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ral parish churches and convents around for her,--but without effect; we have still hopes, as she is sensible, for short intervals, that the virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postillion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria looked wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat-and then at me and then at her goat again, and so on alternately
Well, Maria, said I softly-What resemblance do you find ?
I do intreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a beast man is,--that I asked the question; and I would not have let fall an unseasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of misery, to be entitled to all the wit that even Rabelais scattered.
Adieu, Maria !-- adieu, poor helpless damsel !some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lips--but I was deceived, for that moment she took her pipe, and told such a tale of woe with it, that I rose up, and with broken and irregular steps walked softly to my chaise.
MARIA, the MAID of MOULINES.
NEVER felt what the distress of plenty was in any one shape till now to travel it through the Bourbounnois, the sweetest part of France
in the hey-day of the vintage, when Nature is pouring her abundance into every one's lap, and every eye is lifted up- a journey through each step of which music beats time to labour, and all their children are rejoicing as they carry their clusters to pass through this with my affections flying out, and kindling at every group before me and every one of them was pregnant with adventures.
Just heaven!—it would fill up twenty volumes and alas ! I have but a few small pages left of this to crowd it into- -and half of these must be taken up with the
poor Maria my friend Mr. Shandy met with near Moulines.
The story he had told of that disconsolate maid affected me not a little in the reading; but when I got within the neighbourhood where she lived, it returned so strongly into my mind, that I could not resist an impulse which prompted me to go half a league out of the road, to the village where her parents dwelt, to enquire after her.
'Tis going, I own, like the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, in quest of melancholy adventures but I know not how it is, but I am never so perfectly conscious of the existence of a soul within me, as when I am entangled in them.
The old mother came to the door : her looks told me the story before she opened her mouth- -She had lost her husband: he had died, she said, of anguish for the loss of Maria's senses, about a month before-She had feared at first, she added, that it would have plundered her poor girl of what little understanding was left--but, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herself-still she could not rest—her poor daughter, she said, crying, was wandering somewhere about the road
- Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this ? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seemed only
to be tuned to joy, to pass the back of his hand across his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckoned to the postillion to turn back into the road.
When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little npening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar-she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand; — a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bid the postillion go on with the chaise to Moulines, and La Fleur to bespeak my supper—and that I would walk after him.
She was dressed in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted within a silk net. She had superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale green ribband, which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end of which hung her pipe.-Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle; as I looked at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string—“Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio,” said she. I looked in Maria's eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover or her little goat; for, as she uttered them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.
I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away, as they fell, with my handkerchief.-I then steep'd it in my own—and then in her's—and then in mine---and then I wiped her's again--and as I did it, I felt such undescribeable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.
I am positive I have a soul; nor can all the books with which materialists have pestered the world ever convince ine to the contrary.
When Maria had come a little to herself, I asked her if she remembered a pale thin person of a man who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before? She said, she was unsettled much at that time, but remembered it upon two accounts that, ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theft-she had washed it, she said, in the brook, and kept it in her pocket, to restore it to him in case she should ever see him again, which, she added, he had half promised her. As she told me this, she took the handkerchief out of her pocket to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine-leaves, tied round with a tendril-on opening it, I saw an S marked in one of the corners.
She had since that, she told me, strayed as far as Rome, and walked round St. Peter's once and returned back-that she had found her way alone across the Appennines—had travelled over all Lombardy without money-and through the flinty roads of Savoy without shoes-how she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tell but God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I; and wast thou in my own land where have a cottage, I would take thee to it, and shelter thee: thou shouldst eat of my own bread and drink of my own cup-I would be kind to thy Sylvio in all thy weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee, and bring thee back -when the sun went down, I would say my prayers : and when I had done thou shouldst play thy evening song upon thy pipe; nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering heaven along with that of a broken heart,
Nature melted within me, as I uttered this; and Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steep'd too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in the stream-and where will you dry it, Maria? said I.-I will dry it in my bosom, said she'twill do me good.
And is your heart still so warm, Maria ? said I.
I touch'd upon the string on which hung all her sora rows_she looked with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then without saying any thing, took her pipe and played her service to the Virgin-the string I touched ceased to vibrate in a moment or two Maria returned to herself—let her pipe fall and
And where are you going, Maria ? said I.—She said to Moulines. Let us go, said I, together. Maria put her arm within mine, and lengthening the string, to let the dog followmin that order we entered Mou. lines.
Though I hate salutations and greetings in the market-place, yet when we got into the middle of this, I stopped to take my last look and last farewell of Maria.
Maria, though not tall, was nevertheless of the first order of fine forms--affliction had touched her looks with something that was scarce earthly still she was feminine and so much was there about her of all that the heart wishes, or the eye looks for in woman, that could the traces be ever worn out of her brain, and those of Eliza's out of mine, she should not only eat of my bread, and drink of my own cup, but Maria should lie in my bosom, and be unto me as a daughter.
Adieu, poor luckless maiden ! imbibe the oil and wine which the compassion of a stranger, as he journieth on his way, now pours into thy woundsthe Being who has twice bruised thee can only bind them up for ever.