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Chapter 18

MISS ST. YVES DELIVERS HER LOVER AND A JANSENIST.


At day-break she fled to Paris with the minister's mandate. It would be difficult to depict the agitation of her mind in this journey. Imagine a virtuous and noble soul, humbled by its own reproaches, intoxicated with tenderness, distracted with the remorse of having betrayed her lover, and elated with the pleasure of releasing the object of her adoration. Her torments and conflicts by turns engaged her reflections. She was no longer that innocent girl whose ideas were confined to a provincial education. Love and misfortunes had united to remould her. Sentiment had made as rapid a progress in her mind, as reason had in that of her lover.

Her dress was dictated by the greatest simplicity. She viewed with horror the trappings with which she had appeared before her fatal benefactor. Her companion had taken the earrings without her having looked at them. Anxious and confused, idolizing the Huron and detesting herself, she at length arrived at the gate of that dreadful castle—the palace of vengeance—where crimes and innocence are alike immured.

When she was upon the point of getting out of the coach her strength failed her. Some people came to her assistance. She entered, whilst her heart was in the greatest palpitation, her eyes streaming, and her whole frame bespoke the greatest consternation. She was presented to the governor. He was going to speak to her, but she had lost all power of expression: she showed her order, whilst, with great difficulty, she articulated some accents. The governor entertained a great esteem for his prisoner, and he was greatly pleased at his being released. His heart was not callous, like those of most of his brethren, who think of nothing but the fees their captives are to pay them; extort their revenues from their victims; and living by the misery of others, conceive a horrid joy at the lamentations of the unfortunate.

He sent for the prisoner into his apartment. The two lovers swooned at the sight of each other. The beautiful Miss St. Yves remained for a long time motionless, without any symptoms of life; the other soon recalled his fortitude.

"This lady," said the governor, "is probably your wife. You did not tell me you were married. I am informed that it is through her generous solicitude that you have obtained your liberty."

"Alas!" said the beautiful Miss St. Yves, in a faltering voice, "I am not worthy of being his wife;" and swooned again.

When she recovered her senses, she presented, with a trembling hand and averted eyes, the grant and written promise of a company.

The Huron, equally astonished and affected, awoke from one dream to fall into another.

"Why was I shut up here? How could you deliver me? Where are the monsters that immured me? You are a divinity sent from heaven to succor me."

The beautiful Miss St. Yves, with a dejected air, looked at her lover, blushed, and instantly turned away her streaming eyes. In a word, they told him all she knew, and all she had undergone, except what she was willing to conceal forever, but which any other than the Huron, more accustomed to the world and better acquainted with the customs of courts, would easily have guessed.

"Is it possible," said he, "that a wretch like the bailiff can have deprived me of my liberty?

"Alas! I find that men, like the vilest of animals, can all injure.

"But is it possible that a monk, a Jesuit, the king's confessor, should have contributed to my misfortunes as much as the bailiff, without my being able to imagine under what pretence this detestable knave has persecuted me? Did he make me pass for a Jansenist? In fine, how came you to remember me? I did not deserve it; I was then only a savage.

"What! could you, without advice, without assistance, undertake a journey to Versailles?

"You there appeared, and my fetters were broken!

"There must then be in beauty and virtue an invincible charm, that opens gates of adamant and softens hearts of steel."

At the word virtue, a flood of tears issued from the eyes of the beautiful Miss St. Yves. She did not know how far she had been virtuous in the crime with which she reproached herself.

Her lover thus continued:

"Thou angel, who hast broken my chains, if thou hast had sufficient influence (which I cannot yet comprehend) to obtain justice for me, obtain it likewise for an old man who first taught me to think, as thou didst to love. Misfortunes have united us; I love him as a father; I can neither live without thee nor him."

"I solicit?"

"The same man."

"Who!"

"Yes, I will be beholden to you for everything, and I will owe nothing to any one but yourself. Write to this man in power. Overwhelm me with kindness—complete what you have begun—perfect your miracle."

She was sensible she ought to do everything her lover desired. She wanted to write, but her hand refused its office. She began her letter three times, and tore it as often. At length she got to the end, and the two lovers left the prison, after having embraced the old martyr to efficacious grace.

The happy yet disconsolate Miss St. Yves knew where her brother lodged: thither she repaired; and her lover took an apartment at the same house.

They had scarce reached their lodging, before her protector sent the order for releasing the good old Gordon, at the same time making an appointment with her for the next day.

She gave the order of release to her lover, and refused the appointment of a benefactor whom she could no more see without expiring with shame and grief.

Her lover would not have left her upon any other errand than to release his friend. He flew to the place of his confinement and fulfilled this duty, reflecting, meanwhile, upon the strange vicissitudes of this world, and admiring the courageous virtue of a young lady, to whom two unfortunate men owed more than life.



Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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