Straggling Excerpts from a Journal Kept in Switzerland

Title

Straggling Excerpts from a Journal Kept in Switzerland

Subject

Travel in Switzerland, troubled marriage.

Description

The narrator, "Miss S.", describes her travels in Switzerland with two young female companions, and their encounter with a mysterious English gentleman with a troubled past.

Creator

Sedgwick, Catharine M.

Source

Sartain's Union Magazine, Volume II (January-June 1848): 115-121.

Publisher

[edited by Caroline M. Kirkland]

Date

1848

Contributor

Kaley McDowell; D. Gussman

Relation

Reprinted as "The English Colonel and His Wife" by Miss Catharine M. Sedgwick in The Gem of the Season: A Souvenir for 1851, 58-80. New York: Leavitt and Company, 1851 [pub. 1850].

Language

English

Type

Document

Text

STRAGGLING EXTRACTS,
FROM A JOURNAL KEPT IN SWITZERLAND.
_____

BY MISS CATHERINE M SEDGWICK
_____

[p. 115]

MONDAY morning, June 1st, 1840. We left Lausanne this morning, and ascending the high hill on the route to Berne by voiturier’s pace, we had time for many a loving, lingering look at Lake Leman, no longer the “clear, placid Leman” of our dreams, of poetry of Rousseau and Byron; but enriched with the best realities of life. The friendship of the wise and good has made its borders a home to us—has consecrated it, so that it is no longer strange and foreign, but a part of the “holy land” of the heart; where that Temple stands which binds what is most precious on earth to that which is most ardently hoped for in heaven. A farewell seemed sent back to us from the lovely water. Shall I ever forget these last looks of the Lake? the rocks of Meíllerie? the Pain de Sucre? the Dent du Midi? I went within the walls of the cemetery on the declivity of the hill, to visit John Kemble’s grave. A gentleman was standing beside it. In my haste (the carriage was awaiting me) I did not at first notice him. As I turned to pluck a leaf from the cedar which overhung the spot, my eye met his; and with unusual frankness (he was obviously an Englishman) he said, courteously touching his hat: “We owe this homage to our countryman, and I am glad to see it rendered.”

“The name is a great one,” I replied, without thinking it necessary to vitiate my homage in his eyes, by saying that I was an American? or to

[p. 116]

tell him that the Kemble name had a more potent charm for me than that with which genius had prodigally endowed it.*

*[author’s note]: Campbell says, in his valedictory address to John Kemble:--
His was the spell o’er hearts
Which only acting lends;
The youngest of the sister arts,
Where all their beauty blends.

When I returned to the carriage, my companions eagerly asked me if I had observed the gentleman, who, from the distance at which they had seen him, struck them as having an air of unusual elegance.—“Yes, I had observed and spoken with him.”

********, who never fails to express her thorough prejudice, then said:--“He is not an Englishman.”

“Yes, he is English, and a military man.”

“Ah! Then he has been over the world, and perhaps in America, and learned something of manners and humanities!”

“With the latter,” I said, “I fancied Heaven had endowed him, for he has a very charming face.”

Both ***** and **** wished they had gone with me; a charming human countenance would be a pleasant variety from the only face they had seen to admire for a long while—the face of the country.

At a little village where we stopped to lunch, we went to the parish church to see Queen Bertha’s tomb, and her worm-eaten saddle.

Her remains were found in a subterranean part of the same church, and re-interred with an inscription, setting forth this Burgundian lady as an endower of monasteries, a constructor of roads, and a protector of the poor. She was a princess comme il y en a peu at present, in more than the doing of these magnificent acts, as appears from her saddle, on which she rode astride, with her bust above an iron ring that encircles her; and she spun as she rode—“not like you romantic girls,” as I said to my companions, “warp and woof of poetry and romance, but veritable thread of flax!”

FREYBURG.

Glad were we again to hail the picturesque gate of this old town. We left the carriage and walked in. The bourgeoisie were sitting around the old linden tree; a still strong and fresh memorial of enthusiastic patriotism. After the celebrated battle of Morat,

“Morat and Marathon, twin names shall stand,”

where a few Swiss gained a brilliant victory over a large Burgundian force, a young soldier of Freyburg, one of the “unbought champions,” left the patriot victors, and with a branch of a linden-tree in his hand, he ran all the way to his native city, which he entered crying “Victory!” and sank down dead from exhaustion. The linden-branch was planted on the spot. The tree flourished; and now there are tongues in its massive trunk and luxuriant branches, which are tenderly supported on a species of scaffolding.

We rose early, and went on to the terrace of the Zeringer Hoff, which hangs over the deep abyss, worn by the Sarine; from here you see the beautiful suspension-bridge, which spans the gulf some hundreds of feet above the Sarine’s bed, and the little thread of a foot-bridge higher up in the gorge. It looked so very wiry and sharp in the misty distance, so faintly traced on the sky, that a faithful follower of the Prophet might have taken it for a vision of that bridge which carries few safe over. The great tower of the cathedral, and the towers on the declivities of the hills, look as they did in the dreary days of last autumn; but now it is summer, and there is beauty and gladness every where; in the little gardens niched on the hillside; in the laburnums and roses almost dipping in the water: they are smiles of immortal youth about images of age and decay. As we re-entered the hotel, I met the stranger of the cemetery. My companions passed on; but I took the privilege of my age, and in reply to a courteous recognition, spoke to him of our mutual experience during the past day’s travel. He, too, had stopped to see Queen Bertha’s riding equipment; that being one of the regular way-side lions. He spoke of the spindle; he liked that symbol of her sex’s destiny. It might be well for princesses to enlarge their horizon; it might even be necessary; but for women in private life, he liked a literal adherence to the domestic life for which they were made.

“If they were made for that alone,” I ventured to say.

“Perhaps,” he said, “you would admit apostolic authority; and St. Paul, I believe, is of my opinion.”

“There is a wide scope in St. Paul’s writings,” I replied, “and I thought he was of too generous a spirit to hold all women within one narrow pen of household duties.”

A second summons to breakfast, broke of the speculation upon which we had rather awkwardly fallen. When I reported it to my companions, ***** said, it was just like an Englishman—if he spoke at all, to say something disagreeable—no wonder that Madame de Stäel said an Englishman had two left hands; --who but an Anglo-Saxon would have pounced upon such a topic to a party of ladies?


The road from Freyburg to Berne lies through a country much like the richest and most beautiful

[p. 117]

parts of our own Berkshire—Berkshire without the Alps—Hamlet, the character of Hamlet omitted. The hills, even, have a loftier station than ours; and instead of our shabby fences, wherever there are divisions there are hedges.

Their cottages are the prettiest of all rural architecture, with their projecting roofs and galleries. Their farming utensils, ladders, rakes, etc., hanging under their shadow; the neat piles of wood husbanded under the same shelter; and the bee-hives close under the windows--a fitting emblem of this intelligent and producing people. The rosy, stout Bernese dames, and their chubby children, both in their prettiest of all costumes, give to the landscape a living beauty. The cheerful rural life here is a contrast to Italy, where there seems to be no rural habitancy. There, for the most part, the dwellings of the working people are crowded into narrow, stifling lanes; the few straggling habitations in the open country look like jails with their iron croisées. In the canton of Berne, I am often reminded of my own country;--if not an equality of condition, there are no contrasts—no frightful distances between man and man. There is a general diffusion of comfort—no grand seigneurs—no beggars. The cultivation and products, too, remind me of home. The grasses, the beautiful turf, the apples, cherries, willows, limes (the finest I have ever seen), and the elms. The gardens resemble our gardens at this season—the same dominance of utility and small tribute to beauty—a narrow hem of peonies, seringas, moss-pinks and yellow-lilies, round ample beds of lettuce, beets, etc.

We entered Berne at noon on market day, which occurs every Tuesday, and the concourse is greatest on the first Tuesday of the month; so we are fortunate in our day. The streets are crowded; the people are selling and bartering every species of movable property, from fat cattle, horses, etc., to light domestic manufactures, which the women carry about; some on wooden frames, while others have tapes, cords, and chains tucked into their apron-strings. There is a sprinkling of fresh, pretty little peasant girls, with natural flowers, curiously woven together, for sale. We jostled our way through the crowded streets; heeding every thing, but quite unheeded ourselves: not quite; for again we met the English traveller, and exchanged salutations. The peasants are better dressed than I have ever seen any rural population. Their clothes are of strong materials and enduring colors; and the white chemise-sleeves and waist, purely white, give to the whole appearance the paramount of charm and cleanliness. We are at the Faucon, excelling among the excellent Swiss inns. My English friend (friend! but acquaintance ripens apace in these foreign lands), sat next to me ; on ***** saying, that of all working women in the world, she would rather be a Bernese peasant, he said to me in a low voice, that the fly-cap would not be unbecoming to the young lady, with her light form and spiritual eye; but he thought it grotesque appendage to fat old women, or solid young matrons; they certainly are a most unaerial people.

THUN.

Here we are at the Bellevue—an inn in the midst of a garden tastefully laid out, and embellished with flowering shrubs. The river Aar is running away below us as if the Lake of Thun, of which it is the outlet, had been its prison. The little town of Thun is on our right, with chateau, church, and towers crowning the hill it covers; behind us is a precipitous green hill with a walk half way up to heaven, where a summer house is pitched to look out over this beautiful scenery, which seems like some exquisite picture become, by miracle, a reality. There is the lake, stretching for fifteen miles at the feet of these giant hills; and for mountains, the Stockhorn, the Neisen, and the Blumlis, whose eternal snows, cut into sharp angles, give the most startling effects of light and shadow—their existence here is blessing enough.

It is strange to see summer and winter side by side—inflexible winter, with the richest blossoming of summer. Man seems to live contentedly here on the patrimony God has given him—there is no commerce, no manufactures. The parent divides his agricultural property equally among his children; and from the very comfortable aspect of their homes, there would seem to be enough for their moderate wants. The valleys are thick set with corn, and the uplands devoted to pasturage. The woodlands belong to the commune, and the division is made by proper officers. The warmest slopes are covered with vines; and wine is so cheap, that each person has a bottle at dinner without an extra charge.

LAUTERBRUNNEN.

As we came into the little green steamer that was to carry us over the lake this morning, I again met our English traveller; and we shook hands as if we were old friends. He did not see fit to communicate his name, but he had ascertained ours on the register of the Faucon, and he soon began talking of New-York, where he had once been, and of Dr. H------’s and Mr. H------’s families, whose hospitable doors are always open to foreigners of any pretension. Even *****, with her cherished aversion of all Englishmen, admits that he is very pleasing—or, as she words it, very un-English. He has a shade of sadness over his fine face, that only passes for a moment

[p. 118]

when he is in very animated conversation. It is thrown there, I feel sure, from some settled sorrow. I told him he had lost a great deal by not arriving earlier at Thun. He said, civilly, that he was aware he was a loser, inasmuch as he had lost our society; but as to Thun, he was familiar with it—he had passed the happiest days of his life there, and he did not care to go there again. “And there,” he added, as we were passing a lovely villa which had once been a convent of the Chartreux, “there I lived one beautiful summer.” Some painful recollection smote him—he turned suddenly from me, and paced up and down the deck; and then, as if determined to master his sensations, he returned to my side, and directed my eye to the cascades leaping down the precipices, and then the beetling rock over the cave of St. Beatus, which he said he had once visited. “We penetrated several hundred feet,” he said, “and found some relics of human habitancy, but no traces of the dragon whom the saint is said to have ejected from his holy habitation. I wonder if it is only by living the life of a hermit that one can master a dragon?” He spoke in a tone so deep and expressive, that I involuntarily looked at him as if he were betraying a monomania.

I think he perceived the impression he had made; for, resuming his usual manner, he directed my attention to a straggling village far above St. Beatus’s cave, whose only access is a winding footpath.

“A rugged, difficult ascent,” I said.

“No, not very difficult,” he replied, “to youth and enterprise. I once made it with a young woman about the age, I imagine, of your young friends.”

“An Englishwoman?” I spoke involuntarily, for I have seen too many English to put a premeditated question.

“I beg your pardon,” he answered, “Swiss. We passed a week at the house of the pastor--an Oberlin—who so kindly led his flock in this stern and scanty pasture, that I learned from him to look with contempt upon the egotism of the old anchorite of the cave.”

With the enchantment of the scenery, and the interest of my new friend, the moments flew, and I left the steamer with regret for the carriage that our courier procured us at New-Haus. There was one vacant seat in the carriage; and, knowing that my acquaintance was bound for this place, I asked him to occupy it, feeling it to be but a common way-side humanity. At first he accepted it cordially; but then some difficulty about arranging his baggage occurring (for an Englishman can do nothing extempore), he declined, and we drove off ; my young women exclaiming, “How could you?” “What on earth will he think of us--he is an Englishman?” &c., &c. To all which I replied by asserting a calm confidence in our own dignity, and my assurance of that degree of education and refinement in my acquaintance, that it could not be compromised by a two hours’ drive with him.

I then excited their curiosity by items of his conversation which they had not heard, and by interpolating a few sighs, and even a tear which I was secretly sure he had repressed, I gave sufficient ground for their imagination to expatiate on. ***** was sure ‘he had a story, God bless him!”--and that was some comfort; and after a while we talked ourselves into an egotistic half-belief that he had followed us up into these high temples. **** and ***** of course reverently imputed to me the attraction; but I very well knew an elderly lady was a trifling make-weight when there were two charming young ones in the scale. However, as it fell out, we might have saved ourselves the trouble of our reciprocal concessions.

As we wound up the green valley towards Lauterbrunnen, we passed the castle of Unsprunnen. It is an old ruined tower, with a flanking turret, which has a pretty tradition attached to it of feud and love, the scaling of castle-walls, and carrying off of an only daughter, and, after years of bloody strife, a reconciliation by means of the child-robber appearing within the castle-wall, and presenting his young boy to the old father. The ruin, however, derives its chief interest from it being the locale of Byron’s Manfred--a fitting genius loci in the face of the magnificent Jungfrau. The valley narrowed as we advanced along the margin of the wild Lutschine, rather a torrent than a stream. The grandeur of this valley surpasses any thing we have seen yet. The valley itself is 2450 feet above the level of the sea. The height of the walls of rock that enclose it I do not know ; but, towering above all the rest, is the Junfrau, 14,000 feet high. Valley this can scarcely be called—there is a little life-giving earth at the base of these everlasting rocks. Its name, Lauterbrunnen, signifies “nothing but fountains”--and more than a hundred streams, leaping over the rocks, or trickling down them, may be counted from our inn-window—the Staubbach, (literally dust-fall,) the most beautiful among them. Byron has so accurately described it, that, in spite of it having become a hack quotation of the guide-books, I again transcribe it:

“It is not noon. The sunbow’s rays still arch
The torrent with the sunny hues of heaven,
And roll the sheeted silver’s waving column
O’er the crag’s headlong perpendicular,
And fling its lines of foaming light along,
And to and fro, like the pale courser’s tail,
The giant steed to be bestrode by Death,
As told in the Apocalypse.”

[p. 119]

After all, as Byron concludes in his still better prose description, it is “something wonderful and indescribable.”

The weather is misty this afternoon; and Héry, a charming Swiss guide, (for whom, for our journey through the Oberland, we have exchanged our Italian Gil Blas courier,) advises deferring the passage of the Wengern Alp till to-morrow; so we have been walking up this wondrous valley. ‘Dust-fall’ is a wretched name for the Staubbach, unless there be diamond dust. The height is so immense whence it falls, that it is broken into the smallest drops before it reaches the ground. Each little fall has an individual life and charm: *****’s quick fancy saw in them the types of the most lovely classic impersonations: “Cupid and the Dolphin,” the “flying Mercury,” &c., and it was just as she was expressing, with a rather Delphic obscurity, her idea, that we were joined by our English friend. He seemed much amused with what he called the extravagance of her imagination. But the light of his reason was in vain offered to its shadowy region. She ‘saw forms he could not see, and there was the end on’t.’

As we were crossing a bright meadow to look at the Lutschine where it issues from the great glacier of the Jungfrau, our curiosity led us to ask admittance into a wretched little Swiss cottage, that we might see its interior. On the table were lying a large Bible and hymn-book. I opened their clasps and found a paper and type worthy a noble’s library. ‘Heir-looms are these,’ I thought; and said to Héry, “Such books are rare, I fancy, in your country.” “I beg your pardon,” he replied; “almost every dwelling has them.”

These poor people are right: these are the records of their birth-right—the charters of their freedom—the title-deeds of their inheritance—and they should be written in fair type, and kept with reverent hands.

I observed the woman who opened the door to us, give a sort of reconnoitring glance at our English friend—and then made an exclamation. She said something, to which he replied with few words and manifest emotion. *****, who begins to partake my interest in the stranger, asked Héry if he heard the words: “Partly,” he said; “the woman said, ‘You are the same gentleman who was here seven years ago, with the lady with eyes never to be forgotten?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘She is dead, then? God’s love be with her!’ ‘No.’ ‘No! And you parted? I thought death only could have parted you!’ ” He turned abruptly away, and it was a quarter of an hour before he rejoined us. I showed him a bunch of very beautiful forget-me-nots I had just gathered, glittering with rain-drops. He took out a pocket-book, and, opening a paper very elaborately folded, showed me a little knot of the same flowers, dried and faded, but the lovely blue still distinct among the pale green leaves. “They were picked here,” he said, “seven years since. Could one have dreamed these frail things would outlast a love that should have been eternal?” And then, as if he involuntarily betrayed himself, he hurried them back into his pocket-book, and did not rejoin me till after we came back to the inn—where we are now, awaiting our tea, and speculating upon the few threads we have extricated from the tangled skein of this new acquaintance.

One additional word, and I have done writing journal for this day.

Enter Héry with a card ; ***** seizes it and reads—“‘Lieutenant-colonel’ –yes it is, ‘ Lieutenant-colonel G----,’ printed; and then in pencil—‘begs to be permitted to take his tea with Miss S-----.’”

I have sent a cordial reply, while my young ladies are discussing the card.

“G-----,” says *****, “is not that the family name of the Earl of -----?”

“Yes; but you know you do not regard earls.”

“No; but one may respect an earl’s younger brother, who has attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel before he is thirty.”

“Perhaps, the earl bought the commission for him,” I suggested.

“No! no! I do not believe it: he looks as if he had earned it.”

I am pleased to find, that my prepossessions are gaining confirmation.

This has been an agitated, eventful evening. How far were we from anticipating the result of our detention at this inn! If we never see the passage of the Wengern Alp, we shall be consoled. The lieutenant-colonel came to our tea-table, which much resembled our own liberal evening meal at home. After we were seated round the table, our pretty buxom waiter brought in half-foot of honey-comb, from whose full cells the packed honey was oozing. This delicious preserve is a stable commodity of a Swiss table; and I have not yet seen a charge made for it—a proof of its abundance. The colonel seemed a little embarrassed at first coming among us, but was quite at his ease after taking an opportunity to say to me in a low voice, that I must have thought it very odd of him to make the communication he did to me—one hardly knew how it was—certainly, there were moments when one was hardly master of one’s self—when accumulated feeling--

[p. 120]

suffering, perhaps—at a look of sympathy, burst all barriers;--he hoped I would forget it.

The conversation then took a general turn. Colonel G-----, as well as ourselves, had visited Italy; and the discussion between him and *****, on various works of art, (her opinions are always her own, and not derived from any authority or reputation,) was animated. On many points they agreed; on some widely differed; but agreeing or not, every subject was converted to enjoyment by intelligence and sympathy. It is curious to see, how rapidly acquaintance ripens with people of congenial spirit who meet as travellers far from their home. All barriers are thrown down—all conventionalities forgotten; and we become almost as wise as little children in this matter.

The evening was wearing away: it was nearly ten o’clock, when our landlady burst into the room, and addressing Colonel G----- said : “If you are a doctor, as they tell me, for the love of God, follow me!”

“I am no doctor,” replied the colonel: “but what is the matter?”

“Oh! There is a mother and her only child; and the child dying; and the mother going out of her senses!”

“Is there no doctor nor medicine in your village?”

“Not a dust of it. The doctor is at Interlaken, and the key turned on the medicine.”

“I am no physician,” said the colonel, turning to me; “but my profession has made it my duty often to look after the sick; and I will never travel without a small medicine-chest. If you will be kind enough to ascertain if I can be of any service, I shall be most happy.”

I followed our hostess, who, without any ceremony, conducted me up stairs and into the distressed mother’s room. Ceremony would, indeed, have been out of place. There, writhing on a bed, lay a little girl of five or six; she was not in convulsions: they would have mercifully relieved her consciousness. Never did I witness more mortal agony. The mother was wringing her hands, kissing the child, rubbing her and exclaiming, “My God! my god! can no help be found?”

I ordered a hot bath and fomentations; and begged our hostess to bring the doctor immediately in; hoping by giving Colonel G---- this title, to give some comfort to the poor mother.

“Oh! Claire, my child, you will soon be better,” she cried; and then burying her head on the pillow, she sobbed frantically, “my all!--my all!”

Colonel G---- entered, and instantly became as white as marble. He stood for a moment as transfixed; then beckoning to me, he left the room: I followed him.

“These are my wife and child,” he said ; “what is to be done?--what can I do?”

I believe I was inspired by the exigency of the case, to give prudent counsel.

“Act,” I said, “as if they were not your wife and child; the little girl must be relieved at once, if at all; her mother is evidently incapable of doing or suggesting any thing. You must use all the resources you have; you must be calm and self-possessed.

“I will—God help me ! I will,” he said; and we both returned to the bedside of the child. Fortunately, the mother was so completely absorbed, her eye so riveted to the child, that she never once looked at the supposed doctor. He administered a powerful opiate. The warm bath was brought; and after getting considerable relief from that, we applied the fomentations. All this time Colonel G---- was perfectly calm; and except from his frightful paleness, and a slight tremulousness that pervaded his frame, one would not have suspected any thing unusual. He spoke in a whisper, and only to me. I think it was not more than half an hour, though it seemed much longer, when the remedies began to take effect; and in a short time the little girl’s limbs became relaxed and quiet; and a sweet tranquility was diffused over her beautiful features.

“Oh dear mamma!” she said, “I am so much better! I am almost well! what a good doctor!”

The mother now for the first time, lifted her eyes to the good doctor. The blood rushed to her cheek, and then utterly forsook it. She attempted to speak; but the words died on her lips, and she fainted.

In the exigency, Colonel G---- did, indeed, use all his faculties admirably. The little girl screamed; he first quieted her ; telling her, her mother would be well again directly; that she had been frightened with her suffering, and she was very tired ; and if she wished to have her well, she must keep quite quiet herself. “This lady,” he said, “will stay with you, while I lay your mother on a sofa in the next room; and give her something that will make her well again very soon.”

He took the mother in his arms, and carried her into the adjoining parlor. The little girl, with the ready confidence of childhood, took my hand; and turning her cheek to it, said : “He is a good doctor;” and adding twice or thrice drowsily—“poor mamma!—dear mamma!” The opiate took effect; and she fell into a sweet sleep.

I soon was informed by the stir in the next room, that the lady had revived. I heard voices softened by tears ; then calmer, more assured tones; and after a while, Colonel G---- came into the room. His face was radiant. He gently, and again and again, kissed his child; thanked me with a fervor beyond all measure; saying, that


[p. 121]
he was the happiest man living; and that he would explain everything to me in the morning. He asked me if I would pass the night beside the little girl, as his wife was in such a condition of alternate nervous excitement and exhaustion, that he dared not leave her, or permit her to resume her part beside her child.

Of course I am most happy to do him this small service. So, having bid the girls good night, and having abstained from exciting my curiosity, and abating their night’s sleep, by any allusion to the extraordinary developments in this apartment, I have put on my dressing-gown, and have set down to my journal to record circumstances that have murdered my sleep for this night. The morning came in its due course; but, alas! no sun, and “no hope of the Wengern Alp!” as I heard Héry say, in reply to the eager inquiries of the young ladies, when he tapped at their door. We have an appointment to keep—we must go down to Grindelwald to day.

“To Grindelwald, by the high-road!” exclaims ****; I had rather pass the Wengern Alp blind-fold, than not pass it.”

“As well blindfold Mademoiselle,” replies Héry, “as while the Mittag-horn, the Breit-horn, and Gross-horn, are themselves blindfolded with clouds.”

“But what has become of the Colonel?” asked ****; and thought I, “Is he so taken up with his patients, that he has forgotten us?”

I confess, I was very unwilling to go off, without knowing more of his story; but I did not choose to press on the confidence which he might have reasons for withholding ; or at any rate, chose to withhold. He had early sent a message to me, to say, that the mother was much refreshed, and would resume her place by the child.

Our carriage was ordered—was at the door; and nothing from the colonel; and I was just writing him a civil farewell-note, when he rushed into the room, saying, “Is it possible you were going, without giving me an opportunity of thanking you—of speaking to you alone?” he added, turning to my companions, “though whatever I have to say to Miss S----, she can at her discretion communicate to you if you have any interest in the subject.”

The girls immediately withdrew; with interest quite enough to justify the communication which I had the pleasure of making to their astonished ears on the way to Grindelwald.

It seems that Colonel G----, some seven years ago,--then a very young, and a very impetuous young man, as he says,--was passing a few weeks in Zurich, when he fell distractedly in love with Miss V----. She was the only child of the widow of a rich banker; beautiful, and gifted with high qualities of mind and heart; but somewhat perverted and spoiled by the alternate doting and despotism of her mother, “a fierce old woman,” he called her; to whom I might remember his alluding, when he spoke of the dragon ejected by St. Beatus. He married Miss V----; the mother being delighted with the idea of a noble English alliance, and professing to have no concern at his having but a few poor hundreds per annum. She accompanied the new-married pair to England. There she was received by his proud family without any disguise of their estimate of the infinite distance between them. Her coarse passions were provoked. She imparted a degree of her jealousy and resentment to her daughter; and after one year, and before the birth of his child, they separated; and the mother and daughter returned to Switzerland.

“We were both,” he said, “the victims of our ignorance of life. We did not understand the true proportions of things—that the less must be sacrificed to the greater. We were both irritable and passionate; totally unfit to manage the most complicated and delicate relation of life—that in which unity and individuality are so marvellously blended, that not a fibre of one can be touched, without jarring and endangering the peaceful existence of the other. We parted,” he said; “and till yesterday, I never saw my lovely child. I had determined never to claim her ;--thank God, I felt a mother’s rights too deeply, ever to have thought of separating them. My wife had the expectation of immense wealth; I was poor, and too proud to sue for reconciliation. I have been five years in India, where my wife supposed me still to be. There I have earned some honor; and now, possessing an income suited to my military rank, I came to Switzerland, in the hope of regaining the domestic happiness I so recklessly threw away. I dreaded the mother. I came here to nerve myself, in the scenes where I passed the first week of my then blissful married life. Madame V---- died ten days since; and hither my wife,--led by divine inspiration, I think—came also.—You know the rest.”

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Sedgwick, Catharine M., “Straggling Excerpts from a Journal Kept in Switzerland,” Sedgwick Stories: The Periodical Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick, accessed October 28, 2021, https://sedgwickstories.omeka.net/items/show/48.

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