Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Stories of Tragedy > THE STORY OF LA ROCHE.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
ore than forty years ago an English philosopher, whose works have since been read and admired by all Europe, resided at a little town in France. Some disappointments in his native country had first driven him abroad, and he was afterward induced to remain there from having found, in this retreat, where the connections even of nation and language were avoided, a perfect seclusion and retirement highly favorable to the development of abstract subjects, in which he excelled all the writers of his time.
Perhaps, in the structure of such a mind as Mr. ——’s, the finer and more delicate sensibilities are seldom known to have place, or, if originally implanted there, are in a great measure extinguished by the exertions of intense study and profound investigation. Hence the idea of philosophy and unfeelingness being united has become proverbial, and, in common language, the former word is often used to express the latter. Our philosopher had been censured by some as deficient in warmth and feeling; but the mildness of his manners has been allowed[166] by all, and it is certain that, if he was not easily melted into compassion, it was at least not difficult to awaken his benevolence.
One morning, while he sat busied in those speculations which afterward astonished the world, an old female domestic, who served him for a housekeeper, brought him word that an elderly gentleman and his daughter had arrived in the village the preceding evening, on their way to some distant country, and that the father had been suddenly seized in the night with a dangerous disorder, which the people of the inn where they lodged feared would prove mortal; that she had been sent for, as having some knowledge of medicine, the village surgeon being then absent; and that it was truly piteous to see the good old man, who seemed not so much afflicted by his own distress as by that which it caused to his daughter. Her master laid aside the volume in his hand, and broke off the chain of ideas it had inspired. His nightgown was exchanged for a coat, and he followed his gouvernante to the sick man’s apartment.
It was the best in the inn where they lay, but a paltry one notwithstanding. Mr. —— was obliged to stoop as he entered it. It was floored with earth, and above were the joists not plastered, and hung with cobwebs. On a flock-bed, at one end, lay the old man he came to visit; at the foot of it sat his daughter. She was dressed in a clean white bedgown; her dark locks hung loosely over it as she bent forward, watching the languid looks of her father. Mr. —— and his housekeeper had stood some moments in the room without the young lady’s being sensible of their entering it.
“Mademoiselle!” said the old woman at last, in a soft tone.
She turned and showed one of the finest faces in the world. It was touched, not spoiled, with sorrow; and when she perceived a stranger, whom the old woman now introduced to her, a blush at first, and then the gentle ceremonial of native politeness, which the affliction of the time tempered but did not extinguish, crossed it for a moment and changed its expression. It was sweetness all, however, and our philosopher felt it strongly. It was not a time for words; he offered his services in a few sincere ones.
“Monsieur lies miserably ill here,” said the gouvernante; “if he could possibly be moved anywhere.”
“If he could be moved to our house,” said her master. He had a spare bed for a friend, and there was a garret room unoccupied, next to the gouvernante’s.
It was contrived accordingly. The scruples of the stranger, who could look scruples though he could not speak them, were overcome, and the bashful reluctance of his daughter gave way to her belief of its use to her father. The sick man was wrapped in blankets, and carried across the street to the English gentleman’s. The old woman helped his daughter to nurse him there. The surgeon, who arrived soon after, prescribed a little, and nature did much for him; in a week he was able to thank his benefactor.
By that time his host had learned the name and character of his guest. He was a Protestant clergyman of Switzerland, called La Roche, a widower, who had lately buried his wife, after a long and lingering illness, for[168] which travelling had been prescribed, and was now returning home, after an ineffectual and melancholy journey, with his only child, the daughter we have mentioned.
He was a devout man, as became his profession. He possessed devotion in all its warmth, but with none of its asperity,—I mean that asperity which men, called devout, sometimes indulge in.
Mr. ——, though he felt no devotion, never quarrelled with it in others. His gouvernante joined the old man and his daughter in the prayers and thanksgivings which they put up on his recovery; for she too was a heretic, in the phrase of the village. The philosopher walked out, with his long staff and his dog, and left them to their prayers and thanksgivings.
“My master,” said the old woman, “alas! he is not a Christian; but he is the best of unbelievers.”
“Not a Christian!” exclaimed Mademoiselle La Roche, “yet he saved my father! Heaven bless him for it! I would he were a Christian.”
“There is a pride in human knowledge, my child,” said her father, “which often blinds men to the sublime truths of revelation; hence opposers of Christianity are found among men of virtuous lives, as well as among those of dissipated and licentious characters. Nay, sometimes I have known the latter more easily converted to the true faith than the former, because the fume of passion is more easily dissipated than the mist of false theory and delusive speculation.”
“But Mr. ——,” said his daughter, “alas! my father, he shall be a Christian before he dies.” She was interrupted[169] by the arrival of their landlord. He took her hand with an air of kindness. She drew it away from him in silence, threw down her eyes to the ground, and left the room.
“I have been thanking God,” said the good La Roche, “for my recovery.”
“That is right,” replied his landlord.
“I would not wish,” continued the old man hesitatingly, “to think otherwise. Did I not look up with gratitude to that Being, I should barely be satisfied with my recovery as a continuation of life, which, it may be, is not a real good. Alas! I may live to wish I had died, that you had left me to die, sir, instead of kindly relieving me,”—he clasped Mr ——’s hand,—“but, when I look on this renovated being as the gift of the Almighty, I feel a far different sentiment; my heart dilates with gratitude and love to him; it is prepared for doing his will, not as a duty, but as a pleasure, and regards every breach of it, not with disapprobation, but with horror.”
“You say right, my dear sir,” replied the philosopher, “but you are not yet re-established enough to talk much; you must take care of your health, and neither study nor preach for some time. I have been thinking over a scheme that struck me to-day when you mentioned your intended departure. I never was in Switzerland. I have a great mind to accompany your daughter and you into that country. I will help to take care of you by the road; for as I was your first physician, I hold myself responsible for your cure.”
La Roche’s eyes glistened at the proposal. His daughter was called in and told of it. She was equally pleased[170] with her father, for they really loved their landlord,—not perhaps the less for his infidelity; at least, that circumstance mixed a sort of pity with their regard for him,—their souls were not of a mould for harsher feelings; hatred never dwelt in them.
They travelled by short stages; for the philosopher was as good as his word in taking care that the old man should not be fatigued. The party had time to be well acquainted with each other, and their friendship was increased by acquaintance. La Roche found a degree of simplicity and gentleness in his companion which is not always annexed to the character of a learned or a wise man. His daughter, who was prepared to be afraid of him, was equally undeceived. She found in him nothing of that self-importance which superior parts, or great cultivation of them, is apt to confer. He talked of everything but philosophy and religion; he seemed to enjoy every pleasure and amusement of ordinary life, and to be interested in the most common topics of discourse; when his knowledge of learning at any time appeared, it was delivered with the utmost plainness and without the least shadow of dogmatism.
On his part, he was charmed with the society of the good clergyman and his lovely daughter. He found in them the guileless manner of the earliest times, with the culture and accomplishment of the most refined ones; every better feeling warm and vivid, every ungentle one repressed or overcome. He was not addicted to love; but he felt himself happy in being the friend of Mademoiselle La Roche, and sometimes envied her father the possession of such a child.
After a journey of eleven days, they arrived at the dwelling of La Roche. It was situated in one of those valleys of the canton of Berne, where Nature seems to repose, as it were, in quiet, and has enclosed her retreat with mountains inaccessible. A stream, that spent its fury in the hills above, ran in front of the house, and a broken waterfall was seen through the wood that covered its sides; below it circled round a tufted plain, and formed a little lake in front of a village, at the end of which appeared the spire of La Roche’s church, rising above a clump of beeches.
Mr. —— enjoyed the beauty of the scene; but to his companions it recalled the memory of a wife and parent they had lost. The old man’s sorrow was silent; his daughter sobbed and wept. Her father took her hand, kissed it twice, pressed it to his bosom, threw up his eyes to heaven, and, having wiped off a tear that was just about to drop from each, began to point out to his guest some of the most striking objects which the prospect afforded. The philosopher interpreted all this, and he could but slightly censure the creed from which it arose.
They had not been long arrived when a number of La Roche’s parishioners, who had heard of his return, came to the house to see and welcome him. The honest folks were awkward, but sincere, in their professions of regard. They made some attempts at condolence; it was too delicate for their handling, but La Roche took it in good part. “It has pleased God,” said he; and they saw he had settled the matter with himself. Philosophy could not have done so much with a thousand words.
It was now evening, and the good peasants were[172] about to depart, when a clock was heard to strike seven, and the hour was followed by a particular chime. The country folks, who had come to welcome their pastor, turned their looks toward him at the sound. He explained their meaning to his guest.
“That is the signal,” said he, “for our evening exercise. This is one of the nights of the week in which some of my parishioners are wont to join in it; a little rustic saloon serves for the chapel of our family and such of the good people as are with us. If you choose rather to walk out, I will furnish you with an attendant; or here are a few old books that may afford you some entertainment within.”
“By no means,” answered the philosopher; “I will attend Mademoiselle at her devotions.”
“She is our organist,” said La Roche. “Our neighborhood is the country of musical mechanism, and I have a small organ fitted up for the purpose of assisting our singing.”
“’Tis an additional inducement,” replied the other; and they walked into the room together.
At the end stood the organ mentioned by La Roche; before it was a curtain, which his daughter drew aside, and, placing herself on a seat within and drawing the curtain close so as to save her the awkwardness of an exhibition, began a voluntary, solemn and beautiful in the highest degree. Mr. —— was no musician, but he was not altogether insensible to music; and this fastened on his mind more strongly from its beauty being unexpected. The solemn prelude introduced a hymn, in which such of the audience as could sing immediately[173] joined. The words were mostly taken from holy writ; it spoke the praises of God, and his care of good men. Something was said of the death of the just, of such as die in the Lord. The organ was touched with a hand less firm; it paused; it ceased; and the sobbing of Mademoiselle La Roche was heard in its stead. Her father gave a sign for stopping the psalmody, and rose to pray. He was discomposed at first, and his voice faltered as he spoke; but his heart was in his words, and its warmth overcame his embarrassment. He addressed a Being whom he loved, and he spoke for those he loved. His parishioners caught the ardor of the good old man; even the philosopher felt himself moved, and forgot, for a moment, to think why he should not.
La Roche’s religion was that of sent............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved