The Banished Man/Volume 1/Chapter 15
Ma tu non ti lasciar si sieramente
Vincere al tuo dolor; vinci te steffo
Si vuoi vincere altrui.
HOWEVER changed might be the spirit of the government since the death of Frederic the Great, long established modes of life, and the actual preparations for another campaign, which might repair the errors of the last, still gave to Berlin the appearance of a great garrison, rather than of the capital of a kingdom. D'Alonville was soon weary of a scene which presented little else than
"Man and steel; the soldier and his sword."
Many families, of whom the father's or husband's were gone or going to the army, had retired from Berlin to pass the time of their absence in the country, and among these was Madam Lewenstirn, the niece of the Abbé de St. Remi, whose husband had received orders to depart immediately for Flanders with a regiment he had raised, and who had already taken leave of his wife, and was on the point of quitting Berlin when the Abbé and his friends arrived there.
This, though it was what he might well have expected, was a severe mortification to the Abbé who had depended upon the open and generous character of Colonel Lewinstirn, for the most cordial reception of de Touranges, as well as of himself; and in his power he thought it might be to procure, for his unhappy friend, the information they were so anxious to obtain relative they were so anxious to obtain relative to a Count de Remesnil, who was said to have been at the Court of Berlin, and who, there was reason to believe, was the uncle of Madame de Touranges, under an assumed name. In the hurry of the moment in which they found him, Colonel Lewenstirn could do no more than recommend the Abbé and his friends to the hospitable attentions of a relation of his own, who the next day accompanied them to the persons who were the most likely to give them the information they wanted. They soon learned that an old French nobleman, calling himself the Count de Remesnil, had resided for a short time at Berlin. He had two or three ladies belonging to him; but these even the French, who knew by sight the person calling himself Remesnil, had never seen, nor could they tell of what ages the ladies were, or by what names they were called. The description they gave of Monsieur de Remesnil himself, resembled that of the person they sought; but this was not very convincing evidence, as there was nothing remarkable enough about him to assure them, that many other men of the same age might not answer the same description. Distressing, however, as this uncertainty was, such was the distracted state of mind into which de Touranges was replunged, by his hopes of finding his family being thus delayed, if not baffled, that the watchful and indefatigable friendship of the Abbé would immediately have pursued the track of this Count de Remesnil, on the uncertain vague light they had thus acquired; but on closer investigation they could not discover which way he had gone when he left Berlin. To some of the French, with whom he had been slightly acquainted, (for none had known him before they saw him there) he had talked of going to Holland; others declared he had frequently spoken of seeking an asylum at Petersbourgh; and two or three had heard him enquiring about England. But whither he had directed his course, none had enquired—for, every man occupied with troubles of his own, or schemes to escape from them, few thought of asking the intentions of a person whom they had never seen before, and might never see again. De Touranges, who had in an hundred instances acted with the same indifference himself, was now so irritated as to be ready to quarrel with every man of his country whom he met, because they had failed to procure the information which could not interest them. He felt disposed to accuse them of want of feeling, and of want of regard for their native land; and as they were so little attentive to emigrants of rank, he was certain that many of them were Jacobins, whom he was therefore inclined to run through the body. The remark is generally just, that sorrow softens, but despair hardens the heart. De Touranges experienced but little of its power to render the mind flexible: its power to irritate and inflame, he felt with but too much force. He was "angry alike at those that injured, and those that did not help; careless to please where nothing could be gained, and fearless to offend where nothing farther was to be dreaded." In this disposition of mind, the soothing friendship, or the calm reasoning, of the Abbé, equally lost their effect, and his attachment for the unfortunate de Touranges was often put to the severest proof. It was in vain he represented to his distracted friend, that the paroxysms of passion to which he thus yielded, might encrease, but could not alleviate his calamities; and that a plan regularly pursued, would be infinitely more conducive to the object so near his heart. But after being embroiled in two or three quarrels, and exposing himself to the disagreeable probability of receiving an order to quit Berlin, he took the sudden resolution of returning to Vienna, and throwing himself into some of those corps of French which yet remained on the frontiers. He found that the Abbé de St. Remi had received an invitation from his niece Madame Lewinstirn, to make her residence his home, and that nothing but his reluctance to quit him, prevented his accepting such an offer. A young woman, in the absence of her husband, could not extend this invitation to a man of the figure and age of de Touranges; but as he could not prevail upon the Abbé to leave him, after long arguments upon the subject, he resolved at least to put an end to his friends difficulties on his account; and having appeared for a day or two more calm, and to be debating on what he should do, he suddenly departed in the night with his servant putting into a packet directed to St. Remi, more than half the money he had left, together with a long letter, in which he declared to him, that any pursuit of him would be in vain, but that he would write where ever he might be. The excellent heart of St. Remi was extremely affected, both by his friend's departure, and the reasons he gave for it; but he had only to acquiesce, knowing the disposition of the Marquis too well to have attempted to pursue him, had the means been in his power. D'Alonville and Ellesmere did whatever was possible to console this respectable man, who was not insensible of their attention. In a few days after the departure of de Touranges, Madame Lewenstirn came to Berlin on purpose to carry her uncle with her to her retirement. He was then compelled to bid adieu to his two young friends. To D'Alonville he gave much excellent advice for his future conduct, and found him more willing to receive it, than the impetuous and irritable de Touranges. He made D'Alonville promise to write to him; and parted him with concern truly paternal. When he was gone, Ellesmere and D'Alonville, who had no longer any motive to stay at Berlin, prepared to depart also. The latter had again the whole world before him, without any particular motive to determine him to any part of it; unless it were those which had for some time made him wish to hazard a return to France. His English friend, Ellesmere, was the only person who now seemed interested for his fate:—with him he canvassed every project for the future as it arose in his mind; and every conversation ended with Ellesmere's persuading him to go with him to England. "If you afterwards determine to go to France," said he, "though to me it appears the wildest and most impractical scheme imaginable—from whence can you go with so much convenience as from England? though I have not, my friend, an house to offer you, being only a younger brother, and not knowing what is to be my own destiny, yet it may be in my power to be of some use to you; and if events should turn out more favourable than they at present promise, you may not be sorry to pass a few weeks in England on you way back to your own country." D'Alonville shook his head sorrowfully. "Ah, my dear Sir," replied he, "you should not hold out to me visions so flattering, and so little likely to be realized. Once indeed I thought to have visited England as a traveller, for pleasure and instruction. Now, as what am I to appear there?—As one of those unhappy strangers, whose numbers, notwithstanding the generosity of your country, are already a subject of complaint." Recollections of those happy days, when every object wore for him aspects so different, now crowded on his mind; but Ellesmere, whose friendship for him was equally warm and sincere, would not leave him to these melancholy reflections, but appeared so sincerely desirous of their remaining together, and offered so many reasons why he should go to England, that D'Alonville at length determined upon it. After staying about ten days at Berlin, they quitted it, and took their road to Hamburgh, where they intended to embark for England. On their way the conversation frequently turned on the Polish friends, of whom Ellesmere as frequently expressed the utmost solicitude to hear—absence, and the little probability there was that he should ever see her again, had not diminished the tender admiration that he felt for Alexina; and when he indulged himself be talking of her in a rapturous style, D'Alonville frequently rallied him on the figure he would make among his country women, should it be known of him, that he had left his heart with a Polonese, whom he met wandering in a German forest. Ellesmere, in his turn, accused his friend of insensibility; "or rather," said he, "you deny the existence of those charms in Alexina, which surely no man can deny, because you have in your memory some model of perfection which she does not at all resemble.—Ah Chevalier! you are not I believe exempt from that taste in gallantry that has been imputed to your country. This charming Madame D'Alberg—this Adriana of whom I have heard you speak—Confess my friend, that for this imperial beauty, you feel that preference which you wonder at my feeling for the lovely pilgrim.'
"No, upon my honor," answered D'Alonville very gravely, "I never was so ungrateful, or so much of coxcomb, as to think of Madame D'Alberg otherwise than as a sister, to whom I owe the greatest obligations—nor do I recollect calling her by the familiar name of Adriana, unless when I have been repeating to you, conversations between her mother and her, or her mother and me; and I assure you, my dear Ellesmere, you might as well suspect me of a penchant for the respectable Baroness de Rosenheim, as for her daughter."
"But this Theresa, to whom I saw you writing the other day?"
"Theresa is the confidential servant of Madame D'Alberg. It is by her means only, that my friends can hear of me. Their generous solicitude for my safety, induced them to propose my writing, by directing my letters to her. I have obeyed them but only once since I bade them adieu. I do not mean often to avail myself even of this permission, lest it should be attended with inconvenience to them." D'Alonville, however, never renewed the mention of his German friends without a sigh; and Ellesmere, though he forebore to repeat his suspicions of his being attached to Madame D'Alberg, when he saw those suspicions really gave him pain, could not help continuing to believe, that his young friend had given to the German Count more cause of uneasiness than he was willing to allow.
Ellesmere sometimes talked of the persons to whom he hoped to have an opportunity of introducing him in England. "We will go down together to the old hall in Staffordshire," said he; "for my father and mother are worthy kind of folks enough, and are always glad to see me, and any friend I bring with me for a month or so. As to my sisters, they are good girls—not very handsome; and they had been educated, except the eldest, almost entirely in the country; so that they are not of the haut ton. You, who have lived, I suppose, among women of the first style in France, will be in no danger of falling in love with them, even though you are not by your predeliction in favor of some other, secured from the attractions of my fair country women."
I might be in imminent danger," answered D'Alonville, if that were all my security, and especially as I have heard so much of the beauty of English ladies; but alas! my friend, the unfortunate exiles who now seek an asylum in your country, are not likely to engage in gallantries; or whatever others may be, I believe I dare venture to assure you, that I shall never so far violate the laws of hospitality in the house of my friend's father, should I be admitted there. Every woman will have my respect; but none, whatever may be their charms, will, I trust, occasion me to forget what I owe to the confidence and hospitality that admits me." "You take the matter too seriously," replied Ellesmere. "If the girls were handsome, I don't know why you should not like them as well as another; or why you should not say so; but perhaps you are determined, my friend, to show an uncontrovertible instance of what has been often asserted within these two years, that the French and the English nations have changed characters—you, a volatile Frenchman, seem at one-and-twenty to be a stoic; I, phlegmatic Englishman two years older, am falling desperately in love every step I take, with some nymph or other."
"The change, if it be one, "answered D'Alonville, "is easily accounted for; at least as far as relates to us, as individuals; you may freely indulge the fallies of your imagination, for you are secure of being received, after all you egarements, by family who love you, in a country where security and prosperity await you; but I must be indeed more naturally volatile, than the most volatile of my countrymen ever were even in the proudest days of France, if the reverse of fortune which I have experienced, did not check my levity. I had a father, a brother, fortune, friends, and prospects of a still more brilliant destiny, I had learned to be proud of my country I now blush to be called a Frenchman; and if ever I enter that country again; what shall I be destined to behold!
"Dans des fleuves de sang, tant d'innocens plangés
"Le fer de tous cotés dévastant cet empire
"Tous ces champs de carnage."
Such," continued D'Alonville, are the spectacles which continually haunt my imagination—and I own to you, embitter my existence so entirely, that it is hardly worth having." Their journey passed without any remarkable occurrence. They reached Hamburgh on the last day of December, and embarking on board a merchant ship which lay ready to sail, arrived in the usual course of time, and without any remarkable occurrence in the Thames—where, quitting the vessel, they took a post-chaise, which in a few hours set them down at an hotel in London.