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Placed at too great a distance to distinguish by whom the word of command was given, I saw the two prisoners suddenly drop on their knees to listen to the bitter sentence of the law.
The sinner in grey, whose criminality appeared to be a shade less dark than that of the sinner in black, bent down his head as he knelt, and, as far as I could judge by his movements, tears were falling from his eyes; but the fel. low in black, with unequalled audacity, laughed outright, and kept up a series of buffooneries, as if attempting to excite the risibility of the spectators.
“What are they doing ?" whispered Peter, whose spectacles were at fault.
“Reciting to the prisoners the sentences of their courts-martial, as confirmed by the council of war, previous to undergoing a certain term of imprisonment. Already, as you perceive, the men have been strip ped of their military uniforms. They are now about to be degraded in the sight of the garrison of Paris, and paraded along the line in their prison clothes, handcuffed, and dragging after them each a cannon-ball, fastened by a chain round their middle. Expelled the service, they must take leave, as it were, of their comrades, under these humiliating degradations."
The impudent rascal in black seems as bold as brass," cried Peter. “ See! he has risen from his knees, and they are blindfolding him, while the boulet is being fastened on! Parade him along the line ? Why, the fellow won't stir an inch.”
“ Look again !” cried I. And Peter had the satisfaction of seeing him impelled ouwards smartly by a soldier holding him by the arm on either side, and soon the clanking of his chain and the rumbling of the boulet against the stones, as it dragged after him, asserted that he was in rapid motion. At that moment not a syllable was breathed along the ranks. Attention was the word -and the word itself was audible from one end of the Place Vendôme to the other, distinct as the striking of a bell.
Once and again the black figure with blindfolded eyes shuffled along in its sabots ; halting at length before the column, there to abide during the punishment of its companion. But the moment the poor lad in grey was harnessed with his boulet, a murmur of commiseration arose among the throng. He was so young!-his countenance was downcast!-and, though the colour and fashioning of his prison.garment announced that his transgression was of a very
different nature from that of his companion, entailing only three months' detention in a military prison, instead of the hulks awaiting the criminal in black, (who was under sentence for theft, with attempt to murder the corporal by whom he was taken into custody,) the crowd, and more especially the female part of it, seemed of opinion that he was too severely punished.
Proud even in his broken-heartedness, he evidently scorned to be dragged along like a malefactor; for, though still retaining his downcast countenance, so that his swollen eyelids were scarcely discernible, he walked firm and erect, and the boulet moved steadily at his heels, instead of being jerked from stone to stone, as by the movements of his refractory fellow-prisoner. Grey Mantle was back again at the column in half the time the felon had accomplished his ignominious task.
And now another prolonged roll of the drums announced that a por
tion of the solemnity of the day was at an end. The boulets were taken off; and while the two prisoners, closely flanked and strongly guarded, were posted immediately in front of the column, so as to form a prominent mark, the band struck up once more its inspiriting strains, and marched past them in quick time, followed in succession by the whole complement of troops assembled, successively broken up into companies. That was the most impressive moment. The two wretched looking beings standing there in their infamy to listen to the cheering measures to which they had so often marched in the performance of their duty, and beholding their comrades in all the bright array of discipline proceed cheerily along, while they stood shivering in their sabots, not daring to cast a look in their faces-sunk as they were, had still to bear the heavier penalty of their faults !
“ Just so can one conceive Lucifer, after his fall, contemplating the upward flight of legions of free and happy angels!" quoth Peter, who was beginning to snivel. “Alas! poor fellows !-brave soldiers, perhaps, as any here, yet about to be debarred the blessed light of heaven, and the free use of their limbs. This sunshine is the last that will warm them for months; and, instead of yonder gladsome music, the death-like silence of prison solitude is decreed them !"
Cousin Peter was prosing, or rather poeticising, on 10 his heart's content, when his thin small voice was overpowered by a general shouting from the populace in our vicinity for “La Marchande ! La Mar. chande !” meaning one of those itinerant venders of filtered water, (calling itself iced water,) a dozen of which were scattered along the outskirts of the throng, with their gay fountains and plated goblets, as they invariably are in Paris, wherever two or three hundred are gathered together. “A cup of water” was loudly called for. Somebody had fainted.
I now remembered with compunction that, intent upon exhibiting to my cousin Peter the minutiæ of a ceremonial so interesting to every friend of humanity, I had forgotten to take care, or even heed, of the two poor women at one time stationed by my side; and, now that the crowd had changed its formn to yield to the movements of the military, (who were wheeling off in companies, and taking up their position on the opposite side of the square, till the prisoners should have marched back again into the general's quarters, and they were at liberty to march themselves back to their own,) they were nowhere to be seen. My mind misgave me that it was for one of them water was called; but, as is usual in case of a swoon, the mob pressed round the fainting person to shut out the fresh air with such assiduous humanity, as to intercept all means of satisfying my curiosity.
“Look, look !" cried Peter, far more interested in the aspects of the military prisoners than in the sprinkling of a young lady's face with fil. tered water, “how daring the aspect of that hardened ruffian !-how humbled the looks of his companion! There is plenty of room. We can advance nearer to them now.”
And the staid prim old bachelor actually trotted me off towards the column, in the wake of a tribe of gamins of the lowest description, who were cheering the impudent offender with cries-worthy of the intellects of their class of “ Vive la Marsellaise !"
As we drew towards the column, a ragged hat, half full of gros sous, and smelling of halfpence and hunanity enough to poison a lord, was tendered to us for our subscription for the prisoners,-such being the
charitable custom of the mob in favour of one of their order brought to condign punishment.
After we had taken out twopence and given them to the hat-bearer, we were suffered to proceed. But, on arriving within immediate view of the iwain, there was something so revolting in the dare.devil look of the one, something so touching in the humbled despondency of the other, that I was fain to retreat. I could as soon have looked upon the mangled back of an English soldier writhing under the lash, as upon that meek offender.
" What was the younger soldier's fault ?” said I, having contrived to make my way to the iron railing of the column, so as 10 accost that man of renown,—that Malvolio in a worsted epaulet, Corporal Diakon, alias the “ Capitaine de la Colonne,"—the non-commissioned officer invested by Government with the charge of the column.
“ Un délit plusque capital !-a breach of military discipline," growled the stanch soldier, (with whom, Deo volente , I mean to make the British public better acquainted.)
“ Desertion ?" persisted I, remembering the penalty entailed in Eng. land by this heinous transgression.
But even Corporal Diakon's sonorous voice was at that moment rendered inaudible by a piercing shriek froin some woman attempting to press her way through the crowd towards the prisoners, ere they were marched off to prison, “Let me pass,-let me pass,
-or I may never see his face again !" cried the poor old woman, my recent neighbour, apparently roused from her depression to attempt some desperate effort; and still drenched with the water which kind but officious Samaritans had showered on her young companion, as she lay insensible,—“Let me pass, if you have the hearts of Christians !"
The pitying throng ceded to her struggles, and made way for her to approach the prisoner. But, alas! the file of soldiers with their loaded muskets were stationed there expressly to prevent all intercourse between the criminals and the crowd.
“Only one word with Victor-only one !" gasped the agonised old creature, still pressing onwards.
" 'Tisthe mother of the young girl who has fainted,--the bonne amie, no doubt, of one of the prisoners," murmured the gamins who stood near me.
" At least let me look upon his face !" faltered the woman, wring. ing her hands.
“ Arrière !” was all the answer of the soldiers, stiff as ramrods, and strengthened in the stanchness of subordination by witnessing the solemnity of the morning.
“Victor, Victor!" screamed the despairing woman on finding her. self thus repulsed; while murmurs of “shame ! shame !" began to arise among the ragged regiment of gamins.
Just then I caught sight of the face of the two prisoners, whom the lower stature of the poor woman excluded from her view, and there was no difficulty in deciding to which them her visit was addressed. Her voice, her piteous exclamations, had reached their ears; and the face of the grey man was instantly overspread by a vivid Aush, which as quickly gave place to ashy paleness. From the moment his com. rade had marched past, as if bidding him adieu for ever, he had fallen into a sort of sullen stupor; but now the big lears gathered anew under his eyelids.
“Speak-speak, you who are near to him !" she cried, distractedly, addressing a few who, like myself, seemed to overtop the heads of the soldiers. “Tell him that his mother and sister have struggled up from Auvergne to see him. Tell him she is innocenttell him Manon is innocent ! Say, that while he was incurring this dreadful sentence, by absenting himself without leave from his regiment to seek after his sister at the Count's château, she was safe with father at Riom. She is ill.- very ill ! Bid him send her his forgive. ness. Say that his old mother pledges her soul for the innocence of her poor calumniated girl! Oh, sirs! speak to Victor!
See! they are marching off, and he has not heard me! He will never know the truth. They are bearing him to prison, and he will be tormented night and day by the thoughts of his sister's shame. Will no one fol. low him ? Will no one speak to him? Will no one—no one pity me and help me ?"
“Pas ici, ma bonne !-Come back to the young woman!” panted a breathless gamin, plucking her by the sleeve.
“Quick, quick !-the girl is dying !" shouted a second, dragging her along
“Let the poor soul alone,” interposed a third, in a lower voice ; “ I tell you it is too late. She is dead." And at that moment the gay military band, breathing the strain of the “ Cachucha" with all its brass, wheeled lightsomely past.
“ And you told me that my sensibility had nothing to fear in witnessing this accursed scene !" sighed, or rather sobbed, my cousin Peter, after we had assisted to guard the body of the soldier's sister from the trampling of the throng, until the arrival of the Commissaire de police, to draw out his proces verbal. "I vow I would not have to go through the spectacle of that old peasant woman's despair again to he made a fellow of the Royal Society !"
“ You must not suppose such things of frequent occurrence here," said I, scarcely able to articulate.
“I wonder," said Peter, stopping short, " whether any one was considerate enough to inform the poor lad that his sister was lying dead in the Place, and his mother half distracted by her side ?"
“Let us hope not !" I replied, with a heavy sigh. “The young fellow has had misery enough for to-day, in undergoing his sentence. I am even satisfied with my own portion, in having been a mere spec. tator of his Degrading."
BEAUTY thou never hast beheld, unless
This, this is beauty.
Joy dwells with beauty,
All hail to beauty!
THE HAREM UNVEILED."
ARCHIMEDES wanted but leverage in order to enable him to capsize this little globe of ours-a delightful result of philosophy, it cannot be denied, to send us trundling into infinite space! With what gusto the projectors and lady patronesses of science must have listened to the old fellow's lectures at the “Syracusan Mechanics’ Institution.” Talk of the losses of literature indeed; what are they all to the single ab. sence of a syllabus of one course of his lectures ? Not very much unlike this theory of his is the idea that our modern novelists, and writers of tales for annuals, and all that sort of thing, seem to entertain. Give them but the name of a country in Mexico, the Incas start life-like before their rapt vision: Africa suggests Jumbo-rumbo, squaws, (Skwinckanacoosta and such like): China, the dynasty of Tse-chin-fo, Confucius, and the Boures. Their genius is essentially suggestive Not the least amusing part of the pageant thus conjured up before our mind's
eye, is the way that our John Bull habits, ideas, and trains of thought, are adapted to any latitude or longitude under heaven. Amongst the number of my enfans perdus, I find an Oriental fragment; Morier, Miss Pardoe, Pachas of 'Three Tails, and many tales, have won unto themselves fair repute by the same sort of thing; why, in the name of the Prophet, should I not puff the chibouque of complacency on the divan of popularity! Speak, O, less than dogs !—Chok chay, I have spoken. This fragment was sent, like my former, to Christopher North ;-may his mother's grave be defiled! he returned it with a hint that I had better confine my attention to practical chemistry. Again and again I say, judge between Olinthus Jenkinson, and rusty crusty Christopher.
THE HAREM UNVEILED.
AN ORIENTAL FRAGMENT.
“ The plashing waves of the sea of Marmora lazily sank and rose against the marble palaces of Stamboul ; the dusky rocks of the Asian coast loomed hazy in the distance, unchangeable, immutable, the same now and for ever; the distant minarets of Scutari beamed fair and unearthly beneath the placid beams of the silvery moon, like a vision of the future Paradise which awaits each true believer the moment that the last trumpet shall have called bim from his sleep to the bo. soms of the embowered houris! Pera, too, the beautiful! Oh! how passing fair it showed beneath that calm blue azure sky. Beautifuloh, how beautiful! The Turkish fishermen, attired in their picturesque pe-kôles were returning home in their light caïques laden with spoil. This dress is formed of rough blue cloth, -it covers the arms, and sits loosely round the body, reaching from the neck to the knee; it laps over, and is secured by large wooden buttons in front,—a shawl lightly fastened round the waist, with a norwest-er, or fisherman's turban, completed the costume. The cannon boomed along the Bosphorus, while their light barks skimmed lightly over the dark blue waves, ap. pearing from the reflection of their lights like so many-fire-flies in the plains of Giz-tan.