and beyond and above all, the venerable and lofty
groves which border the circumference. Thus this extensive enclosure
appeared, from its centre, like a verdant amphitheatre decorated with
fruits and flowers, containing a variety of vegetables, some strips of
meadow land, and fields of rice and corn. But, in arranging these
vegetable productions to his own taste, he wandered not too far from
the designs of Nature. Guided by her suggestions, he had thrown upon
the elevated spots such seeds as the winds would scatter about, and
near the borders of the springs those which float upon the water.
Every plant thus grew in its proper soil, and every spot seemed
decorated by Nature's own hand. The streams which fell from the
summits of the rocks formed in some parts of the valley sparkling
cascades, and in others were spread into broad mirrors, in which were
reflected, set in verdure, the flowering trees, the overhanging rocks,
and the azure heavens.

Notwithstanding the great irregularity of the ground, these
plantations were, for the most part, easy of access. We had, indeed,
all given him our advice and assistance, in order to accomplish this
end. He had conducted one path entirely round the valley, and various
branches from it led from the circumference to the centre. He had
drawn some advantage from the most rugged spots, and had blended, in
harmonious union, level walks with the inequalities of the soil, and
trees which grow wild with the cultivated varieties. With that immense
quantity of large pebbles which now block up these paths, and which
are scattered over most of the ground of this island, he formed
pyramidal heaps here and there, at the base of which he laid mould,
and planted rose-bushes, the Barbadoes flower-fence, and other shrubs
which love to climb the rocks. In a short time the dark and shapeless
heaps of stones he had constructed were covered with verdure, or with
the glowing tints of the most beautiful flowers. Hollow recesses on
the borders of the streams shaded by the overhanging boughs of aged
trees, formed rural grottoes, impervious to the rays of the sun, in
which you might enjoy a refreshing coolness during the mid-day heats.
One path led to a clump of forest trees, in the centre of which
sheltered from the wind, you found a fruit-tree, laden with produce.
Here was a corn-field; there, an orchard; from one avenue you had a
view of the cottages; from another, of the inaccessible summit of the
mountain. Beneath one tufted bower of gum trees, interwoven with
lianas, no object whatever could be perceived: while the point of the
adjoining rock, jutting out from the mountain, commanded a view of the
whole enclosure, and of the distant ocean, where, occasionally, we
could discern the distant sail, arriving from Europe, or bound
thither. On this rock the two families frequently met in the evening,
and enjoyed in silence the freshness of the flowers, the gentle
murmurs of the fountain, and the last blended harmonies of light and

Nothing could be more charming than the names which were bestowed upon
some of the delightful retreats of this labyrinth. The rock of which I
have been speaking, whence they could discern my approach at a
considerable distance, was called the Discovery of Friendship. Paul
and Virginia had amused themselves by planting a bamboo on that spot;
and whenever they saw me coming, they hoisted a little white
handkerchief, by way of signal of my approach, as they had seen a flag
hoisted on the neighbouring mountain on the sight of a vessel at sea.
The idea struck me of engraving an inscription on the stalk of this
reed; for I never, in the course of my travels, experienced any thing
like the pleasure in seeing a statue or other monument of ancient art,
as in reading a well-written inscription. It seems to me as if a human
voice issued from the stone, and, making itself heard after the lapse
of ages, addressed man in the midst of a desert, to tell him that he
is not alone, and that other men, on that very spot, had felt, and
thought, and suffered like himself. If the inscription belongs to an
ancient nation, which no longer exists, it leads the soul through
infinite space, and strengthens the consciousness of its immortality,
by demonstrating that a thought has survived the ruins of an empire.

I inscribed then, on the little staff of Paul and Virginia's flag, the
following lines of Horace:--

Fratres Helenae, lucida sidera,
Ventorumque regat pater,
Obstrictis, aliis, praeter Iapiga.

"May the brothers of Helen, bright stars like you, and the Father of
the winds, guide you; and may you feel only the breath of the zephyr."

There was a gum-tree, under the shade of which Paul was accustomed to
sit, to contemplate the sea when agitated by storms. On the bark of
this tree, I engraved the following lines from Virgil:--

Fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestes!

"Happy are thou, my son, in knowing only the pastoral divinities."

And over the door of Madame de la Tour's cottage where the families so
frequently met, I placed this line:--

At secura quies, et nescia fallere vita.

"Here dwell a calm conscience, and a life that knows not deceit."

But Virginia did not approve of my Latin: she said, that what I had
placed at the foot of her flagstaff was too long and too learned. "I
should have liked better," added she, "to have seen inscribed, EVER
AGITATED, YET CONSTANT."--"Such a motto," I answered, "would have been
still more applicable to virtue." My reflection made her blush.

The delicacy of sentiment of these happy families was manifested in
every thing around them. They gave the tenderest names to objects in
appearance the most indifferent. A border of orange, plantain and
rose-apple trees, planted round a green sward where Virginia and Paul
sometimes danced, received the name of Concord. An old tree, beneath
the shade of which Madame de la Tour and Margaret used to recount
their misfortunes, was called the Burial-place of Tears. They bestowed
the names of Brittany and Normandy on two little plots of ground,
where they had sown corn, strawberries, and peas. Domingo and Mary,
wishing, in imitation of their mistresses, to recall to mind Angola
and Foullepoint, the places of their birth in Africa, gave those names
to the little fields where the grass was sown with which they wove
their baskets, and where they had planted a calabash-tree. Thus, by
cultivating the productions of their respective climates, these exiled
families cherished the dear illusions which bind us to our native
country, and softened their regrets in a foreign land. Alas! I have
seen these trees, these fountains, these heaps of stones, which are
now so completely overthrown,--which now, like the desolated plains of
Greece, present nothing but masses of ruin and affecting remembrances,
all called into life by the many charming appellations thus bestowed
upon them!

But perhaps the most delightful spot of this enclosure was that called
Virginia's resting-place. At the foot of the rock which bore the name
of The Discovery of Friendship, is a small crevice, whence issues a
fountain, forming, near its source, a little spot of marshy soil in
the middle of a field of rich grass. At the time of Paul's birth I had
made Margaret a present of an Indian cocoa which had been given me,
and which she planted on the border of this fenny ground, in order
that the tree might one day serve to mark the epoch of her son's
birth. Madame de la Tour planted another cocoa with the same view, at
the birth of Virginia. These nuts produced two cocoa-trees, which
formed the only records of the two families; one was called Paul's
tree, the other, Virginia's. Their growth was in the same proportion
as that of the two young persons, not exactly equal: but they rose, at
the end of twelve years, above the roofs of the cottages. Already
their tender stalks were interwoven, and clusters of young cocoas hung
from them over the basin of the fountain. With the exception of these
two trees, this nook of the rock was left as it had been decorated by
nature. On its embrowned and moist sides broad plants of maiden-hair
glistened with their green and dark stars; and tufts of wave-leaved
hart's tongue, suspended like long ribands of purpled green, floated
on the wind. Near this grew a chain of the Madagascar periwinkle, the
flowers of which resemble the red gilliflower; and the long-podded
capsicum, the seed-vessels of which are of the colour of blood, and
more resplendent than coral. Near them, the herb balm, with its heart-
shaped leaves, and the sweet basil, which has the odour of the clove,
exhaled the most delicious perfumes. From the precipitous side of the
mountain hung the graceful lianas, like floating draperies, forming
magnificent canopies of verdure on the face of the rocks. The sea-
birds, allured by the stillness of these retreats, resorted here to
pass the night. At the hour of sunset we could perceive the curlew and
the stint skimming along the seashore; the frigate-bird poised high in
air; and the white bird of the tropic, which abandons, with the star
of day, the solitudes of the Indian ocean. Virginia took pleasure in
resting herself upon the border of this fountain, decorated with wild
and sublime magnificence. She often went thither to wash the linen of
the family beneath the shade of the two cocoa-trees, and thither too
she sometimes led her goats to graze. While she was making cheeses of
their milk, she loved to see them browse on the maiden-hair fern which
clothes the steep sides of the rock, and hung suspended by one of its
cornices, as on a pedestal. Paul, observing that Virginia was fond of
this spot, brought thither, from the neighbouring forest, a great
variety of bird's nests. The old birds following their young, soon
established themselves in this new colony. Virginia, at stated times,
distributed amongst them grains of rice, millet, and maize. As soon as
she appeared, the whistling blackbird, the amadavid bird, whose note
is so soft, the cardinal, with its flame coloured plumage, forsook
their bushes; the parroquet, green as an emerald, descended from the
neighbouring fan-palms, the partridge ran along the grass; all
advanced promiscuously towards her, like a brood of chickens: and she
and Paul found an exhaustless source of amusement in observing their
sports, their repasts, and their loves.

Amiable children! thus passed your earlier days in innocence, and in
obeying the impulses of kindness. How many times, on this very spot,
have your mothers, pressing you in their arms, blessed Heaven for the
consolation your unfolding virtues prepared for their declining years,
while they at the same time enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing you
begin life under the happiest auspices! How many times, beneath the
shade of those rocks, have I partaken with them of your rural repasts,
which never cost any animal its life! Gourds full of milk, fresh eggs,
cakes of rice served up on plantain leaves, with baskets of mangoes,
oranges, dates, pomegranates, pineapples, furnished a wholesome
repast, the most agreeable to the eye, as well as delicious to the
taste, that can possibly be imagined.

Like the repast, the conversation was mild, and free from every thing
having a tendency to do harm. Paul often talked of the labours of the
day and of the morrow. He was continually planning something for the
accommodation of their little society. Here he discovered that the
paths were rugged; there, that the seats were uncomfortable: sometimes
the young arbours did not afford sufficient shade, and Virginia might
be better pleased elsewhere.

During the rainy season the two families met together in the cottage,
and employed themselves in weaving mats of grass, and baskets of
bamboo. Rakes, spades, and hatchets, were ranged along the walls in
the most perfect order; and near these instruments of agriculture were
heaped its products,--bags of rice, sheaves of corn, and baskets of
plantains. Some degree of luxury usually accompanies abundance; and
Virginia was taught by her mother and Margaret to prepare sherbert and
cordials from the juice of the sugar-cane, the lemon and the citron.

When night came, they all supped together by the light of a lamp;
after which Madame de la Tour or Margaret related some story of
travellers benighted in those woods of Europe that are still infested
by banditti; or told a dismal tale of some shipwrecked vessel, thrown
by the tempest upon the rocks of a desert island. To these recitals
the children listened with eager attention, and earnestly hoped that
Heaven would one day grant them the joy of performing the rites of
hospitality towards such unfortunate persons. When the time for repose
arrived, the two families separated and retired for the night, eager
to meet again the following morning. Sometimes they were lulled to
repose by the beating of the rains, which fell in torrents upon the
roofs of their cottages, and sometimes by the hollow winds, which
brought to their ear the distant roar of the waves breaking upon the
shore. They blessed God for their own safety, the feeling of which was
brought home more forcibly to their minds by the sound of remote

Madame de la Tour occasionally read aloud some affecting history of
the Old or New Testament. Her auditors reasoned but little upon these
sacred volumes, for their theology centred in a feeling of devotion
towards the Supreme Being, like that of nature: and their morality was
an active principle, like that of the Gospel. These families had no
particular days devoted to pleasure, and others to sadness. Every day
was to them a holyday, and all that surrounded them one holy temple,
in which they ever adored the Infinite Intelligence, the Almighty God,
the Friend of human kind. A feeling of confidence in his supreme power
filled their minds with consolation for the past, with fortitude under
present trials, and with hope in the future. Compelled by misfortune
to return almost to a state of nature, these excellent women had thus
developed in their own and their children's bosoms the feelings most
natural to the human mind, and its best support under affliction.

But, as clouds sometimes arise, and cast a gloom over the best
regulated tempers, so whenever any member of this little society
appeared to be labouring under dejection, the rest assembled around,
and endeavoured to banish her painful thoughts by amusing the mind
rather than by grave arguments against them. Each performed this kind
office in their own appropriate manner: Margaret, by her gaiety;
Madame de la Tour, by the gentle consolations of religion; Virginia,
by her tender caresses; Paul, by his frank and engaging cordiality.
Even Mary and Domingo hastened to offer their succour, and to weep
with those that wept. Thus do weak plants interweave themselves with
each other, in order to withstand the fury of the tempest.

During the fine season, they went every Sunday to the church of the
Shaddock Grove, the steeple of which you see yonder upon the plain.
Many wealthy members of the congregation, who came to church in
palanquins, sought the acquaintance of these united families, and
invited them to parties of pleasure. But they always repelled these
overtures with respectful politeness, as they were persuaded that the
rich and powerful seek the society of persons in an inferior station
only for the sake of surrounding themselves with flatterers, and that
every flatterer must applaud alike all the actions of his patron,
whether good or bad. On the other hand, they avoided, with equal care,
too intimate an acquaintance with the lower class, who are ordinarily
jealous, calumniating, and gross. They thus acquired, with some, the
character of being timid, and with others, of pride: but their reserve
was accompanied with so much obliging politeness, above all towards
the unfortunate and the unhappy, that they insensibly acquired the
respect of the rich and the confidence of the poor.

After service, some kind office was often required at their hands by
their poor neighbours. Sometimes a person troubled in mind sought
their advice; sometimes a child begged them to its sick mother, in one
of the adjoining hamlets. They always took with them a few remedies
for the ordinary diseases of the country, which they administered in
that soothing manner which stamps a value upon the smallest favours.
Above all, they met with singular success in administrating to the
disorders of the mind, so intolerable in solitude, and under the
infirmities of a weakened frame. Madame de la Tour spoke with such
sublime confidence of the Divinity, that the sick, while listening to
her, almost believed him present. Virginia often returned home with
her eyes full of tears, and her heart overflowing with delight, at
having had an opportunity of doing good; for to her generally was
confided the task of preparing and administering the medicines,--a
task which she fulfilled with angelic sweetness. After these visits of
charity, they sometimes extended their walk by the Sloping Mountain,
till they reached my dwelling, where I used to prepare dinner for them
on the banks of the little rivulet which glides near my cottage. I
procured for these occasions a few bottles of old wine, in order to
heighten the relish of our Oriental repast by the more genial
productions of Europe. At other times we met on the sea-shore, at the
mouth of some little river, or rather mere brook. We brought from home
the provisions furnished us by our gardens, to which we added those
supplied us by the sea in abundant variety. We caught on these shores
the mullet, the roach, and the sea-urchin, lobsters, shrimps, crabs,
oysters, and all other kinds of shell-fish. In this way, we often
enjoyed the most tranquil pleasures in situations the most terrific.
Sometimes, seated upon a rock, under the shade of the velvet
sunflower-tree, we saw the enormous waves of the Indian Ocean break
beneath our feet with a tremendous noise. Paul, who could swim like a
fish, would advance on the reefs to meet the coming billows; then, at
their near approach, would run back to the beach, closely pursued by
the foaming breakers, which threw themselves, with a roaring noise,
far on the sands. But Virginia, at this sight, uttered piercing cries,
and said that such sports frightened her too much.

Other amusements were not wanting on these festive occasions. Our
repasts were generally followed by the songs and dances of the two
young people. Virginia sang the happiness of pastoral life, and the
misery of those who were impelled by avarice to cross the raging
ocean, rather than cultivate the earth, and enjoy its bounties in
peace. Sometimes she performed a pantomime with Paul, after the manner
of the negroes. The first language of man is pantomime: it is known to
all nations, and is so natural and expressive, that the children of
the European inhabitants catch it with facility from the negroes.
Virginia, recalling, from among the histories which her mother had
read to her, those which had affected her most, represented the
principal events in them with beautiful simplicity. Sometimes at the
sound of Domingo's tantam she appeared upon the green sward, bearing a
pitcher upon her head, and advanced with a timid step towards the
source of a neighbouring fountain, to draw water. Domingo and Mary,
personating the shepherds of Midian forbade her to approach, and
repulsed her sternly. Upon this Paul flew to her succour, beat away
the shepherds, filled Virginia's pitcher, and placing it upon her
heard, bound her brows at the same time with a wreath of the red
flowers of the Madagascar periwinkle, which served to heighten the
delicacy of her complexion. Then joining in their sports, I took upon
myself the part of Raguel, and bestowed upon Paul, my daughter Zephora
in marriage.

Another time Virginia would represent the unhappy Ruth, returning poor
and widowed with her mother-in-law, who, after so prolonged an
absence, found herself as unknown as in a foreign land. Domingo and
Mary personated the reapers. The supposed daughter of Naomi followed
their steps, gleaning here and there a few ears of corn. When
interrogated by Paul,--a part which he performed with the gravity of a
patriarch,--she answered his questions with a faltering voice. He
then, touched with compassion, granted an asylum to innocence, and
hospitality to misfortune. He filled her lap with plenty; and, leading
her towards us as before the elders of the city, declared his purpose
to take her in marriage. At this scene, Madame de la Tour, recalling
the desolate situation in which she had been left by her relations,
her widowhood, and the kind reception she had met with from Margaret,
succeeded now by the soothing hope of a happy union between their
children, could not forbear weeping; and these mixed recollections of
good and evil caused us all to unite with her in shedding tears of
sorrow and of joy.

These dramas were performed with such an air of reality that you might
have fancied yourself transported to the plains of Syria or of
Palestine. We were not unfurnished with decorations, lights, or an
orchestra, suitable to the representation. The scene was generally
placed in an open space of the forest, the diverging paths from which
formed around us numerous arcades of foliage, under which we were
sheltered from the heat all the middle of the day; but when the sun
descended towards the horizon, its rays, broken by the trunks of the
trees, darted amongst the shadows of the forest in long lines of
light, producing the most magnificent effect. Sometimes its broad disk
appeared at the end of an avenue, lighting it up with insufferable
brightness. The foliage of the trees, illuminated from beneath by its
saffron beams, glowed with the lustre of the topaz and the emerald.
Their brown and mossy trunks appeared transformed into columns of
antique bronze; and the birds, which had retired in silence to their
leafy shades to pass the night, surprised to see the radiance of a
second morning, hailed the star of day all together with innumerable

Night often overtook us during these rural entertainments; but the
purity of the air and the warmth of the climate, admitted of our
sleeping in the woods, without incurring any danger by exposure to the
weather, and no less secure from the molestations of robbers. On our
return the following day to our respective habitations, we found them
in exactly the same state in which they had been left. In this island,
then unsophisticated by the pursuits of commerce, such were the
honesty and primitive manners of the population, that the doors of
many houses were without a key, and even a lock itself was an object
of curiosity to not a few of the native inhabitants.

There were, however, some days in the year celebrated by Paul and
Virginia in a more peculiar manner; these were the birth-days of their
mothers. Virginia never failed the day before to prepare some wheaten
cakes, which she distributed among a few poor white families, born in
the island, who had never eaten European bread. These unfortunate
people, uncared for by the blacks, were reduced to live on tapioca in
the woods; and as they had neither the insensibility which is the
result of slavery, nor the fortitude which springs from a liberal
education, to enable them to support their poverty, their situation
was deplorable. These cakes were all that Virginia had it in her power
to give away, but she conferred the gift in so delicate a manner as to
add tenfold to its value. In the first place, Paul was commissioned to
take the cakes himself to these families, and get their promise to
come and spend the next day at Madame de la Tour's. Accordingly,
mothers of families, with two or three thin, yellow, miserable looking
daughters, so timid that they dared not look up, made their
appearance. Virginia soon put them at their ease; she waited upon them
with refreshments, the excellence of which she endeavoured to heighten
by relating some particular circumstance which in her own estimation,
vastly improved them. One beverage had been prepared by Margaret;
another, by her mother: her brother himself had climbed some lofty
tree for the very fruit she was presenting. She would then get Paul to
dance with them, nor would she leave them till she saw that they were
happy. She wished them to partake of the joy of her own family. "It is
only," she said, "by promoting the happiness of others, that we can
secure our own." When they left, she generally presented them with
some little article they seemed to fancy, enforcing their acceptance
of it by some delicate pretext, that she might not appear to know they
were in want. If she remarked that their clothes were much tattered,
she obtained her mother's permission to give them some of her own, and
then sent Paul to leave them, secretly at their cottage doors. She
thus followed the divine precept,--concealing the benefactor, and
revealing only the benefit.

You Europeans, whose minds are imbued from infancy with prejudices at
variance with happiness, cannot imagine all the instruction and
pleasure to be derived from nature. Your souls, confined to a small
sphere of intelligence, soon reach the limit of its artificial
enjoyments: but nature and the heart are inexhaustible. Paul and
Virginia had neither clock, nor almanack, nor books of chronology,
history or philosophy. The periods of their lives were regulated by
those of the operations of nature, and their familiar conversation had
a reference to the changes of the seasons. They knew the time of day
by the shadows of the trees; the seasons, by the times when those
trees bore flowers or fruit; and the years, by the number of their
harvests. These soothing images diffused an inexpressible charm over
their conversation. "It is time to dine," said Virginia, "the shadows
of the plantain-trees are at their roots:" or, "Night approaches, the
tamarinds are closing their leaves." "When will you come and see us?"
inquired some of her companions in the neighbourhood. "At the time of
the sugar-canes," answered Virginia. "Your visit will be then still
more delightful," resumed her young acquaintances. When she was asked
what was her own age and that of Paul,--"My brother," said she, "is as
old as the great cocoa-tree of the fountain; and I am as old as the
little one: the mangoes have bore fruit twelve times and the orange-
trees have flowered four-and-twenty times, since I came into the
world." Their lives seemed linked to that of the trees, like those of
Fauns or Dryads. They knew no other historical epochs than those of
the lives of their mothers, no other chronology than that of doing
good, and resigning themselves to the will of Heaven.

What need, indeed, had these young people of riches or learning such
as ours? Even their necessities and their ignorance increased their
happiness. No day passed in which they were not of some service to one
another, or in which they did not mutually impart some instruction.
Yes, instruction; for if errors mingled with it, they were, at least,
not of a dangerous character. A pure-minded being has none of that
description to fear. Thus grew these children of nature. No care had
troubled their peace, no intemperance had corrupted their blood, no
misplaced passion had depraved their hearts. Love, innocence, and
piety, possessed their souls; and those intellectual graces were
unfolding daily in their features, their attitudes, and their
movements. Still in the morning of life, they had all its blooming
freshness: and surely such in the garden of Eden appeared our first
parents, when coming from the hands of God, they first saw, and
approached each other, and conversed together, like brother and
sister. Virginia was gentle, modest, and confiding as Eve; and Paul,
like Adam, united the stature of manhood with the simplicity of a

Sometimes, if alone with Virginia, he has a thousand times told me, he
used to say to her, on his return from labour,--"When I am wearied,
the sight of you refreshes me. If from the summit of the mountain I
perceive you below in the valley, you appear to me in the midst of our
orchard like a blooming rose-bud. If you go towards our mother's
house, the partridge, when it runs to meet its young, has a shape less
beautiful, and a step less light. When I lose sight of you through the
trees, I have no need to see you in order to find you again. Something
of you, I know not how, remains for me in the air through which you
have passed, on the grass where you have been seated. When I come near
you, you delight all my senses. The azure of the sky is less charming
than the blue of your eyes, and the song of the amadavid bird less
soft than the sound of your voice. If I only touch you with the tip of
my finger, my whole frame trembles with pleasure. Do you remember the
day when we crossed over the great stones of the river of the Three
Breasts? I was very tired before we reached the bank: but, as soon as
I had taken you in my arms, I seemed to have wings like a bird. Tell
me by what charm you have thus enchanted me! Is it by your wisdom?--
Our mothers have more than either of us. Is it by your caresses?--They
embrace me much oftener than you. I think it must be by your goodness.
I shall never forget how you walked bare-footed to the Black River, to
ask pardon for the poor run-away slave. Here, my beloved, take this
flowering branch of a lemon-tree, which I have gathered in the forest:
you will let it remain at night near your bed. Eat this honey-comb
too, which I have taken for you from the top of a rock. But first lean
on my bosom, and I shall be refreshed."

Virginia would answer him,--"Oh, my dear brother, the rays of the sun
in the morning on the tops of the rocks give me less joy than the
sight of you. I love my mother,--I love yours; but when they call you
their son, I love them a thousand times more. When they caress you, I
feel it more sensibly than when I am caressed myself. You ask me what
makes you love me. Why, all creatures that are brought up together
love one another. Look at our birds; reared up in the same nests, they
love each other as we do; they are always together like us. Hark! how
they call and answer from one tree to another. So when the echoes
bring to my ears the air which you play on your flute on the top of
the mountain, I repeat the words at the bottom of the valley. You are
dear to me more especially since the day when you wanted to fight the
master of the slave for me. Since that time how often have I said to
myself, 'Ah, my brother has a good heart; but for him, I should have
died of terror.' I pray to God every day for my mother and for yours;
for you, and for our poor servants; but when I pronounce your name, my
devotion seems to increase;--I ask so earnestly of God that no harm
may befall you! Why do you go so far, and climb so high, to seek
fruits and flowers for me? Have we not enough in our garden already?
How much you are fatigued,-- you look so warm!"--and with her little
white handkerchief she would wipe the damps from his face, and then
imprint a tender kiss on his forehead.

For some time past, however, Virginia had felt her heart agitated by
new sensations. Her beautiful blue eyes lost their lustre, her cheek
its freshness, and her frame was overpowered with a universal langour.
Serenity no longer sat upon her brow, nor smiles played upon her lips.
She would become all at once gay without cause for joy, and melancholy
without any subject for grief. She fled her innocent amusements, her
gentle toils, and even the society of her beloved family; wandering
about the most unfrequented parts of the plantations, and seeking
every where the rest which she could no where find. Sometimes, at the
sight of Paul, she advanced sportively to meet him; but, when about to
accost him, was overcome by a sudden confusion; her pale cheeks were
covered with blushes, and her eyes no longer dared to meet those of
her brother. Paul said to her,--"The rocks are covered with verdure,
our birds begin to sing when you approach, everything around you is
gay, and you only are unhappy." He then endeavoured to soothe her by
his embraces, but she turned away her head, and fled, trembling
towards her mother. The caresses of her brother excited too much
emotion in her agitated heart, and she sought, in the arms of her
mother, refuge from herself. Paul, unused to the secret windings of
the female heart, vexed himself in vain in endeavouring to comprehend
the meaning of these new and strange caprices. Misfortunes seldom come
alone, and a serious calamity now impended over these families.

One of those summers, which sometimes desolate the countries situated
between the tropics, now began to spread its ravages over this island.
It was near the end of December, when the sun, in Capricorn, darts
over the Mauritius, during the space of three weeks, its vertical
fires. The southeast wind, which prevails throughout almost the whole
year, no longer blew. Vast columns of dust arose from the highways,
and hung suspended in the air; the ground was every where broken into
clefts; the grass was burnt up; hot exhalations issued from the sides
of the mountains, and their rivulets, for the most part, became dry.
No refreshing cloud ever arose from the sea: fiery vapours, only,
during the day, ascended from the plains, and appeared, at sunset,
like the reflection of a vast conflagration. Night brought no coolness
to the heated atmosphere; and the red moon rising in the misty
horizon, appeared of supernatural magnitude. The drooping cattle, on
the sides of the hills, stretching out their necks towards heaven, and
panting for breath, made the valleys re-echo with their melancholy
lowings: even the Caffre by whom they were led threw himself upon the
earth, in search of some cooling moisture: but his hopes were vain;
the scorching sun had penetrated the whole soil, and the stifling
atmosphere everywhere resounded with the buzzing noise of insects,
seeking to allay their thirst with the blood of men and of animals.

During this sultry season, Virginia's restlessness and disquietude
were much increased. One night, in particular, being unable to sleep,
she arose from her bed, sat down, and returned to rest again; but
could find in no attitude either slumber or repose. At length she bent
her way, by the light of the moon, towards her fountain, and gazed at
its spring, which, notwithstanding the drought, still trickled, in
silver threads down the brown sides of the rock. She flung herself
into the basin: its coolness reanimated her spirits, and a thousand
soothing remembrances came to her mind. She recollected that in her
infancy her mother and Margaret had amused themselves by bathing her
with Paul in this very spot; that he afterwards, reserving this bath
for her sole use, had hollowed out its bed, covered the bottom with
sand, and sown aromatic herbs around its borders. She saw in the
water, upon her naked arms and bosom, the reflection of the two cocoa
trees which were planted at her own and her brother's birth, and which
interwove above her head their green branches and young fruit. She
thought of Paul's friendship, sweeter than the odour of the blossoms,
purer than the waters of the fountain, stronger than the intertwining
palm-tree, and she sighed. Reflecting on the hour of the night, and
the profound solitude, her imagination became disturbed. Suddenly she
flew, affrighted, from those dangerous shades, and those waters which
seemed to her hotter than the tropical sunbeam, and ran to her mother
for refuge. More than once, wishing to reveal her sufferings, she
pressed her mother's hand within her own; more than once she was ready
to pronounce the name of Paul: but her oppressed heart left her lips
no power of utterance, and, leaning her head on her mother's bosom,
she bathed it with her tears.

Madame de la Tour, though she easily discerned the source of her
daughter's uneasiness, did not think proper to speak to her on the
subject. "My dear child," said she, "offer up your supplications to
God, who disposes at his will of health and of life. He subjects you
to trial now, in order to recompense you hereafter. Remember that we
are only placed upon earth for the exercise of virtue."

The excessive heat in the meantime raised vast masses of vapour from
the ocean, which hung over the island like an immense parasol, and
gathered round the summits of the mountains. Long flakes of fire
issued from time to time from these mist-embosomed peaks. The most
awful thunder soon after re-echoed through the woods, the plains, and
the valleys: the rains fell from the skies in cataracts; foaming
torrents rushed down the sides of this mountain; the bottom of the
valley became a sea, and the elevated platform on which the cottages
were built, a little island. The accumulated waters, having no other


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