Paul and Virginia
Bernardin de Saint Pierre

Part 2 out of 3

outlet, rushed with violence through the narrow gorge which leads into
the valley, tossing and roaring, and bearing along with them a mingled
wreck of soil, trees, and rocks.

The trembling families meantime addressed their prayers to God all
together in the cottage of Madame de la Tour, the roof of which
cracked fearfully from the force of the winds. So incessant and vivid
were the lightnings, that although the doors and window-shutters were
securely fastened, every object without could be distinctly seen
through the joints in the wood-work! Paul, followed by Domingo, went
with intrepidity from one cottage to another, notwithstanding the fury
of the tempest; here supporting a partition with a buttress, there
driving in a stake; and only returning to the family to calm their
fears, by the expression of a hope that the storm was passing away.
Accordingly, in the evening the rains ceased, the trade-winds of the
southeast pursued their ordinary course, the tempestuous clouds were
driven away to the northward, and the setting sun appeared in the

Virginia's first wish was to visit the spot called her Resting-place.
Paul approached her with a timid air, and offered her the assistance
of his arm; she accepted it with a smile, and they left the cottage
together. The air was clear and fresh: white vapours arose from the
ridges of the mountain, which was furrowed here and there by the
courses of torrents, marked in foam, and now beginning to dry up on
all sides. As for the garden, it was completely torn to pieces by deep
water-courses, the roots of most of the fruit trees were laid bare,
and vast heaps of sand covered the borders of the meadows, and had
choked up Virginia's bath. The two cocoa trees, however, were still
erect, and still retained their freshness; but they were no longer
surrounded by turf, or arbours, or birds, except a few amadavid birds,
which, upon the points of the neighbouring rocks, were lamenting, in
plaintive notes, the loss of their young.

At the sight of this general desolation, Virginia exclaimed to Paul,--
"You brought birds hither, and the hurricane has killed them. You
planted this garden, and it is now destroyed. Every thing then upon
earth perishes, and it is only Heaven that is not subject to change."
--"Why," answered Paul, "cannot I give you something that belongs to
Heaven? but I have nothing of my own even upon the earth." Virginia
with a blush replied, "You have the picture of Saint Paul." As soon as
she had uttered the words, he flew in quest of it to his mother's
cottage. This picture was a miniature of Paul the Hermit, which
Margaret, who viewed it with feelings of great devotion, had worn at
her neck while a girl, and which, after she became a mother, she had
placed round her child's. It had even happened, that being, while
pregnant, abandoned by all the world, and constantly occupied in
contemplating the image of this benevolent recluse, her offspring had
contracted some resemblance to this revered object. She therefore
bestowed upon him the name of Paul, giving him for his patron a saint
who had passed his life far from mankind by whom he had been first
deceived and then forsaken. Virginia, on receiving this little present
from the hands of Paul, said to him, with emotion, "My dear brother, I
will never part with this while I live; nor will I ever forget that
you have given me the only thing you have in the world." At this tone
of friendship,--this unhoped for return of familiarity and tenderness,
Paul attempted to embrace her; but, light as a bird, she escaped him,
and fled away, leaving him astonished, and unable to account for
conduct so extraordinary.

Meanwhile Margaret said to Madame de la Tour, "Why do we not unite our
children by marriage? They have a strong attachment for each other,
and though my son hardly understands the real nature of his feelings,
yet great care and watchfulness will be necessary. Under such
circumstances, it will be as well not to leave them too much
together." Madame de la Tour replied, "They are too young and too
poor. What grief would it occasion us to see Virginia bring into the
world unfortunate children, whom she would not perhaps have sufficient
strength to rear! Your negro, Domingo, is almost too old to labor;
Mary is infirm. As for myself, my dear friend, at the end of fifteen
years, I find my strength greatly decreased; the feebleness of age
advances rapidly in hot climates, and, above all, under the pressure
of misfortune. Paul is our only hope: let us wait till he comes to
maturity, and his increased strength enables him to support us by his
labour: at present you well know that we have only sufficient to
supply the wants of the day: but were we to send Paul for a short time
to the Indies, he might acquire, by commerce, the means of purchasing
some slaves; and at his return we could unite him to Virginia; for I
am persuaded no one on earth would render her so happy as your son. We
will consult our neighbour on this subject."

They accordingly asked my advice, which was in accordance with Madame
de la Tour's opinion. "The Indian seas," I observed to them, "are
calm, and, in choosing a favourable time of the year, the voyage out
is seldom longer than six weeks; and the same time may be allowed for
the return home. We will furnish Paul with a little venture from my
neighbourhood, where he is much beloved. If we were only to supply him
with some raw cotton, of which we make no use for want of mills to
work it, some ebony, which is here so common that it serves us for
firing, and some rosin, which is found in our woods, he would be able
to sell those articles, though useless here, to good advantage in the

I took upon myself to obtain permission from Monsieur de la
Bourdonnais to undertake this voyage; and I determined previously to
mention the affair to Paul. But what was my surprise, when this young
man said to me, with a degree of good sense above his age, "And why do
you wish me to leave my family for this precarious pursuit of fortune?
Is there any commerce in the world more advantageous than the culture
of the ground, which yields sometimes fifty or a hundred-fold? If we
wish to engage in commerce, can we not do so by carrying our
superfluities to the town without my wandering to the Indies? Our
mothers tell me, that Domingo is old and feeble; but I am young, and
gather strength every day. If any accident should happen during my
absence, above all to Virginia, who already suffers--Oh, no, no!--I
cannot resolve to leave them."

So decided an answer threw me into great perplexity, for Madame de la
Tour had not concealed from me the cause of Virginia's illness and
want of spirits, and her desire of separating these young people till
they were a few years older. I took care, however, not to drop any
thing which could lead Paul to suspect the existence of these motives.

About this period a ship from France brought Madame de la Tour a
letter from her aunt. The fear of death, without which hearts as
insensible as hers would never feel, had alarmed her into compassion.
When she wrote she was recovering from a dangerous illness, which had,
however, left her incurably languid and weak. She desired her niece to
return to France: or, if her health forbade her to undertake so long a
voyage, she begged her to send Virginia, on whom she promised to
bestow a good education, to procure for her a splendid marriage, and
to leave her heiress of her whole fortune. She concluded by enjoining
strict obedience to her will, in gratitude, she said, for her great

At the perusal of this letter general consternation spread itself
through the whole assembled party. Domingo and Mary began to weep.
Paul, motionless with surprise, appeared almost ready to burst with
indignation; while Virginia, fixing her eyes anxiously upon her
mother, had not power to utter a single word. "And can you now leave
us?" cried Margaret to Madame de la Tour. "No, my dear friend, no, my
beloved children," replied Madame de la Tour; "I will never leave you.
I have lived with you, and with you I will die. I have known no
happiness but in your affection. If my health be deranged, my past
misfortunes are the cause. My heart has been deeply wounded by the
cruelty of my relations, and by the loss of my beloved husband. But I
have since found more consolation and more real happiness with you in
these humble huts, than all the wealth of my family could now lead me
to expect in my country."

At this soothing language every eye overflowed with tears of delight.
Paul, pressing Madame de la Tour in his arms, exclaimed,--"Neither
will I leave you! I will not go to the Indies. We will all labour for
you, dear mamma; and you shall never feel any want with us." But of
the whole society, the person who displayed the least transport, and
who probably felt the most, was Virginia; and during the remainder of
the day, the gentle gaiety which flowed from her heart, and proved
that her peace of mind was restored, completed the general

At sun-rise the next day, just as they had concluded offering up, as
usual, their morning prayer before breakfast, Domingo came to inform
them that a gentleman on horseback, followed by two slaves, was coming
towards the plantation. It was Monsieur de la Bourdonnais. He entered
the cottage, where he found the family at breakfast. Virginia had
prepared, according to the custom of the country, coffee, and rice
boiled in water. To these she had added hot yams, and fresh plantains.
The leaves of the plantain-tree, supplied the want of table-linen; and
calabash shells, split in two, served for cups. The governor
exhibited, at first, some astonishment at the homeliness of the
dwelling; then, addressing himself to Madame de la Tour, he observed,
that although public affairs drew his attention too much from the
concerns of individuals, she had many claims on his good offices. "You
have an aunt at Paris, madam," he added, "a woman of quality, and
immensely rich, who expects that you will hasten to see her, and who
means to bestow upon you her whole fortune." Madame de la Tour
replied, that the state of her health would not permit her to
undertake so long a voyage. "At least," resumed Monsieur de la
Bourdonnais, "you cannot without injustice, deprive this amiable young
lady, your daughter, of so noble an inheritance. I will not conceal
from you, that your aunt has made use of her influence to secure your
daughter being sent to her; and that I have received official letters,
in which I am ordered to exert my authority, if necessary, to that
effect. But as I only wish to employ my power for the purpose of
rendering the inhabitants of this country happy, I expect from your
good sense the voluntary sacrifice of a few years, upon which your
daughter's establishment in the world, and the welfare of your whole
life depends. Wherefore do we come to these islands? Is it not to
acquire a fortune? And will it not be more agreeable to return and
find it in your own country?"

He then took a large bag of piastres from one of his slaves, and
placed it upon the table. "This sum," he continued, "is allotted by
your aunt to defray the outlay necessary for the equipment of the
young lady for her voyage." Gently reproaching Madame de la Tour for
not having had recourse to him in her difficulties, he extolled at the
same time her noble fortitude. Upon this Paul said to the governor,--
"My mother did apply to you, sir, and you received her ill."--"Have
you another child, madam?" said Monsieur de la Bourdonnais to Madame
de la Tour. "No, Sir," she replied; "this is the son of my friend; but
he and Virginia are equally dear to us, and we mutually consider them
both as our own children." "Young man," said the governor to Paul,
"when you have acquired a little more experience of the world, you
will know that it is the misfortune of people in place to be deceived,
and bestow, in consequence, upon intriguing vice, that which they
would wish to give to modest merit."

Monsieur de la Bourdonnais, at the request of Madame de la Tour,
placed himself next to her at table, and breakfasted after the manner
of the Creoles, upon coffee, mixed with rice boiled in water. He was
delighted with the order and cleanliness which prevailed in the little
cottage, the harmony of the two interesting families, and the zeal of
their old servants. "Here," he exclaimed, "I discern only wooden
furniture; but I find serene countenances and hearts of gold." Paul,
enchanted with the affability of the governor, said to him,--"I wish
to be your friend: for you are a good man." Monsieur de la Bourdonnais
received with pleasure this insular compliment, and, taking Paul by
the hand, assured him he might rely upon his friendship.

After breakfast, he took Madame de la Tour aside and informed her that
an opportunity would soon offer itself of sending her daughter to
France, in a ship which was going to sail in a short time; that he
would put her under the charge of a lady, one of the passengers, who
was a relation of his own; and that she must not think of renouncing
an immense fortune, on account of the pain of being separated from her
daughter for a brief interval. "Your aunt," he added, "cannot live
more than two years; of this I am assured by her friends. Think of it
seriously. Fortune does not visit us every day. Consult your friends.
I am sure that every person of good sense will be of my opinion." She
answered, "that, as she desired no other happiness henceforth in the
world than in promoting that of her daughter, she hoped to be allowed
to leave her departure for France to her own inclination."

Madame de la Tour was not sorry to find an opportunity of separating
Paul and Virginia for a short time, and provide by this means, for
their mutual felicity at a future period. She took her daughter aside,
and said to her,--"My dear child, our servants are now old. Paul is
still very young, Margaret is advanced in years, and I am already
infirm. If I should die what would become of you, without fortune, in
the midst of these deserts? You would then be left alone, without any
person who could afford you much assistance, and would be obliged to
labour without ceasing, as a hired servant, in order to support your
wretched existence. This idea overcomes me with sorrow." Virginia
answered,--"God has appointed us to labour, and to bless him every
day. Up to this time he has never forsaken us, and he never will
forsake us in time to come. His providence watches most especially
over the unfortunate. You have told me this very often, my dear
mother! I cannot resolve to leave you." Madame de la Tour replied,
with much emotion,--"I have no other aim than to render you happy, and
to marry you one day to Paul, who is not really your brother. Remember
then that his fortune depends upon you."

A young girl who is in love believes that every one else is ignorant
of her passion; she throws over her eyes the veil with which she
covers the feelings of her heart; but when it is once lifted by a
friendly hand, the hidden sorrows of her attachment escape as through
a newly-opened barrier, and the sweet outpourings of unrestrained
confidence succeed to her former mystery and reserve. Virginia, deeply
affected by this new proof of her mother's tenderness, related to her
the cruel struggles she had undergone, of which heaven alone had been
witness; she saw, she said, the hand of Providence in the assistance
of an affectionate mother, who approved of her attachment; and would
guide her by her counsels; and as she was now strengthened by such
support, every consideration led her to remain with her mother,
without anxiety for the present, and without apprehension for the

Madame de la Tour, perceiving that this confidential conversation had
produced an effect altogether different from that which she expected,
said,--"My dear child, I do not wish to constrain you; think over it
at leisure, but conceal your affection from Paul. It is better not to
let a man know that the heart of his mistress is gained."

Virginia and her mother were sitting together by themselves the same
evening, when a tall man, dressed in a blue cassock, entered their
cottage. He was a missionary priest and the confessor of Madame de la
Tour and her daughter, who had now been sent to them by the governor.
"My children," he exclaimed as he entered, "God be praised! you are
now rich. You can now attend to the kind suggestions of your
benevolent hearts, and do good to the poor. I know what Monsieur de la
Bourdonnais has said to you, and what you have said in reply. Your
health, dear madam, obliges you to remain here; but you, young lady,
are without excuse. We must obey our aged relations, even when they
are unjust. A sacrifice is required of you; but it is the will of God.
Our Lord devoted himself for you; and you in imitation of his example,
must give up something for the welfare of your family. Your voyage to
France will end happily. You will surely consent to go, my dear young

Virginia, with downcast eyes, answered, trembling, "If it is the
command of God, I will not presume to oppose it. Let the will of God
be done!" As she uttered these words, she wept.

The priest went away, in order to inform the governor of the success
of his mission. In the meantime Madame de la Tour sent Domingo to
request me to come to her, that she might consult me respecting
Virginia's departure. I was not at all of opinion that she ought to
go. I consider it as a fixed principle of happiness, that we ought to
prefer the advantages of nature to those of fortune, and never go in
search of that at a distance, which we may find at home,--in our own
bosoms. But what could be expected from my advice, in opposition to
the illusions of a splendid fortune?--or from my simple reasoning,
when in competition with the prejudices of the world, and an authority
held sacred by Madame de la Tour? This lady indeed only consulted me
out of politeness; she had ceased to deliberate since she had heard
the decision of her confessor. Margaret herself, who, notwithstanding
the advantages she expected for her son from the possession of
Virginia's fortune, had hitherto opposed her departure, made no
further objections. As for Paul, in ignorance of what had been
determined, but alarmed at the secret conversations which Virginia had
been holding with her mother, he abandoned himself to melancholy.
"They are plotting something against me," cried he, "for they conceal
every thing from me."

A report having in the meantime been spread in the island that fortune
had visited these rocks, merchants of every description were seen
climbing their steep ascent. Now, for the first time, were seen
displayed in these humble huts the richest stuffs of India; the fine
dimity of Gondelore; the handkerchiefs of Pellicate and Masulipatan;
the plain, striped, and embroidered muslins of Dacca, so beautifully
transparent: the delicately white cottons of Surat, and linens of all
colours. They also brought with them the gorgeous silks of China,
satin damasks, some white, and others grass-green and bright red; pink
taffetas, with the profusion of satins and gauze of Tonquin, both
plain and decorated with flowers; soft pekins, downy as cloth; and
white and yellow nankeens, and the calicoes of Madagascar.

Madame de la Tour wished her daughter to purchase whatever she liked;
she only examined the goods, and inquired the price, to take care that
the dealers did not cheat her. Virginia made choice of everything she
thought would be useful or agreeable to her mother, or to Margaret and
her son. "This," said she, "will be wanted for furnishing the cottage,
and that will be very useful to Mary and Domingo." In short, the bag
of piastres was almost emptied before she even began to consider her
own wants; and she was obliged to receive back for her own use a share
of the presents which she had distributed among the family circle.

Paul, overcome with sorrow at the sight of these gifts of fortune,
which he felt were a presage of Virginia's departure, came a few days
after to my dwelling. With an air of deep despondency he said to me--
"My sister is going away; she is already making preparations for her
voyage. I conjure you to come and exert your influence over her mother
and mine, in order to detain her here." I could not refuse the young
man's solicitations, although well convinced that my representations
would be unavailing.

Virginia had ever appeared to me charming when clad in the coarse
cloth of Bengal, with a red handkerchief tied round her head: you may
therefore imagine how much her beauty was increased, when she was
attired in the graceful and elegant costume worn by the ladies of this
country! She had on a white muslin dress, lined with pink taffeta. Her
somewhat tall and slender figure was shown to advantage in her new
attire, and the simple arrangement of her hair accorded admirably with
the form of her head. Her fine blue eyes were filled with an
expression of melancholy; and the struggles of passion, with which her
heart was agitated, imparted a flush to her cheek, and to her voice a
tone of deep emotion. The contrast between her pensive look and her
gay habiliments rendered her more interesting than ever, nor was it
possible to see or hear her unmoved. Paul became more and more
melancholy; and at length Margaret, distressed at the situation of her
son, took him aside and said to him,--"Why, my dear child, will you
cherish vain hopes, which will only render your disappointment more
bitter? It is time for me to make known to you the secret of your life
and of mine. Mademoiselle de la Tour belongs, by her mother's side, to
a rich and noble family, while you are but the son of a poor peasant
girl; and what is worse you are illegitimate."

Paul, who had never heard this last expression before, inquired with
eagerness its meaning. His mother replied, "I was not married to your
father. When I was a girl, seduced by love, I was guilty of a weakness
of which you are the offspring. The consequence of my fault is, that
you are deprived of the protection of a father's family, and by my
flight from home you have also lost that of your mother's. Unfortunate
child! you have no relations in the world but me!"--and she shed a
flood of tears. Paul, pressing her in his arms, exclaimed, "Oh, my
dear mother! since I have no relation in the world but you, I will
love you all the more. But what a secret have you just disclosed to
me! I now see the reason why Mademoiselle de la Tour has estranged
herself so much from me for the last two months, and why she has
determined to go to France. Ah! I perceive too well that she despises

The hour of supper being arrived, we gathered round the table; but the
different sensations with which we were agitated left us little
inclination to eat, and the meal, if such it may be called, passed in
silence. Virginia was the first to rise; she went out, and seated
herself on the very spot where we now are. Paul hastened after her,
and sat down by her side. Both of them, for some time, kept a profound
silence. It was one of those delicious nights which are so common
between the tropics, and to the beauty of which no pencil can do
justice. The moon appeared in the midst of the firmament, surrounded
by a curtain of clouds, which was gradually unfolded by her beams. Her
light insensibly spread itself over the mountains of the island, and
their distant peaks glistened with a silvery green. The winds were
perfectly still. We heard among the woods, at the bottom of the
valleys, and on the summits of the rocks, the piping cries and the
soft notes of the birds, wantoning in their nests, and rejoicing in
the brightness of the night and the serenity of the atmosphere. The
hum of insects was heard in the grass. The stars sparkled in the
heavens, and their lurid orbs were reflected, in trembling sparkles,
from the tranquil bosom of the ocean. Virginia's eye wandered
distractedly over its vast and gloomy horizon, distinguishable from
the shore of the island only by the red fires in the fishing boats.
She perceived at the entrance of the harbour a light and a shadow;
these were the watchlight and the hull of the vessel in which she was
to embark for Europe, and which, all ready for sea, lay at anchor,
waiting for a breeze. Affected at this sight, she turned away her
head, in order to hide her tears from Paul.

Madame de la Tour, Margaret, and I, were seated at a little distance,
beneath the plantain-trees; and, owing to the stillness of the night,
we distinctly heard their conversation, which I have not forgotten.

Paul said to her,--"You are going away from us, they tell me, in three
days. You do not fear then to encounter the danger of the sea, at the
sight of which you are so much terrified?" "I must perform my duty,"
answered Virginia, "by obeying my parent." "You leave us," resumed
Paul, "for a distant relation, whom you have never seen." "Alas!"
cried Virginia, "I would have remained here my whole life, but my
mother would not have it so. My confessor, too, told me it was the
will of God that I should go, and that life was a scene of trials!--
and Oh! this is indeed a severe one."

"What!" exclaimed Paul, "you could find so many reasons for going, and
not one for remaining here! Ah! there is one reason for your departure
that you have not mentioned. Riches have great attractions. You will
soon find in the new world to which you are going, another, to whom
you will give the name of brother, which you bestow on me no more. You
will choose that brother from amongst persons who are worthy of you by
their birth, and by a fortune which I have not to offer. But where can
you go to be happier? On what shore will you land, and find it dearer
to you than the spot which gave you birth?--and where will you form
around you a society more delightful to you than this, by which you
are so much accustomed? What will become of her, already advanced in
years, when she no longer sees you at her side at table, in the house,
in the walks, where she used to lean upon you? What will become of my
mother, who loves you with the same affection? What shall I say to
comfort them when I see them weeping for your absence? Cruel Virginia!
I say nothing to you of myself; but what will become of me, when in
the morning I shall no more see you; when the evening will come, and
not reunite us?--when I shall gaze on these two palm trees, planted at
our birth, and so long the witnesses of our mutual friendship? Ah!
since your lot is changed,--since you seek in a far country other
possessions than the fruits of my labour, let me go with you in the
vessel in which you are about to embark. I will sustain your spirits
in the midst of those tempests which terrify you so much even on
shore. I will lay my head upon your bosom: I will warm your heart upon
my own; and in France, where you are going in search of fortune and of
grandeur, I will wait upon you as your slave. Happy only in your
happiness, you will find me, in those palaces where I shall see you
receiving the homage and adoration of all, rich and noble enough to
make you the greatest of all sacrifices, by dying at your feet."

The violence of his emotions stopped his utterance, and we then heard
Virginia, who, in a voice broken by sobs, uttered these words:--"It is
for you that I go,--for you whom I see tired to death every day by the
labour of sustaining two helpless families. If I have accepted this
opportunity of becoming rich, it is only to return a thousand-fold the
good which you have done us. Can any fortune be equal to your
friendship? Why do you talk about your birth? Ah! if it were possible
for me still to have a brother, should I make choice of any other than
you? Oh, Paul, Paul! you are far dearer to me than a brother! How much
has it cost me to repulse you from me! Help me to tear myself from
what I value more than existence, till Heaven shall bless our union.
But I will stay or go,--I will live or die,--dispose of me as you
will. Unhappy that I am! I could have repelled your caresses; but I
cannot support your affliction."

At these words Paul seized her in his arms, and, holding her pressed
close to his bosom, cried, in a piercing tone, "I will go with her,--
nothing shall ever part us." We all ran towards him; and Madame de la
Tour said to him, "My son, if you go, what will become of us?"

He, trembling, repeated after her the words,--"My son!--my son! You my
mother!" cried he; "you, who would separate the brother from the
sister! We have both been nourished at your bosom; we have both been
reared upon your knees; we have learnt of you to love another; we have
said so a thousand times; and now you would separate her from me!--you
would send her to Europe, that inhospitable country which refused you
an asylum, and to relations by whom you yourself were abandoned. You
will tell me that I have no right over her, and that she is not my
sister. She is everything to me;--my riches, my birth, my family,--all
that I have! I know no other. We have had but one roof,--one cradle,--
and we will have but one grave! If she goes, I will follow her. The
governor will prevent me! Will he prevent me from flinging myself into
the sea?--will he prevent me from following her by swimming? The sea
cannot be more fatal to me than the land. Since I cannot live with
her, at least I will die before her eyes, far from you. Inhuman
mother!--woman without compassion!--may the ocean, to which you trust
her, restore her to you no more! May the waves, rolling back our
bodies amid the shingles of this beach, give you in the loss of your
two children, an eternal subject of remorse!"

At these words, I seized him in my arms, for despair had deprived him
of reason. His eyes sparkled with fire, the perspiration fell in great
drops from his face; his knees trembled, and I felt his heart beat
violently against his burning bosom.

Virginia, alarmed, said to him,--"Oh, my dear Paul, I call to witness
the pleasures of our early age, your griefs and my own, and every
thing that can for ever bind two unfortunate beings to each other,
that if I remain at home, I will live but for you; that if I go, I
will one day return to be yours. I call you all to witness;--you who
have reared me from my infancy, who dispose of my life, and who see my
tears. I swear by that Heaven which hears me, by the sea which I am
going to pass, by the air I breathe, and which I never sullied by a

As the sun softens and precipitates an icy rock from the summit of one
of the Appenines, so the impetuous passions of the young man were
subdued by the voice of her he loved. He bent his head, and a torrent
of tears fell from his eyes. His mother, mingling her tears with his,
held him in her arms, but was unable to speak. Madame de la Tour, half
distracted, said to me, "I can bear this no longer. My heart is quite
broken. This unfortunate voyage shall not take place. Do take my son
home with you. Not one of us has had any rest the whole week."

I said to Paul, "My dear friend, your sister shall remain here.
To-morrow we will talk to the governor about it; leave your family to
take some rest, and come and pass the night with me. It is late; it is
midnight; the southern cross is just above the horizon."

He suffered himself to be led away in silence; and, after a night of
great agitation, he arose at break of day, and returned home.

But why should I continue any longer to you the recital of this
history? There is but one aspect of human pleasure. Like the globe
upon which we revolve, the fleeting course of life is but a day; and
if one part of that day be visited by light, the other is thrown into

"My father," I answered, "finish, I conjure you, the history which you
have begun in a manner so interesting. If the images of happiness are
the most pleasing, those of misfortune are the more instructive. Tell
me what became of the unhappy young man."

The first object beheld by Paul in his way home was the negro woman
Mary, who, mounted on a rock, was earnestly looking towards the sea.
As soon as he perceived her, he called to her from a distance,--"Where
is Virginia?" Mary turned her head towards her young master, and began
to weep. Paul, distracted, retracing his steps, ran to the harbour. He
was there informed, that Virginia had embarked at the break of day,
and that the vessel had immediately set sail, and was now out of
sight. He instantly returned to the plantation, which he crossed
without uttering a word.

Quite perpendicular as appears the wall of rocks behind us, those
green platforms which separate their summits are so many stages, by
means of which you may reach, through some difficult paths, that cone
of sloping and inaccessible rocks, which is called The Thumb. At the
foot of that cone is an extended slope of ground, covered with lofty
trees, and so steep and elevated that it looks like a forest in the
air, surrounded by tremendous precipices. The clouds, which are
constantly attracted round the summit of the Thumb, supply innumerable
rivulets, which fall to so great a depth in the valley situated on the
other side of the mountain, that from this elevated point the sound of
their cataracts cannot be heard. From that spot you can discern a
considerable part of the island, diversified by precipices and
mountain peaks, and amongst others, Peter-Booth, and the Three
Breasts, with their valleys full of woods. You also command an
extensive view of the ocean, and can even perceive the Isle of
Bourbon, forty leagues to the westward. From the summit of that
stupendous pile of rocks Paul caught sight of the vessel which was
bearing away Virginia, and which now, ten leagues out at sea, appeared
like a black spot in the midst of the ocean. He remained a great part
of the day with his eyes fixed upon this object: when it had
disappeared, he still fancied he beheld it; and when, at length, the
traces which clung to his imagination were lost in the mists of the
horizon, he seated himself on that wild point, forever beaten by the
winds, which never cease to agitate the tops of the cabbage and gum
trees, and the hoarse and moaning murmurs of which, similar to the
distant sound of organs, inspire a profound melancholy. On this spot I
found him, his head reclined on the rock, and his eyes fixed upon the
ground. I had followed him from the earliest dawn, and, after much
importunity, I prevailed on him to descend from the heights, and
return to his family. I went home with him, where the first impulse of
his mind, on seeing Madame de la Tour, was to reproach her bitterly
for having deceived him. She told us that a favourable wind having
sprung up at three o'clock in the morning, and the vessel being ready
to sail, the governor, attended by some of his staff and the
missionary, had come with a palanquin to fetch her daughter; and that,
notwithstanding Virginia's objections, her own tears and entreaties,
and the lamentations of Margaret, every body exclaiming all the time
that it was for the general welfare, they had carried her away almost
dying. "At least," cried Paul, "if I had bid her farewell, I should
now be more calm. I would have said to her,--'Virginia, if, during the
time we have lived together, one word may have escaped me which has
offended you, before you leave me forever, tell me that you forgive
me.' I would have said to her,--'Since I am destined to see you no
more, farewell, my dear Virginia, farewell! Live far from me,
contented and happy!' " When he saw that his mother and Madame de la
Tour were weeping,--"You must now," said he, "seek some other hand to
wipe away your tears;" and then, rushing out of the house, and
groaning aloud, he wandered up and down the plantation. He hovered in
particular about those spots which had been most endeared to Virginia.
He said to the goats, and their little ones, which followed him,
bleating,--"What do you want of me? You will see with me no more her
who used to feed you with her own hand." He went to the bower called
Virginia's Resting-place, and, as the birds flew around him,
exclaimed, "Poor birds! you will fly no more to meet her who cherished
you!"--and observing Fidele running backwards and forwards in search
of her, he heaved a deep sigh, and cried,--"Ah! you will never find
her again." At length he went and seated himself upon a rock where he
had conversed with her the preceding evening; and at the sight of the
ocean upon which he had seen the vessel disappear which had borne her
away, his heart overflowed with anguish, and he wept bitterly.

We continually watched his movements, apprehensive of some fatal
consequence from the violent agitation of his mind. His mother and
Madame de la Tour conjured him, in the most tender manner, not to
increase their affliction by his despair. At length the latter soothed
his mind by lavishing upon him epithets calculated to awaken his
hopes,--calling him her son, her dear son, her son-in-law, whom she
destined for her daughter. She persuaded him to return home, and to
take some food. He seated himself next to the place which used to be
occupied by the companion of his childhood; and, as if she had still
been present, he spoke to her, and made as though he would offer her
whatever he knew as most agreeable to her taste: then, starting from
this dream of fancy, he began to weep. For some days he employed
himself in gathering together every thing which had belonged to
Virginia, the last nosegays she had worn, the cocoa-shell from which
she used to drink; and after kissing a thousand times these relics of
his beloved, to him the most precious treasures which the world
contained, he hid them in his bosom. Amber does not shed so sweet a
perfume as the veriest trifles touched by those we love. At length,
perceiving that the indulgence of his grief increased that of his
mother and Madame de la Tour, and that the wants of the family
demanded continual labour, he began, with the assistance of Domingo,
to repair the damage done to the garden.

But, soon after, this young man, hitherto indifferent as a Creole to
every thing that was passing in the world, begged of me to teach him
to read and write, in order that he might correspond with Virginia. He
afterwards wished to obtain a knowledge of geography, that he might
form some idea of the country where she would disembark; and of
history, that he might know something of the manners of the society in
which she would be placed. The powerful sentiment of love, which
directed his present studies, had already instructed him in
agriculture, and in the art of laying out grounds with advantage and
beauty. It must be admitted, that to the fond dreams of this restless
and ardent passion, mankind are indebted for most of the arts and
sciences, while its disappointments have given birth to philosophy,
which teaches us to bear up under misfortune. Love, thus, the general
link of all beings, becomes the great spring of society, by inciting
us to knowledge as well as to pleasure.

Paul found little satisfaction in the study of geography, which,
instead of describing the natural history of each country, gave only a
view of its political divisions and boundaries. History, and
especially modern history, interested him little more. He there saw
only general and periodical evils, the causes of which he could not
discover; wars without either motive or reason; uninteresting
intrigues; with nations destitute of principle, and princes void of
humanity. To this branch of reading he preferred romances, which,
being chiefly occupied by the feelings and concerns of men, sometimes
represented situations similar to his own. Thus, no book gave him so
much pleasure as Telemachus, from the pictures it draws of pastoral
life, and of the passions which are most natural to the human breast.
He read aloud to his mother and Madame de la Tour, those parts which
affected him most sensibly; but sometimes, touched by the most tender
remembrances, his emotion would choke his utterance, and his eyes be
filled with tears. He fancied he had found in Virginia the dignity and
wisdom of Antiope, united to the misfortunes and the tenderness of
Eucharis. With very different sensations he perused our fashionable
novels, filled with licentious morals and maxims, and when he was
informed that these works drew a tolerably faithful picture of
European society, he trembled, and not without some appearance of
reason, lest Virginia should become corrupted by it, and forget him.

More than a year and a half, indeed, passed away before Madame de la
Tour received any tidings of her aunt or her daughter. During that
period she only accidently heard that Virginia had safely arrived in
France. At length, however, a vessel which stopped here on its way to
the Indies brought a packet to Madame de la Tour, and a letter written
by Virginia's own hand. Although this amiable and considerate girl had
written in a guarded manner that she might not wound her mother's
feelings, it appeared evident enough that she was unhappy. The letter
painted so naturally her situation and her character, that I have
retained it almost word for word.


"I have already sent you several letters, written by my own hand,
but having received no answer, I am afraid they have not reached
you. I have better hopes for this, from the means I have now
gained of sending you tidings of myself, and of hearing from you.

"I have shed many tears since our separation, I who never used to
weep, but for the misfortunes of others! My aunt was much
astonished, when, having, upon my arrival, inquired what
accomplishments I possessed, I told her that I could neither read
nor write. She asked me what then I had learnt, since I came into
the world; and when I answered that I had been taught to take care
of the household affairs, and to obey your will, she told me that
I had received the education of a servant. The next day she placed
me as a boarder in a great abbey near Paris, where I have masters
of all kinds, who teach me, among other things, history,
geography, grammar, mathematics, and riding on horseback. But I
have so little capacity for all these sciences, that I fear I
shall make but small progress with my masters. I feel that I am a
very poor creature, with very little ability to learn what they
teach. My aunt's kindness, however, does not decrease. She gives
me new dresses every season; and she had placed two waiting women
with me, who are dressed like fine ladies. She has made me take
the title of countess; but has obliged me to renounce the name of
LA TOUR, which is as dear to me as it is to you, from all you have
told me of the sufferings my father endured in order to marry you.
She has given me in place of your name that of your family, which
is also dear to me, because it was your name when a girl. Seeing
myself in so splendid a situation, I implored her to let me send
you something to assist you. But how shall I repeat her answer!
Yet you have desired me always to tell you the truth. She told me
then that a little would be of no use to you, and that a great
deal would only encumber you in the simple life you led. As you
know I could not write, I endeavoured upon my arrival, to send you
tidings of myself by another hand; but, finding no person here in
whom I could place confidence, I applied night and day to learn to
read and write, and Heaven, who saw my motive for learning, no
doubt assisted my endeavours, for I succeeded in both in a short
time. I entrusted my first letters to some of the ladies here,
who, I have reason to think, carried them to my aunt. This time I
have recourse to a boarder, who is my friend. I send you her
direction, by means of which I shall receive your answer. My aunt
has forbid me holding any correspondence whatever, with any one,
lest, she says, it should occasion an obstacle to the great views
she has for my advantage. No person is allowed to see me at the
grate but herself, and an old nobleman, one of her friends, who,
she says is much pleased with me. I am sure I am not at all so
with him, nor should I, even if it were possible for me to be
pleased with any one at present.

"I live in all the splendour of affluence, and have not a sous at
my disposal. They say I might make an improper use of money. Even
my clothes belong to my femmes de chambre, who quarrel about them
before I have left them off. In the midst of riches I am poorer
than when I lived with you; for I have nothing to give away. When
I found that the great accomplishments they taught me would not
procure me the power of doing the smallest good, I had recourse to
my needle, of which happily you had taught me the use. I send
several pairs of stockings of my own making for you and my mamma
Margaret, a cap for Domingo, and one of my red handkerchiefs for
Mary. I also send with this packet some kernels, and seeds of
various kinds of fruits which I gathered in the abbey park during
my hours of recreation. I have also sent a few seeds of violets,
daisies, buttercups, poppies and scabious, which I picked up in
the fields. There are much more beautiful flowers in the meadows
of this country than in ours, but nobody cares for them. I am sure
that you and my mamma Margaret will be better pleased with this
bag of seeds, than you were with the bag of piastres, which was
the cause of our separation and of my tears. It will give me great
delight if you should one day see apple trees growing by the side
of our plantains, and elms blending their foliage with that of our
cocoa trees. You will fancy yourself in Normandy, which you love
so much.

"You desired me to relate to you my joys and my griefs. I have no
joys far from you. As far as my griefs, I endeavour to soothe them
by reflecting that I am in the situation in which it was the will
of God that you should place me. But my greatest affliction is,
that no one here speaks to me of you, and that I cannot speak of
you to any one. My femmes de chambre, or rather those of my aunt,
for they belong more to her than to me, told me the other day,
when I wished to turn the conversation upon the objects most dear
to me: 'Remember, mademoiselle, that you are a French woman, and
must forget that land of savages.' Ah! sooner will I forget
myself, than forget the spot on which I was born and where you
dwell! It is this country which is to me a land of savages, for I
live alone, having no one to whom I can impart those feelings of
tenderness for you which I shall bear with me to the grave. I am,

"My dearest and beloved mother,
"Your affectionate and dutiful daughter,

"I recommend to your goodness Mary and Domingo, who took so much
care of my infancy; caress Fidele for me, who found me in the wood."

Paul was astonished that Virginia had not said one word of him,--she,
who had not forgotten even the house-dog. But he was not aware that,
however long a woman's letter may be, she never fails to leave her
dearest sentiments for the end.

In a postscript, Virginia particularly recommended to Paul's attention
two kinds of seed,--those of the violet and the scabious. She gave him
some instructions upon the natural characters of these flowers, and
the spots most proper for their cultivation. "The violet," she said,
"produces a little flower of a dark purple colour, which delights to
conceal itself beneath the bushes; but it is soon discovered by its
wide-spreading perfume." She desired that these seeds might be sown by
the border of the fountain, at the foot of her cocoa-tree. "The
scabious," she added, "produces a beautiful flower of a pale blue, and
a black ground spotted with white. You might fancy it was in mourning;
and for this reason it is also called the widow's flower. It grows
best in bleak spots, beaten by the winds." She begged him to sow this
upon the rock where she had spoken to him at night for the last time,
and that, in remembrance of her, he would henceforth give it the name
of the Rock of Adieus.

She had put these seeds into a little purse, the tissue of which was
exceedingly simple; but which appeared above all price to Paul, when
he saw on it a P and a V entwined together, and knew that the
beautiful hair which formed the cypher was the hair of Virginia.

The whole family listened with tears to the reading of the letter of
this amiable and virtuous girl. Her mother answered it in the name of
the little society, desiring her to remain or to return as she thought
proper; and assuring her, that happiness had left their dwelling since
her departure, and that, for herself, she was inconsolable.

Paul also sent her a very long letter, in which he assured her that he
would arrange the garden in a manner agreeable to her taste, and
mingle together in it the plants of Europe with those of Africa, as
she had blended their initials together in her work. He sent her some
fruit from the cocoa-trees of the fountain, now arrived at maturity
telling her, that he would not add any of the other productions of the
island, that the desire of seeing them again might hasten her return.
He conjured her to comply as soon as possible with the ardent wishes
of her family, and above all, with his own, since he could never
hereafter taste happiness away from her.

Paul sowed with a careful hand the European seeds, particularly the
violet and the scabious, the flowers of which seemed to bear some
analogy to the character and present situation of Virginia, by whom
they had been so especially recommended; but either they were dried up
in the voyage, or the climate of this part of the world is
unfavourable to their growth, for a very small number of them even
came up, and not one arrived at full perfection.

In the meantime, envy, which ever comes to embitter human happiness,
particularly in the French colonies, spread some reports in the island
which gave Paul much uneasiness. The passengers in the vessel which
brought Virginia's letter, asserted that she was upon the point of
being married, and named the nobleman of the court to whom she was
engaged. Some even went so far as to declare that the union had
already taken place, and that they themselves had witnessed the
ceremony. Paul at first despised the report, brought by a merchant
vessel, as he knew that they often spread erroneous intelligence in
their passage; but some of the inhabitants of the island, with
malignant pity, affecting to bewail the event, he was soon led to
attach some degree of belief to this cruel intelligence. Besides, in
some of the novels he had lately read, he had seen that perfidy was
treated as a subject of pleasantry; and knowing that these books
contained pretty faithful representations of European manners, he
feared that the heart of Virginia was corrupted, and had forgotten its
former engagements. Thus his new acquirements had already only served
to render him more miserable; and his apprehensions were much
increased by the circumstance, that though several ships touched here
from Europe, within the six months immediately following the arrival
of her letter, not one of them brought any tidings of Virginia.

This unfortunate young man, with a heart torn by the most cruel
agitation, often came to visit me, in the hope of confirming or
banishing his uneasiness, by my experience of the world.

I live, as I have already told you, a league and a half from this
point, upon the banks of a little river which glides along the Sloping
Mountain: there I lead a solitary life, without wife, children, or

After having enjoyed, and lost the rare felicity of living with a
congenial mind, the state of life which appears the least wretched is
doubtless that of solitude. Every man who has much cause of complaint
against his fellow-creatures seeks to be alone. It is also remarkable
that all those nations which have been brought to wretchedness by
their opinions, their manners, or their forms of government, have
produced numerous classes of citizens altogether devoted to solitude
and celibacy. Such were the Egyptians in their decline, and the Greeks
of the Lower Empire; and such in our days are the Indians, the
Chinese, the modern Greeks, the Italians, and the greater part of the
eastern and southern nations of Europe. Solitude, by removing men from
the miseries which follow in the train of social intercourse, brings
them in some degree back to the unsophisticated enjoyment of nature.
In the midst of modern society, broken up by innumerable prejudices,
the mind is in a constant turmoil of agitation. It is incessantly
revolving in itself a thousand tumultuous and contradictory opinions,
by which the members of an ambitious and miserable circle seek to
raise themselves above each other. But in solitude the soul lays aside
the morbid illusions which troubled her, and resumes the pure
consciousness of herself, of nature, and of its Author, as the muddy
water of a torrent which has ravaged the plains, coming to rest, and
diffusing itself over some low grounds out of its course, deposits
there the slime it has taken up, and, resuming its wonted
transparency, reflects, with its own shores, the verdure of the earth
and the light of heaven. Thus does solitude recruit the powers of the
body as well as those of the mind. It is among hermits that are found
the men who carry human existence to its extreme limits; such are the
Bramins of India. In brief, I consider solitude so necessary to
happiness, even in the world itself, that it appears to me impossible
to derive lasting pleasure from any pursuit whatever, or to regulate
our conduct by any pursuit whatever, or to regulate our conduct by any
stable principle, if we do not create for ourselves a mental void,
whence our own views rarely emerge, and into which the opinions of
others never enter. I do not mean to say that man ought to live
absolutely alone; he is connected by his necessities with all mankind;
his labours are due to man: and he owes something too to the rest of
nature. But, as God has given to each of us organs perfectly adapted
to the elements of the globe on which we live,--feet for the soil,
lungs for the air, eyes for the light, without the power of changing
the use of any of these faculties, he has reserved for himself, as the
Author of life, that which is its chief organ,--the heart.

I thus passed my days far from mankind, whom I wished to serve, and by
whom I have been persecuted. After having travelled over many
countries of Europe, and some parts of America and Africa, I at length
pitched my tent in this thinly-peopled island, allured by its mild
climate and its solitudes. A cottage which I built in the woods, at
the foot of a tree, a little field which I cleared with my own hands,
a river which glides before my door, suffice for my wants and for my
pleasures. I blend with these enjoyments the perusal of some chosen
books, which teach me to become better. They make that world, which I
have abandoned, still contribute something to my happiness. They lay
before me pictures of those passions which render its inhabitants so
miserable; and in the comparison I am thus led to make between their
lot and my own, I feel a kind of negative enjoyment. Like a man saved
from shipwreck, and thrown upon a rock, I contemplate, from my
solitude, the storms which rage through the rest of the world; and my
repose seems more profound from the distant sound of the tempest. As
men have ceased to fall in my way, I no longer view them with
aversion; I only pity them. If I sometimes fall in with an unfortunate
being, I try to help him by my counsels, as a passer-by on the brink
of a torrent extends his hand to save a wretch from drowning. But I
have hardly ever found any but the innocent attentive to my voice.
Nature calls the majority of men to her in vain. Each of them forms an
image of her for himself, and invests her with his own passions. He
pursues during the whole of his life this vain phantom, which leads
him astray; and he afterwards complains to Heaven of the misfortunes
which he has thus created for himself. Among the many children of
misfortune whom I have endeavoured to lead back to the enjoyments of
nature, I have not found one but was intoxicated with his own
miseries. They have listened to me at first with attention, in the
hope that I could teach them how to acquire glory or fortune, but when
they found that I only wished to instruct them how to dispense with
these chimeras, their attention has been converted into pity, because
I did not prize their miserable happiness. They blamed my solitary
life; they alleged that they alone were useful to men, and they
endeavoured to draw me into their vortex. But if I communicate with
all, I lay myself open to none. It is often sufficient for me to serve
as a lesson to myself. In my present tranquillity, I pass in review
the agitating pursuits of my past life, to which I formerly attached
so much value,--patronage, fortune, reputation, pleasure, and the
opinions which are ever at strife over all the earth. I compare the
men whom I have seen disputing furiously over these vanities, and who
are no more, to the tiny waves of my rivulet, which break in foam
against its rocky bed, and disappear, never to return. As for me, I
suffer myself to float calmly down the stream of time to the shoreless
ocean of futurity; while, in the contemplation of the present harmony
of nature, I elevate my soul towards its supreme Author, and hope for
a more happy lot in another state of existence.

Although you cannot descry from my hermitage, situated in the midst of
a forest, that immense variety of objects which this elevated spot
presents, the grounds are disposed with peculiar beauty, at least to
one who, like me, prefers the seclusion of a home scene to great and
extensive prospects. The river which glides before my door passes in a
straight line across the woods, looking like a long canal shaded by
all kinds of trees. Among them are the gum tree, the ebony tree, and
that which is here called bois de pomme, with olive and cinnamon-wood
trees; while in some parts the cabbage-palm trees raise their naked
stems more than a hundred feet high, their summits crowned with a
cluster of leaves, and towering above the woods like one forest piled
upon another. Lianas, of various foliage, intertwining themselves
among the trees, form, here, arcades of foliage, there, long canopies
of verdure. Most of these trees shed aromatic odours so powerful, that
the garments of a traveller, who has passed through the forest, often
retain for hours the most delicious fragrance. In the season when they
produce their lavish blossoms, they appear as if half-covered with
snow. Towards the end of summer, various kinds of foreign birds
hasten, impelled by some inexplicable instinct, from unknown regions
on the other side of immense oceans, to feed upon the grain and other
vegetable productions of the island; and the brilliancy of their
plumage forms a striking contrast to the more sombre tints of the
foliage embrowned by the sun. Among these are various kinds of
parroquets, and the blue pigeon, called here the pigeon of Holland.
Monkeys, the domestic inhabitants of our forests, sport upon the dark
branches of the trees, from which they are easily distinguished by
their gray and greenish skin, and their black visages. Some hang,
suspended by the tail, and swing themselves in air; others leap from
branch to branch, bearing their young in their arms. The murderous gun
has never affrighted these peaceful children of nature. You hear
nothing but sounds of joy,--the warblings and unknown notes of birds
from the countries of the south, repeated from a distance by the
echoes of the forest. The river, which pours, in foaming eddies, over
a bed of rocks, through the midst of the woods, reflects here and
there upon its limpid waters their venerable masses of verdure and of
shade, along with the sports of their happy inhabitants. About a
thousand paces from thence it forms several cascades, clear as crystal
in their fall, but broken at the bottom into frothy surges.
Innumerable confused sounds issue from these watery tumults, which,
borne by the winds across the forest, now sink in distance, now all at
once swell out, booming on the ear like the bells of a cathedral. The
air, kept ever in motion by the running water, preserves upon the
banks of the river, amid all the summer heats, a freshness and verdure
rarely found in this island, even on the summits of the mountains.

At some distance from this place is a rock, placed far enough from the
cascade to prevent the ear from being deafened with the noise of its
waters, and sufficiently near for the enjoyment of seeing it, of
feeling its coolness, and hearing its gentle murmurs. Thither, amidst
the heats of summer, Madame de la Tour, Margaret, Virginia, Paul, and
myself, sometimes repaired, to dine beneath the shadow of this rock.
Virginia, who always, in her most ordinary actions, was mindful of the
good of others, never ate of any fruit in the fields without planting
the seed or kernel in the ground. "From this," said she, "trees will
come, which will yield their fruit to some traveller, or at least to
some bird." One day, having eaten of the papaw fruit at the foot of
that rock, she planted the seeds on the spot. Soon after, several
papaw trees sprang up, among which was one with female blossoms, that
is to say, a fruit-bearing tree. This tree, at the time of Virginia's
departure, was scarcely as high as her knee; but, as it is a plant of
rapid growth, in the course of two years it had gained the height of
twenty feet, and the upper part of its stem was encircled by several
rows of ripe fruit. Paul, wandering accidentally to the spot, was
struck with delight at seeing this lofty tree, which had been planted
by his beloved; but the emotion was transient, and instantly gave
place to a deep melancholy, at this evidence of her long absence. The
objects which are habitually before us do not bring to our minds an
adequate idea of the rapidity of life; they decline insensibly with
ourselves: but it is those we behold again, that most powerfully
impress us with a feeling of the swiftness with which the tide of life
flows on. Paul was no less over-whelmed and affected at the sight of
this great papaw tree, loaded with fruit, than is the traveller when,
after a long absence from his own country, he finds his contemporaries
no more, but their children, whom he left at the breast, themselves
now become fathers of families. Paul sometimes thought of cutting down
the tree, which recalled too sensibly the distracting remembrance of
Virginia's prolonged absence. At other times, contemplating it as a
monument of her benevolence, he kissed its trunk, and apostrophized it
in terms of the most passionate regret. Indeed, I have myself gazed
upon it with more emotion and more veneration than upon the triumphal
arches of Rome. May nature, which every day destroys the monuments of
kingly ambition, multiply in our forests those which testify the
beneficence of a poor young girl!

At the foot of this papaw tree I was always sure to meet with Paul
when he came into our neighbourhood. One day, I found him there
absorbed in melancholy and a conversation took place between us, which
I will relate to you, if I do not weary you too much by my long
digressions; they are perhaps pardonable to my age and to my last
friendships. I will relate it to you in the form of a dialogue, that
you may form some idea of the natural good sense of this young man.
You will easily distinguish the speakers, from the character of his
questions and of my answers.

/Paul./--I am very unhappy. Mademoiselle de la Tour has now been gone
two years and eight months and a half. She is rich, and I am poor; she
has forgotten me. I have a great mind to follow her. I will go to
France; I will serve the king; I will make my fortune; and then
Mademoiselle de la Tour's aunt will bestow her niece upon me when I
shall have become a great lord.

/The Old Man./--But, my dear friend, have not you told me that you are
not of noble birth?

/Paul./--My mother has told me so; but, as for myself, I know not what
noble birth means. I never perceived that I had less than others, or
that others had more than I.

/The Old Man./--Obscure birth, in France, shuts every door of access
to great employments; nor can you even be received among any
distinguished body of men, if you labour under this disadvantage.

/Paul./--You have often told me that it was one source of the
greatness of France that her humblest subject might attain the highest
honours; and you have cited to me many instances of celebrated men
who, born in a mean condition, had conferred honour upon their
country. It was your wish, then, by concealing the truth to stimulate
my ardour?

/The Old Man./--Never, my son, would I lower it. I told you the truth
with regard to the past; but now, every thing has undergone a great
change. Every thing in France is now to be obtained by interest alone;
every place and employment is now become as it were the patrimony of a
small number of families, or is divided among public bodies. The king
is a sun, and the nobles and great corporate bodies surround him like
so many clouds; it is almost impossible for any of his rays to reach
you. Formerly, under less exclusive administrations, such phenomena
have been seen. Then talents and merit showed themselves every where,
as newly cleared lands are always loaded with abundance. But great
kings, who can really form a just estimate of men, and choose them
with judgment, are rare. The ordinary race of monarchs allow
themselves to be guided by the nobles and people who surround them.

/Paul./--But perhaps I shall find one of these nobles to protect me.

/The Old Man./--To gain the protection of the great you must lend
yourself to their ambition, and administer to their pleasures. You
would never succeed; for, in addition to your obscure birth, you have
too much integrity.

/Paul./--But I will perform such courageous actions, I will be so
faithful to my word, so exact in the performance of my duties, so
zealous and so constant in my friendships, that I will render myself
worthy to be adopted by some one of them. In the ancient histories,
you have made me read, I have seen many examples of such adoptions.

/The Old Man./--Oh, my young friend! among the Greeks and Romans, even
in their decline, the nobles had some respect for virtue; but out of
all the immense number of men, sprung from the mass of the people, in
France, who have signalized themselves in every possible manner, I do
not recollect a single instance of one being adopted by any great
family. If it were not for our kings, virtue, in our country, would be
eternally condemned as plebeian. As I said before, the monarch
sometimes, when he perceives it, renders to it due honour; but in the
present day, the distinctions which should be bestowed on merit are
generally to be obtained by money alone.

/Paul./--If I cannot find a nobleman to adopt me, I will seek to
please some public body. I will espouse its interests and its
opinions: I will make myself beloved by it.

/The Old Man./--You will act then like other men?--you will renounce
your conscience to obtain a fortune?

/Paul./--Oh no! I will never lend myself to any thing but the truth.

/The Old Man./--Instead of making yourself beloved, you would become
an object of dislike. Besides, public bodies have never taken much
interest in the discovery of truth. All opinions are nearly alike to
ambitious men, provided only that they themselves can gain their ends.

/Paul./--How unfortunate I am! Every thing bars my progress. I am
condemned to pass my life in ignoble toil, far from Virginia.

As he said this he sighed deeply.

/The Old Man./--Let God be your patron, and mankind the public body
you would serve. Be constantly attached to them both. Families,
corporations, nations and kings have, all of them, their prejudices
and their passions; it is often necessary to serve them by the
practice of vice: God and mankind at large require only the exercise
of the virtues.

But why do you wish to be distinguished from other men? It is hardly a
natural sentiment, for, if all men possessed it, every one would be at
constant strife with his neighbour. Be satisfied with fulfilling your
duty in the station in which Providence has placed you; be grateful
for your lot, which permits you to enjoy the blessing of a quiet
conscience, and which does not compel you, like the great, to let your
happiness rest on the opinion of the little, or, like the little, to
cringe to the great, in order to obtain the means of existence. You
are now placed in a country and a condition in which you are not
reduced to deceive or flatter any one, or debase yourself, as the
greater part of those who seek their fortune in Europe are obliged to
do; in which the exercise of no virtue is forbidden you; in which you
may be, with impunity, good, sincere, well-informed, patient,
temperate, chaste, indulgent to others' faults, pious and no shaft of
ridicule be aimed at you to destroy your wisdom, as yet only in its
bud. Heaven has given you liberty, health, a good conscience, and
friends; kings themselves, whose favour you desire, are not so happy.

/Paul./--Ah! I only want to have Virginia with me: without her I have
nothing,--with her, I should possess all my desire. She alone is to me
birth, glory, and fortune. But, since her relations will only give her
to some one with a great name, I will study. By the aid of study and
of books, learning and celebrity are to be attained. I will become a
man of science: I will render my knowledge useful to the service of my
country, without injuring any one, or owning dependence on any one. I
will become celebrated, and my glory shall be achieved only by myself.

/The Old Man./--My son, talents are a gift yet more rare than either
birth or riches, and undoubtedly they are a greater good than either,
since they can never be taken away from us, and that they obtain for
us every where public esteem. But they may be said to be worth all
that they cost us. They are seldom acquired but by every species of
privation, by the possession of exquisite sensibility, which often
produces inward unhappiness, and which exposes us without to the
malice and persecutions of our contemporaries. The lawyer envies not,
in France, the glory of the soldier, nor does the soldier envy that of
the naval officer; but they will all oppose you, and bar your progress
to distinction, because your assumption of superior ability will wound
the self-love of them all. You say that you will do good to men; but
recollect, that he who makes the earth produce a single ear of corn
more, renders them a greater service than he who writes a book.

/Paul./--Oh! she, then, who planted this papaw tree, has made a more
useful and more grateful present to the inhabitants of these forests
than if she had given them a whole library.

So saying, he threw his arms around the tree, and kissed it with

/The Old Man./--The best of books,--that which preaches nothing but
equality, brotherly love, charity, and peace,--the Gospel, has served
as a pretext, during many centuries, for Europeans to let loose all
their fury. How many tyrannies, both public and private, are still
practised in its name on the face of the earth! After this, who will
dare to flatter himself that any thing he can write will be of service
to his fellow men? Remember the fate of most of the philosophers who
have preached to them wisdom. Homer, who clothes it in such noble
verse, asked for alms all his life. Socrates, whose conversation and
example gave such admirable lessons to the Athenians, was sentenced by
them to be poisoned. His sublime disciple, Plato was delivered over to
slavery by the order of the very prince who protected him; and, before
them, Pythagoras, whose humanity extended even to animals, was burned
alive by the Crotoniates. What do I say?--many even of these
illustrious names have descended to us disfigured by some traits of
satire by which they became characterized, human ingratitude taking
pleasure in thus recognising them; and if, in the crowd, the glory of
some names is come down to us without spot or blemish, we shall find
that they who have borne them have lived far from the society of their
contemporaries; like those statues which are found entire beneath the
soil in Greece and Italy, and which, by being hidden in the bosom of
the earth, have escaped uninjured, from the fury of the barbarians.

You see, then, that to acquire the glory which a turbulent literary
career can give you, you must not only be virtuous, but ready, if
necessary, to sacrifice life itself. But, after all, do not fancy that
the great in France trouble themselves about such glory as this.
Little do they care for literary men, whose knowledge brings them
neither honours, nor power, nor even admission at court. Persecution,
it is true, is rarely practised in this age, because it is habitually
indifferent to every thing except wealth and luxury; but knowledge and
virtue no longer lead to distinction, since every thing in the state
is to be purchased with money. Formerly, men of letters were certain
of reward by some place in the church, the magistracy, or the
administration; now they are considered good for nothing but to write
books. But this fruit of their minds, little valued by the world at
large, is still worthy of its celestial origin. For these books is
reserved the privilege of shedding lustre on obscure virtue, of
consoling the unhappy, of enlightening nations, and of telling the
truth even to kings. This is, unquestionably, the most august
commission with which Heaven can honour a mortal upon this earth.
Where is the author who would not be consoled for the injustice or
contempt of those who are the dispensers of the ordinary gifts of
fortune, when he reflects that his work may pass from age to age, from
nation to nation, opposing a barrier to error and to tyranny; and
that, from amidst the obscurity in which he has lived, there will
shine forth a glory which will efface that of the common herd of
monarchs, the monuments of whose deeds perish in oblivion,
notwithstanding the flatterers who erect and magnify them?

/Paul./--Ah! I am only covetous of glory to bestow it on Virginia, and
render her dear to the whole world. But can you, who know so much,
tell me whether we shall ever be married? I should like to be a very
learned man, if only for the sake of knowing what will come to pass.

/The Old Man./--Who would live, my son, if the future were revealed to
him?--when a single anticipated misfortune gives us so much useless
uneasiness--when the foreknowledge of one certain calamity is enough
to embitter every day that precedes it! It is better not to pry too
curiously, even into the things which surround us. Heaven, which has
given us the power of reflection to foresee our necessities, gave us
also those very necessities to set limits to its exercise.

/Paul./--You tell me that with money people in Europe acquire
dignities and honours. I will go, then, to enrich myself in Bengal,
and afterwards proceed to Paris, and marry Virginia. I will embark at

/The Old Man./--What! would you leave her mother and yours?

/Paul./--Why, you yourself have advised my going to the Indies.

/The Old Man./--Virginia was then here; but you are now the only means
of support both of her mother and of your own.

/Paul./--Virginia will assist them by means of her rich relation.

/The Old Man./--The rich care little for those, from whom no honour is
reflected upon themselves in the world. Many of them have relations
much more to be pitied than Madame de la Tour, who, for want of their
assistance, sacrifice their liberty for bread, and pass their lives
immured within the walls of a convent.

/Paul./--Oh, what a country is Europe! Virginia must come back here.
What need has she of a rich relation? She was so happy in these huts;
she looked so beautiful and so well dressed with a red handkerchief or
a few flowers around her head! Return, Virginia! leave your sumptuous
mansions and your grandeur, and come back to these rocks,--to the
shade of these woods and of our cocoa trees. Alas! you are perhaps
even now unhappy!"--and he began to shed tears. "My father," continued
he, "hide nothing from me; if you cannot tell me whether I shall marry
Virginia, tell me at least if she loves me still, surrounded as she is
by noblemen who speak to the king, and who go to see her.

/The Old Man./--Oh, my dear friend! I am sure, for many reasons, that
she loves you; but above all, because she is virtuous. At these words
he threw himself on my neck in a transport of joy.

/Paul./--But do you think that the women of Europe are false, as they
are represented in the comedies and books which you have lent me?

/The Old Man./--Women are false in those countries where men are
tyrants. Violence always engenders a disposition to deceive.

/Paul./--In what way can men tyrannize over women?

/The Old Man./--In giving them in marriage without consulting their
inclinations;--in uniting a young girl to an old man, or a woman of
sensibility to a frigid and indifferent husband.

/Paul./--Why not join together those who are suited to each other,--
the young to the young, and lovers to those they love?

/The Old Man./--Because few young men in France have property enough
to support them when they are married, and cannot acquire it till the
greater part of their life is passed. While young, they seduce the
wives of others, and when they are old, they cannot secure the
affections of their own. At first, they themselves are deceivers: and
afterwards, they are deceived in their turn. This is one of the
reactions of that eternal justice, by which the world is governed; an
excess on one side is sure to be balanced by one on the other. Thus,
the greater part of Europeans pass their lives in this twofold
irregularity, which increases everywhere in the same proportion that
wealth is accumulated in the hands of a few individuals. Society is
like a garden, where shrubs cannot grow if they are overshadowed by
lofty trees; but there is this wide difference between them,--that the
beauty of a garden may result from the admixture of a small number of
forest trees, while the prosperity of a state depends on the multitude
and equality of its citizens, and not on a small number of very rich

/Paul./--But where is the necessity of being rich in order to marry?

/The Old Man./--In order to pass through life in abundance, without
being obliged to work.

/Paul./--But why not work? I am sure I work hard enough.

/The Old Man./--In Europe, working with your hands is considered a
degradation; it is compared to the labour performed by a machine. The
occupation of cultivating the earth is the most despised of all. Even
an artisan is held in more estimation than a peasant.

/Paul./--What! do you mean to say that the art which furnishes food
for mankind is despised in Europe? I hardly understand you.

/The Old Man./--Oh! it is impossible for a person educated according
to nature to form an idea of the depraved state of society. It is easy
to form a precise notion of order, but not of disorder. Beauty,
virtue, happiness, have all their defined proportions; deformity,
vice, and misery have none.

/Paul./--The rich then are always very happy! They meet with no
obstacles to the fulfilment of their wishes, and they can lavish
happiness on those whom they love.

/The Old Man./--Far from it, my son! They are, for the most part
satiated with pleasure, for this very reason,--that it costs them no
trouble. Have you never yourself experienced how much the pleasure of
repose is increased by fatigue; that of eating, by hunger; or that of
drinking, by thirst? The pleasure also of loving and being loved is
only to be acquired by innumerable privations and sacrifices. Wealth,
by anticipating all their necessities, deprives its possessors of all
these pleasures. To this ennui, consequent upon satiety, may also be
added the pride which springs from their opulence, and which is
wounded by the most trifling privation, when the greatest enjoyments
have ceased to charm. The perfume of a thousand roses gives pleasure
but for a moment; but the pain occasioned by a single thorn endures
long after the infliction of the wound. A single evil in the midst of
their pleasures is to the rich like a thorn among flowers; to the
poor, on the contrary, one pleasure amidst all their troubles is a
flower among a wilderness of thorns; they have a most lively enjoyment
of it. The effect of every thing is increased by contrast; nature has
balanced all things. Which condition, after all, do you consider
preferable,--to have scarcely any thing to hope, and every thing to
fear, or to have every thing to hope and nothing to fear? The former
condition is that of the rich, the latter, that of the poor. But
either of these extremes is with difficulty supported by man, whose
happiness consists in a middle station of life, in union with virtue.

/Paul./--What do you understand by virtue?

/The Old Man./--To you, my son, who support your family by your
labour, it need hardly be defined. Virtue consists in endeavouring to
do all the good we can to others, with an ultimate intention of
pleasing God alone.

/Paul./--Oh! how virtuous, then, is Virginia! Virtue led her to seek
for riches, that she might practise benevolence. Virtue induced her to
quit this island, and virtue will bring her back to it.

The idea of her speedy return firing the imagination of this young
man, all his anxieties suddenly vanished. Virginia, he was persuaded,
had not written, because she would soon arrive. It took so little time
to come from Europe with a fair wind! Then he enumerated the vessels
which had made this passage of four thousand five hundred leagues in
less than three months; and perhaps the vessel in which Virginia had
embarked might not be more than two. Ship-builders were now so
ingenious, and sailors were so expert! He then talked to me of the
arrangements he intended to make for her reception, of the new house
he would build for her, and of the pleasures and surprises which he
would contrive for her every day, when she was his wife. His wife! The
idea filled him with ecstasy. "At least, my dear father," said he,
"you shall then do no more work than you please. As Virginia will be
rich, we shall have plenty of negroes, and they shall work for you.
You shall always live with us, and have no other care than to amuse
yourself and be happy;"--and, his heart throbbing with joy, he flew to
communicate these exquisite anticipations to his family.

In a short time, however, these enchanting hopes were succeeded by the
most cruel apprehensions. It is always the effect of violent passions
to throw the soul into opposite extremes. Paul returned the next day
to my dwelling, overwhelmed with melancholy, and said to me,--"I hear
nothing from Virginia. Had she left Europe she would have written me
word of her departure. Ah! the reports which I have heard concerning
her are but too well founded. Her aunt has married her to some great
lord. She, like others, has been undone by the love of riches. In
those books which paint women so well, virtue is treated but as a
subject of romance. If Virginia had been virtuous, she would never
have forsaken her mother and me. I do nothing but think of her, and
she has forgotten me. I am wretched, and she is diverting herself. The
thought distracts me; I cannot bear myself! Would to Heaven that war
were declared in India! I would go there and die."

"My son," I answered, "that courage which prompts us to court death is
but the courage of a moment, and is often excited by the vain applause
of men, or by the hopes of posthumous renown. There is another
description of courage, rarer and more necessary, which enables us to
support, without witness and without applause, the vexations of life;
this virtue is patience. Relying for support, not upon the opinions of
others, or the impulse of the passions, but upon the will of God,
patience is the courage of virtue."

"Ah!" cried he, "I am then without virtue! Every thing overwhelms me
and drives me to despair."--"Equal, constant, and invariable virtue,"
I replied, "belongs not to man. In the midst of the many passions
which agitate us, our reason is disordered and obscured: but there is
an everburning lamp, at which we can rekindle its flame; and that is,

"Literature, my dear son, is the gift of Heaven, a ray of that wisdom
by which the universe is governed, and which man, inspired by a
celestial intelligence, has drawn down to earth. Like the rays of the
sun, it enlightens us, it rejoices us, it warms us with a heavenly
flame, and seems, in some sort, like the element of fire, to bend all
nature to our use. By its means we are enabled to bring around us all
things, all places, all men, and all times. It assists us to regulate
our manners and our life. By its aid, too, our passions are calmed,
vice is suppressed, and virtue encouraged by the memorable examples of
great and good men which it has handed down to us, and whose time-
honoured images it ever brings before our eyes. Literature is a
daughter of Heaven who has descended upon earth to soften and to charm
away all the evils of the human race. The greatest writers have ever
appeared in the worst times,--in times in which society can hardly be
held together,--the times of barbarism and every species of depravity.
My son, literature has consoled an infinite number of men more unhappy
than yourself: Xenophon, banished from his country after having saved
to her ten thousand of her sons; Scipio Africanus, wearied to death by
the calumnies of the Romans; Lucullus, tormented by their cabals; and
Catinat, by the ingratitude of a court. The Greeks, with their never-
failing ingenuity, assigned to each of the Muses a portion of the
great circle of human intelligence for her especial superintendence;
we ought in the same manner, to give up to them the regulation of our
passions, to bring them under proper restraint. Literature in this
imaginative guise, would thus fulfil, in relation to the powers of the
soul, the same functions as the Hours, who yoked and conducted the
chariot of the Sun.

"Have recourse to your books, then, my son. The wise who have written
before our days are travellers who have preceded us in the paths of
misfortune, and who stretch out a friendly hand towards us, and invite
us to join in their society, when we are abandoned by every thing
else. A good book is a good friend."

"Ah!" cried Paul, "I stood in no need of books when Virginia was here,
and she had studied as little as myself; but when she looked at me,
and called me her friend, I could not feel unhappy."

"Undoubtedly," said I, "there is no friend so agreeable as a mistress
by whom we are beloved. There is, moreover, in woman a liveliness and
gaiety, which powerfully tend to dissipate the melancholy feelings of
a man; her presence drives away the dark phantoms of imagination
produced by over-reflection. Upon her countenance sit soft attraction
and tender confidence. What joy is not heightened when it is shared by
her? What brow is not unbent by her smiles? What anger can resist her
tears? Virginia will return with more philosophy than you, and will be
quite surprised to find the garden so unfinished;--she who could think
of its embellishments in spite of all the persecutions of her aunt,
and when far from her mother and from you."

The idea of Virginia's speedy return reanimated the drooping spirits
of her lover, and he resumed his rural occupations, happy amidst his
toils, in the reflection that they would soon find a termination so
dear to the wishes of his heart.

One morning, at break of day, (it was the 24th of December, 1744,)
Paul, when he arose, perceived a white flag hoisted upon the Mountain
of Discovery. This flag he knew to be the signal of a vessel descried
at sea. He instantly flew to the town to learn if this vessel brought
any tidings of Virginia, and waited there till the return of the
pilot, who was gone, according to custom, to board the ship. The pilot
did not return till the evening, when he brought the governor
information that the signalled vessel was the Saint-Geran, of seven
hundred tons burthen, and commanded by a captain of the name of Aubin;
that she was now four leagues out at sea, but would probably anchor at
Port Louis the following afternoon, if the wind became fair: at
present there was a calm. The pilot then handed to the governor a
number of letters which the Saint-Geran had brought from France, among
which was one addressed to Madame de la Tour, in the hand-writing of
Virginia. Paul seized upon the letter, kissed it with transport, and
placing it in his bosom, flew to the plantation. No sooner did he
perceive from a distance the family, who were awaiting his return upon
the rock of Adieus than he waved the letter aloft in the air, without
being able to utter a word. No sooner was the seal broken, than they
all crowded round Madame de la Tour, to hear the letter read. Virginia
informed her mother that she had experienced much ill-usage from her
aunt, who, after having in vain urged her to a marriage against her
inclination, had disinherited her, and had sent her back at a time
when she would probably reach the Mauritius during the hurricane
season. In vain, she added, had she endeavoured to soften her aunt, by
representing what she owed to her mother, and to her early habits; she
was treated as a romantic girl, whose head had been turned by novels.
She could now only think of the joy of again seeing and embracing her
beloved family, and would have gratified her ardent desire at once, by
landing in the pilot's boat, if the captain had allowed her: but that
he had objected, on account of the distance, and of a heavy swell,
which, notwithstanding the calm, reigned in the open sea.

As soon as the letter was finished, the whole of the family,
transported with joy, repeatedly exclaimed, "Virginia is arrived!" and
mistresses and servants embraced each other. Madame de la Tour said to
Paul,--"My son, go and inform our neighbour of Virginia's arrival."
Domingo immediately lighted a torch of bois de ronde, and he and Paul
bent their way towards my dwelling.

It was about ten o'clock at night, and I was just going to extinguish
my lamp, and retire to rest, when I perceived, through the palisades
round my cottage, a light in the woods. Soon after, I heard the voice
of Paul calling me. I instantly arose, and had hardly dressed myself,
when Paul, almost beside himself, and panting for breath, sprang on my
neck, crying,--"Come along, come along. Virginia is arrived. Let us go
to the port; the vessel will anchor at break of day."

Scarcely had he uttered the words, when we set off. As we were passing
through the woods of the Sloping Mountain, and were already on the
road which leads from the Shaddock Grove to the port, I heard some one
walking behind us. It proved to be a negro, and he was advancing with
hasty steps. When he had reached us, I asked him whence he came, and
whither he was going with such expedition. He answered, "I come from
that part of the island called Golden Dust; and am sent to the port,
to inform the governor that a ship from France has anchored under the
Isle of Amber. She is firing guns of distress, for the sea is very
rough." Having said this, the man left us, and pursued his journey
without any further delay.

I then said to Paul,--"Let us go towards the quarter of the Golden
Dust, and meet Virginia there. It is not more than three leagues from
hence." We accordingly bent our course towards the northern part of
the island. The heat was suffocating. The moon had risen, and was
surrounded by three large black circles. A frightful darkness shrouded
the sky; but the frequent flashes of lightning discovered to us long
rows of thick and gloomy clouds, hanging very low, and heaped together
over the centre of the island, being driven in with great rapidity
from the ocean, although not a breath of air was perceptible upon the
land. As we walked along, we thought we heard peals of thunder; but,
on listening more attentively, we perceived that it was the sound of
cannon at a distance, repeated by the echoes. These ominous sounds,
joined to the tempestuous aspect of the heavens, made me shudder. I
had little doubt of their being signals of distress from a ship in
danger. In about half an hour the firing ceased, and I found the
silence still more appalling than the dismal sounds which had preceded

We hastened on without uttering a word, or daring to communicate to
each other our mutual apprehensions. At midnight, by great exertion,
we arrived at the sea shore, in that part of the island called Golden
Dust. The billows were breaking against the bench with a horrible
noise, covering the rocks and the strand with foam of a dazzling
whiteness, blended with sparks of fire. By these phosphoric gleams we
distinguished, notwithstanding the darkness, a number of fishing
canoes, drawn up high upon the beach.

At the entrance of a wood, a short distance from us, we saw a fire,
round which a party of the inhabitants were assembled. We repaired
thither, in order to rest ourselves till the morning. While we were
seated near the fire, one of the standers-by related, that late in the
afternoon he had seen a vessel in the open sea, driven towards the
island by the currents; that the night had hidden it from his view;
and that two hours after sunset he had heard the firing of signal guns
of distress, but that the surf was so high, that it was impossible to
launch a boat to go off to her; that a short time after, he thought he
perceived the glimmering of the watch-lights on board the vessel,
which, he feared, by its having approached so near the coast, had
steered between the main land and the little island of Amber,
mistaking the latter for the Point of Endeavour, near which vessels
pass in order to gain Port Louis; and that, if this were the case,
which, however, he would not take upon himself to be certain of, the
ship, he thought, was in very great danger. Another islander informed
us, that he had frequently crossed the channel which separates the
isle of Amber from the coast, and had sounded it, that the anchorage
was very good, and that the ship would there lie as safely as in the
best harbour. "I would stake all I am worth upon it," said he, "and if
I were on board, I should sleep as sound as on shore." A third
bystander declared that it was impossible for the ship to enter that
channel, which was scarcely navigable for a boat. He was certain, he
said, that he had seen the vessel at anchor beyond the isle of Amber;
so that, if the wind rose in the morning, she would either put to sea,
or gain the harbour. Other inhabitants gave different opinions upon
this subject, which they continued to discuss in the usual desultory
manner of the indolent Creoles. Paul and I observed a profound
silence. We remained on this spot till break of day, but the weather
was too hazy to admit of our distinguishing any object at sea, every
thing being covered with fog. All we could descry to seaward was a
dark cloud, which they told us was the isle of Amber, at the distance
of a quarter of a league from the coast. On this gloomy day we could
only discern the point of land on which we were standing, and the
peaks of some inland mountains, which started out occasionally from
the midst of the clouds that hung around them.

At about seven in the morning we heard the sound of drums in the
woods: it announced the approach of the governor, Monsieur de la
Bourdonnais, who soon after arrived on horseback, at the head of a
detachment of soldiers armed with muskets, and a crowd of islanders
and negroes. He drew up his soldiers upon the beach, and ordered them
to make a general discharge. This was no sooner done, than we
perceived a glimmering light upon the water which was instantly
followed by the report of a cannon. We judged that the ship was at no
great distance and all ran towards that part whence the light and
sound proceeded. We now discerned through the fog the hull and yards
of a large vessel. We were so near to her, that notwithstanding the
tumult of the waves, we could distinctly hear the whistle of the
boatswain, and the shouts of the sailors, who cried out three times,
VIVE LE ROI! this being the cry of the French in extreme danger, as
well as in exuberant joy;--as though they wished to call their princes
to their aid, or to testify to him that they are prepared to lay down
their lives in his service.

As soon as the Saint-Geran perceived that we were near enough to
render her assistance, she continued to fire guns regularly at
intervals of three minutes. Monsieur de la Bourdonnais caused great
fires to be lighted at certain distances upon the strand, and sent to
all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, in search of provisions,
planks, cables, and empty barrels. A number of people soon arrived,
accompanied by their negroes loaded with provisions and cordage, which
they had brought from the plantations of Golden Dust, from the
district of La Flaque, and from the river of the Ram part. One of the
most aged of these planters, approaching the governor, said to him,--
"We have heard all night hollow noises in the mountain; in the woods,
the leaves of the trees are shaken, although there is no wind; the
sea-birds seek refuge upon the land: it is certain that all these
signs announce a hurricane." "Well, my friends," answered the
governor, "we are prepared for it, and no doubt the vessel is also."

Every thing, indeed, presaged the near approach of the hurricane. The
centre of the clouds in the zenith was of a dismal black, while their
skirts were tinged with a copper-coloured hue. The air resounded with
the cries of the tropic-birds, petrels, frigate-birds, and innumerable
other sea-fowl, which notwithstanding the obscurity of the atmosphere,
were seen coming from every point of the horizon, to seek for shelter
in the island.

Towards nine in the morning we heard in the direction of the ocean the
most terrific noise, like the sound of thunder mingled with that of
torrents rushing down the steeps of lofty mountains. A general cry was
heard of, "There is the hurricane!" and the next moment a frightful
gust of wind dispelled the fog which covered the isle of Amber and its
channel. The Saint-Geran then presented herself to our view, her deck
crowded with people, her yards and topmasts lowered down, and her flag
half-mast high, moored by four cables at her bow and one at her stern.
She had anchored between the isle of Amber and the main land, inside
the chain of reefs which encircles the island, and which she had
passed through in a place where no vessel had ever passed before. She
presented her head to the waves that rolled in from the open sea, and
as each billow rushed into the narrow strait where she lay, her bow
lifted to such a degree as to show her keel; and at the same moment
her stern, plunging into the water, disappeared altogether from our
sight, as if it were swallowed up by the surges. In this position,
driven by the winds and waves towards the shore, it was equally
impossible for her to return by the passage through which she had made
her way; or, by cutting her cables, to strand herself upon the beach,
from which she was separated by sandbanks and reefs of rocks. Every
billow which broke upon the coast advanced roaring to the bottom of
the bay, throwing up heaps of shingle to the distance of fifty feet
upon the land; then, rushing back, laid bare its sandy bed, from which
it rolled immense stones, with a hoarse and dismal noise. The sea,
swelled by the violence of the wind, rose higher every moment; and the
whole channel between this island and the isle of Amber was soon one
vast sheet of white foam, full of yawning pits of black and deep
billows. Heaps of this foam, more than six feet high, were piled up at
the bottom of the bay; and the winds which swept its surface carried
masses of it over the steep sea-bank, scattering it upon the land to
the distance of half a league. These innumerable white flakes, driven
horizontally even to the very foot of the mountains, looked like snow
issuing from the bosom of the ocean. The appearance of the horizon
portended a lasting tempest; the sky and the water seemed blended
together. Thick masses of clouds, of a frightful form, swept across
the zenith with the swiftness of birds, while others appeared
motionless as rocks. Not a single spot of blue sky could be discerned
in the whole firmament; and a pale yellow gleam only lightened up all
the objects of the earth, the sea, and the skies.

From the violent rolling of the ship, what we all dreaded happened at
last. The cables which held her bow were torn away: she then swung to
a single hawser, and was instantly dashed upon the rocks, at the
distance of half a cable's length from the shore. A general cry of
horror issued from the spectators. Paul rushed forward to throw
himself into the sea, when, seizing him by the arm, "My son," I
exclaimed, "would you perish?"--"Let me go to save her," he cried, "or
let me die!" Seeing that despair had deprived him of reason, Domingo
and I, in order to preserve him, fastened a long cord around his
waist, and held it fast by the end. Paul then precipitated himself
towards the Saint-Geran, now swimming, and now walking upon the rocks.
Sometimes he had hopes of reaching the vessel, which the sea, by the
reflux of its waves, had left almost dry, so that you could have
walked round it on foot; but suddenly the billows, returning with
fresh fury, shrouded it beneath mountains of water, which then lifted
it upright upon its keel. The breakers at the same moment threw the
unfortunate Paul far upon the beach, his legs bathed in blood, his
bosom wounded, and himself half dead. The moment he had recovered the
use of his senses, he arose, and returned with new ardour towards the
vessel, the parts of which now yawned asunder from the violent strokes
of the billows. The crew then, despairing of their safety, threw
themselves in crowds into the sea, upon yards, planks, hen-coops,
tables, and barrels. At this moment we beheld an object which wrung
our hearts with grief and pity; a young lady appeared in the stern-
gallery of the Saint-Geran, stretching out her arms towards him who
was making so many efforts to join her. It was Virginia. She had
discovered her lover by his intrepidity. The sight of this amiable
girl, exposed to such horrible danger, filled us with unutterable
despair. As for Virginia, with a firm and dignified mien, she waved
her hand, as if bidding us an eternal farewell. All the sailors had
flung themselves into the sea, except one, who still remained upon the
deck, and who was naked, and strong as Hercules. This man approached
Virginia with respect, and, kneeling at her feet, attempted to force
her to throw off her clothes; but she repulsed him with modesty, and
turned away her head. Then were heard redoubled cries from the
spectators, "Save her!--save her!--do not leave her!" But at that
moment a mountain billow, of enormous magnitude, ingulfed itself
between the isle of Amber and the coast, and menaced the shattered
vessel, towards which it rolled bellowing, with its black sides and
foaming head. At this terrible sight the sailor flung himself into the
sea; and Virginia, seeing death inevitable, crossed her hands upon her
breast, and raising upwards her serene and beauteous eyes, seemed an
angel prepared to take her flight to Heaven.

Oh, day of horror! Alas! every thing was swallowed up by the
relentless billows. The surge threw some of the spectators, whom an
impulse of humanity had prompted to advance towards Virginia, far upon
the beach, and also the sailor who had endeavoured to save her life.
This man, who had escaped from almost certain death, kneeling on the
sand, exclaimed,--"Oh, my God! thou hast saved my life, but I would
have given it willingly for that excellent young lady, who had
persevered in not undressing herself as I had done." Domingo and I
drew the unfortunate Paul to the ashore. He was senseless, and blood
was flowing from his mouth and ears. The governor ordered him to be
put into the hands of a surgeon, while we, on our part, wandered along
the beach, in hopes that the sea would throw up the corpse of
Virginia. But the wind having suddenly changed, as it frequently
happens during hurricanes, our search was in vain; and we had the
grief of thinking that we should not be able to bestow on this sweet
and unfortunate girl the last sad duties. We retired from the spot
overwhelmed with dismay, and our minds wholly occupied by one cruel
loss, although numbers had perished in the wreck. Some of the
spectators seemed tempted, from the fatal destiny of this virtuous
girl, to doubt the existence of Providence: for there are in life such
terrible, such unmerited evils, that even the hope of the wise is
sometimes shaken.

In the meantime Paul, who began to recover his senses, was taken to a
house in the neighbourhood, till he was in a fit state to be removed
to his own home. Thither I bent my way with Domingo, to discharge the
melancholy duty of preparing Virginia's mother and her friend for the
disastrous event which had happened. When we had reached the entrance
of the valley of the river of Fan-Palms, some negroes informed us that
the sea had thrown up many pieces of the wreck in the opposite bay. We
descended towards it and one of the first objects that struck my sight
upon the beach was the corpse of Virginia. The body was half covered
with sand, and preserved the attitude in which we had seen her perish.
Her features were not sensibly changed, her eyes were closed, and her
countenance was still serene; but the pale purple hues of death were
blended on her cheek with the blush of virgin modesty. One of her
hands was placed upon her clothes: and the other, which she held on
her heart, was fast closed, and so stiffened, that it was with
difficulty that I took from its grasp a small box. How great was my
emotion when I saw that it contained the picture of Paul, which she
had promised him never to part with while she lived! As for Domingo,
he beat his breast, and pierced the air with his shrieks. With heavy
hearts we then carried the body of Virginia to a fisherman's hut, and
gave it in charge of some poor Malabar women, who carefully washed
away the sand.

While they were employed in this melancholy office, we ascended the
hill with trembling steps to the plantation. We found Madame de la
Tour and Margaret at prayer; hourly expecting to have tidings from the
ship. As soon as Madame de la Tour saw me coming, she eagerly cried,--
"Where is my daughter--my dear daughter--my child?" My silence and my
tears apprised her of her misfortune. She was instantly seized with a
convulsive stopping of the breath and agonizing pains, and her voice
was only heard in sighs and groans. Margaret cried, "Where is my son?
I do not see my son!" and fainted. We ran to her assistance. In a
short time she recovered, and being assured that Paul was safe, and
under the care of the governor, she thought of nothing but of
succouring her friend, who recovered from one fainting fit only to
fall into another. Madame de la Tour passed the whole night in these
cruel sufferings, and I became convinced that there was no sorrow like
that of a mother. When she recovered her senses, she cast a fixed,
unconscious look towards heaven. In vain her friend and myself pressed
her hands in ours: in vain we called upon her by the most tender
names; she appeared wholly insensible to these testimonials of our
affection, and no sound issued from her oppressed bosom, but deep and
hollow moans.

During the morning Paul was carried home in a palanquin. He had now
recovered the use of his reason, but was unable to utter a word. His
interview with his mother and Madame de la Tour, which I had dreaded,
produced a better effect than all my cares. A ray of consolation
gleamed on the countenances of the two unfortunate mothers. They
pressed close to him, clasped him in their arms, and kissed him: their
tears, which excess of anguish had till now dried up at the source,
began to flow. Paul mixed his tears with theirs; and nature having
thus found relief, a long stupor succeeded the convulsive pangs they
had suffered, and afforded them a lethargic repose, which was in
truth, like that of death.

Monsieur de la Bourdonnais sent to apprise me secretly that the corpse
of Virginia had been borne to the town by his order, from whence it
was to be transferred to the church of the Shaddock Grove. I
immediately went down to Port Louis, where I found a multitude
assembled from all parts of the island, in order to be present at the
funeral solemnity, as if the isle had lost that which was nearest and
dearest to it. The vessels in the harbour had their yards crossed,
their flags half-mast, and fired guns at long intervals. A body of
grenadiers led the funeral procession, with their muskets reversed,
their muffled drums sending forth slow and dismal sounds. Dejection
was depicted in the countenance of these warriors, who had so often
braved death in battle without changing colour. Eight young ladies of
considerable families of the island, dressed in white, and bearing
palm-branches in their hands, carried the corpse of their amiable
companion, which was covered with flowers. They were followed by a
chorus of children, chanting hymns, and by the governor, his field
officers, all the principal inhabitants of the island, and an immense
crowd of people.

This imposing funeral solemnity had been ordered by the administration
of the country, which was desirous of doing honour to the virtues of
Virginia. But when the mournful procession arrived at the foot of this
mountain, within sight of those cottages of which she had been so long
an inmate and an ornament, diffusing happiness all around them, and
which her loss had now filled with despair, the funeral pomp was
interrupted, the hymns and anthems ceased, and the whole plain
resounded with sighs and lamentations. Numbers of young girls ran from
the neighbouring plantations, to touch the coffin of Virginia with
their handkerchiefs, and with chaplets and crowns of flowers, invoking
her as a saint. Mothers asked of heaven a child like Virginia; lovers,
a heart as faithful; the poor, as tender a friend; and the slaves as
kind a mistress.

When the procession had reached the place of interment, some negresses
of Madagascar and Caffres of Mozambique placed a number of baskets of
fruit around the corpse, and hung pieces of stuff upon the adjoining
trees, according to the custom of their several countries. Some Indian
women from Bengal also, and from the coast of Malabar, brought cages
full of small birds, which they set at liberty upon her coffin. Thus
deeply did the loss of this amiable being affect the natives of
different countries, and thus was the ritual of various religions
performed over the tomb of unfortunate virtue.

It became necessary to place guards round her grave, and to employ
gentle force in removing some of the daughters of the neighbouring
villagers, who endeavoured to throw themselves into it, saying that
they had no longer any consolation to hope for in this world, and that
nothing remained for them but to die with their benefactress.

On the western side of the church of the Shaddock Grove is a small
copse of bamboos, where, in returning from mass with her mother and
Margaret, Virginia loved to rest herself, seated by the side of him
whom she then called her brother. This was the spot selected for her

At his return from the funeral solemnity, Monsieur de la Bourdonnais
came up here, followed by part of his numerous retinue. He offered
Madame de la Tour and her friend all the assistance it was in his
power to bestow. After briefly expressing his indignation at the
conduct of her unnatural aunt, he advanced to Paul, and said every
thing which he thought most likely to soothe and console him. "Heaven
is my witness," said he, "that I wished to insure your happiness, and
that of your family. My dear friend, you must go to France; I will
obtain a commission for you, and during your absence I will take the
same care of your mother as if she were my own." He then offered him
his hand; but Paul drew away and turned his head aside, unable to bear
his sight.

I remained for some time at the plantation of my unfortunate friends,
that I might render to them and Paul those offices of friendship that
were in my power, and which might alleviate, though they could not
heal the wounds of calamity. At the end of three weeks Paul was able
to walk; but his mind seemed to droop in proportion as his body
gathered strength. He was insensible to every thing; his look was
vacant; and when asked a question, he made no reply. Madame de la
Tour, who was dying said to him often,--"My son, while I look at you,
I think I see my dear Virginia." At the name of Virginia he shuddered,
and hastened away from her, notwithstanding the entreaties of his
mother, who begged him to come back to her friend. He used to go alone
into the garden, and seat himself at the foot of Virginia's cocoa-
tree, with his eyes fixed upon the fountain. The governor's surgeon,
who had shown the most humane attention to Paul and the whole family,
told us that in order to cure the deep melancholy which had taken
possession of his mind, we must allow him to do whatever he pleased,
without contradiction: this, he said, afforded the only chance of
overcoming the silence in which he persevered.

I resolved to follow this advice. The first use which Paul made of his
returning strength was to absent himself from the plantation. Being
determined not to lose sight of him I set out immediately, and desired
Domingo to take some provisions and accompany us. The young man's
strength and spirits seemed renewed as he descended the mountain. He
first took the road to the Shaddock Grove, and when he was near the
church, in the Alley of Bamboos, he walked directly to the spot where
he saw some earth fresh turned up; kneeling down there, and raising
his eyes to heaven, he offered up a long prayer. This appeared to me a
favourable symptom of the return of his reason; since this mark of
confidence in the Supreme Being showed that his mind was beginning to
resume its natural functions. Domingo and I, following his example,
fell upon our knees, and mingled our prayers with his. When he arose,
he bent his way, paying little attention to us, towards the northern
part of the island. As I knew that he was not only ignorant of the
spot where the body of Virginia had been deposited, but even of the
fact that it had been recovered from the waves, I asked him why he had
offered up his prayer at the foot of those bamboos. He answered,--"We
have been there so often."

He continued his course until we reached the borders of the forest,
when night came on. I set him the example of taking some nourishment,
and prevailed on him to do the same; and we slept upon the grass, at
the foot of a tree. The next day I thought he seemed disposed to
retrace his steps; for, after having gazed a considerable time from
the plain upon the church of the Shaddock Grove, with its long avenues
of bamboos, he made a movement as if to return home; but suddenly
plunging into the forest, he directed his course towards the north. I
guessed what was his design, and I endeavoured, but in vain, to
dissuade him from it. About noon we arrived at the quarter of Golden
Dust. He rushed down to the sea-shore, opposite to the spot where the
Saint-Geran had been wrecked. At the sight of the isle of Amber, and
its channel, when smooth as a mirror, he exclaimed,--"Virginia! oh my
dear Virginia!" and fell senseless. Domingo and I carried him into the
woods, where we had some difficulty in recovering him. As soon as he
regained his senses, he wished to return to the sea-shore; but we
conjured him not to renew his own anguish and ours by such cruel
remembrances, and he took another direction. During a whole week he
sought every spot where he had once wandered with the companion of his
childhood. He traced the path by which she had gone to intercede for
the slave of the Black River. He gazed again upon the banks of the
river of the Three Breasts, where she had rested herself when unable
to walk further, and upon that part of the wood where they had lost
their way. All the haunts, which recalled to his memory the anxieties,
the sports, the repasts, the benevolence of her he loved,--the river
of the Sloping Mountain, my house, the neighbouring cascade, the papaw
tree she had planted, the grassy fields in which she loved to run, the
openings of the forest where she used to sing, all in succession
called forth his tears; and those very echoes which had so often
resounded with their mutual shouts of joy, now repeated only these
accents of despair,--"Virginia! oh, my dear Virginia!"

During this savage and wandering life, his eyes became sunk and
hollow, his skin assumed a yellow tint, and his health rapidly
declined. Convinced that our present sufferings are rendered more
acute by the bitter recollection of bygone pleasures, and that the
passions gather strength in solitude, I resolved to remove my
unfortunate friend from those scenes which recalled the remembrance of
his loss, and to lead him to a more busy part of the island. With this
view, I conducted him to the inhabited part of the elevated quarter of
Williams, which he had never visited, and where the busy pursuits of
agriculture and commerce ever occasioned much bustle and variety.
Numbers of carpenters were employed in hewing down and squaring trees,
while others were sawing them into planks; carriages were continually
passing and repassing on the roads; numerous herds of oxen and troops
of horses were feeding on those wide-spread meadows, and the whole
country was dotted with the dwellings of man. On some spots the
elevation of the soil permitted the culture of many of the plants of
Europe: the yellow ears of ripe corn waved upon the plains; strawberry
plants grew in the openings of the woods, and the roads were bordered
by hedges of rose-trees. The freshness of the air, too, giving tension
to the nerves, was favourable to the health of Europeans. From those
heights, situated near the middle of the island, and surrounded by
extensive forests, neither the sea, nor Port Louis, nor the church of
the Shaddock Grove, nor any other object associated with the
remembrance of Virginia could de discerned. Even the mountains, which
present various shapes on the side of Port Louis, appear from hence
like a long promontory, in a straight and perpendicular line, from
which arise lofty pyramids of rock, whose summits are enveloped in the

Conducting Paul to these scenes, I kept him continually in action,
walking with him in rain and sunshine, by day and by night. I
sometimes wandered with him into the depths of the forests, or led him
over untilled grounds, hoping that change of scene and fatigue might
divert his mind from its gloomy meditations. But the soul of a lover
finds everywhere the traces of the beloved object. Night and day, the
calm of solitude and the tumult of crowds, are to him the same; time
itself, which casts the shade of oblivion over so many other
remembrances, in vain would tear that tender and sacred recollection
from the heart. The needle, when touched by the loadstone, however it
may have been moved from its position, is no sooner left to repose,
than it returns to the pole of its attraction. So, when I inquired of
Paul, as we wandered amidst the plains of Williams,--"Where shall we
now go?" he pointed to the north, and said, "Yonder are our mountains;
let us return home."

I now saw that all the means I took to divert him from his melancholy
were fruitless, and that no resource was left but an attempt to combat
his passion by the arguments which reason suggested I answered him,--
"Yes, there are the mountains where once dwelt your beloved Virginia;
and here is the picture you gave her, and which she held, when dying,
to her heart--that heart, which even in its last moments only beat for
you." I then presented to Paul the little portrait which he had given
to Virginia on the borders of the cocoa-tree fountain. At this sight a
gloomy joy overspread his countenance. He eagerly seized the picture
with his feeble hands, and held it to his lips. His oppressed bosom
seemed ready to burst with emotion, and his eyes were filled with
tears which had no power to flow.

"My son," said I, "listen to one who is your friend, who was the
friend of Virginia, and who, in the bloom of your hopes, has often
endeavoured to fortify your mind against the unforeseen accidents of
life. What do you deplore with so much bitterness? Is it your own
misfortunes, or those of Virginia, which affect you so deeply?

"Your own misfortunes are indeed severe. You have lost the most
amiable of girls, who would have grown up to womanhood a pattern to


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