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its effects are preying on despair; and certain it is, the dismal vision will fade away, and Forgetfulness, with her sister Ease, will change the scene. Then let not the wretched be rash, but wait, painful as the struggle may be, the arrival of Forgetfulness; for it will certainly arrive.
I have twice been present at the scene of attempted suicide. The one a love-distracted girl in England, the other of a patriotic friend in France; and as the circumstances of each are strongly pictured in my memory, I will relate them to you. They will in some measure corroborate what I have said of Forgetfulness.
About the year 1766, I was in Lincolnshire, in England, and on a visit at the house of a widow lady, Mrs. E- at a small village in the fens of that county. It was in summer; and one evening after supper, Mrs. E― and myself went to take a turn in the garden. It was about eleven o'clock, and to avoid the night air of the fens, we were walking in a bower, shaded over with hazel bushes. On a sudden, she screamed out, and cried "Lord! look, look!" I cast my eyes through the openings of the hazel bushes, in the direction she was looking, and saw a white shapeless figure, without head or arms, moving along one of the walks at some distance from us. I quitted Mrs. E- and went after it. When I got into the walk where the figure was, and was following it, it took up another walk. There was a holly bush in the corner of the two walks, which, it being night, I did not observe; and as I continued to step forward, the holly bush came in a straight line between me and the figure, and I lost sight of it; and as I passed along one walk, and the figure the other, the holly bush still continued to intercept the view, so as to give the appearance that the figure had vanished. When I came to the corner of the two walks, I caught sight of it again, and coming up with it, I reached out my hand to touch it; and in the act of doing this, the idea struck me, will my hand pass through the air, or shall I feel any thing? Less than a moment would decide this, and my hand rested on the shoulder of a human figure. I spoke, but do not recollect what I said. It answered in a low voice, "Pray let me alone." I then knew who it was. It was a young lady who was on a visit to Mrs. E, and who, when we sat down to supper said she found herself extremely ill, and would go to bed. I called to Mrs. E―, who came, and I said to her, "It is Miss N- .." Mrs. E- said, "My God! I hope you are not going to do yourself any hurt;" for Mrs. E
pected something. She replied with pathetic melancholy, "Life has not one pleasure for me." We got her into the house, and Mrs. E took her to sleep with her.
The case was, the man whom she expected to be married to, had forsaken her, and when she heard he was to be married to another, the shock appeared to her to be too great to be borne. She had retired, as I have said, to her room, and when she supposed all the family were gone to bed, (which would have been the case, if Mrs. E and I had not walked into the garden,) she undressed herself, and tied her apron over her head; which descending below her waist, gave her the shapeless figure I have spoken of.
Aided by the obscurity of almost midnight, and with this and a white under petticoat and slippers, for she had taken out her buckles, and put them at the servant maid's door, I suppose as a keepsake, she came down stairs, and was going to drown herself in a pond at the hottom of the garden, towards which she was going when Mrs. E screamed out. We found afterwards, that she had heard the scream, and that was the cause of her changing her walk.
By gentle usage, and leading her into subjects that might, without doing violence to her feelings, and without letting her see the direct intention of it, steal her as it were from the horror she was in, (and I felt a compasionate, earnest disposition to do it, for she was a good girl,) she recovered her former cheerfulness, and was afterwards a happy wife, and the mother of a family.
The other case, and the conclusion in my next.
In Paris, in 1793, I had lodgings in the Rue Fauxbourg, St. Denis, No. 63. They were the most agreeable, for situation, of any I ever had in Paris, except that they were too remote from the Convention, of which I was then a member. But this was recompensed by their being also remote from the alarms and confusion into which the interior of Paris was then often thrown. The news of those things used to arrive to us, as if we were in a state of tranquility in the country. The house, which was enclosed by a wall and gateway from the street, was a good deal like an old mansion farm house, and the court yard was like a farm yard, stocked with fowls, ducks, turkies, and geese; which, for amusement, we used to feed out of the parlor window on the ground floor. There were some hutches for rabbits, and a sty with two pigs. Beyond, was a garden of
more than an acre of ground, well laid out, and stocked with ex
cellent fruit trees. The orange, apricot, and greengage plum, were the best I ever tasted; and it is the only place where I saw the wild cucumber. The place had formerly been occupied by some
My apartments consisted of three rooms; the first, for wood, water, &c., with an old fashioned closet chest, high enough to hang up clothes in; the next was the bed room; and beyond it the sitting room, which looked into the garden through a glass door; and on the outside there was a small landing place railed in, and a flight of narrow stairs almost hidden by the vines that grew over it, by which I could descend into the garden, without going down stairs through the house. I am trying by description to make you see the place in your mind, because it will assist the story I have to tell; and which I think you can do, because you once called upon me there on account of Sir who was then, as I was soon afterwards, in arrestation. But it was winter when you came, and it is a summer scene I am describing.
I went into my chamber to write and sign a certificate for them,* which I intended to take to the guard house to obtain their release. Just as I had finished it a man came into my room dressed in the Parisian uniform of a captain, and spoke to me in good English, and with a good address. He told me that two young men, Englishmen, were arrested and detained in the guard house, and that the section, (meaning those who represented and acted for the section,) had sent him to ask me if I knew them, in which case they would be liberated. This matter being soon settled between us, he talked to me about the Revolution, and something about the "Rights of Man," which he had read in English; and at parting offered me in a polite and civil manner, his services. And who do you think the man was that offered me his services? It was no other than the public executioner Samson, who guillotined the king, and all who were guillotined in Paris; and who lived in the same section, and in the same street with me.
As to myself, I used to find some relief by walking alone in the garden after dark, and cursing with hearty good will, the authors of that terrible system that had turned the character of the Revolution I had been proud to defend.
Mr. Paine here alludes to two friends who were under arrest. ED.
I went but little to the Convention, and then only to make my appearance; because I found it impossible to join in their tremendous decrees, and useless and dangerous to oppose them. My having voted and spoken extensively, more so than any other member, against the execution of the king, had already fixed a mark upon me: neither dared any of my associates in the Convention to trans. late and speak in French for me, any thing I might have dared to have written.
Pen and ink were then of no use to me: no good could be done by writing, and no printer dared to print; and whatever I might have written for my private amusement, as anecdotes of the times, would have been continually exposed to be examined, and tortured into any meaning that the rage of party might fix upon it; and as to softer subjects, my heart was in distress at the fate of my friends, and my harp hung upon the weeping willows.
As it was summer, we spent most of our time in the garden, and passed it away in those childish amusements that serve to keep reflection from the mind, such as marbles, scotch hops, battledores, &c., at which we were all pretty expert.
In this retired manner we remained about six or seven weeks, and our landlord went every evening into the city to bring us the news of the day, and the evening journal.
I have now, my "Little Corner of the World," led you on, step by step, to the scene that makes the sequel to this narrative, and I will put that scene before your eyes. You shall see it in description as I saw it in fact.*
He recovered, and being anxious to get out of France, a passport was obtained for him and Mr. Choppin: they received it late in the evening, and set off the next morning for Basle before four, from which place I had a letter from them, highly pleased with their escape from France, into which they had entered with an enthusiasm of patriotic devotion. Ah, France! thou hast ruined the character of a Revolution virtuously begun, and destroyed those who produced it. I might almost say like Job's servant, "and I only am escaped."
Two days after they were gone I heard a rapping at the gate,
The second instance of attempted suicide is omitted from motives of personal delicacy. Mr. Paine's letter is continued, as it contains an account of his mode of life before he was sent to prison, &c. ED.
and looking out of the window of the bed room, I saw the landlord going with the candle to the gate, which he opened, and a guard with musquets and fixed bayonets entered. I went to bed again, and made up my mind for prison, for I was then the only lodger. It was a guard to take up but, I thank God, they
were out of their reach.
The guard came about a month after in the night, and took away the landlord, Georgeit; and the scene in the house finished with the arrestation of myself. This was soon after you called on me, and sorry I was. it was not in my power to render to service that you asked.
I have now fulfilled my engagement, and I hope your expectation, in relating the case of — landed back on the shore of life, by the mistake of the pilot, who was conducting him out; and preserved afterwards from prison, perhaps a worse fate, without knowing it himself.
This is in
You say a story cannot be too melancholy for you. teresting and affecting, but not melancholy. It may raise in your mind a sympathetic sentiment in reading it; and though it may start a tear of pity, you will not have a tear of sorrow to drop on the page.
Here, my contemplative correspondent, let us stop and look back upon the scene. The matters here related being all facts, are strongly pictured in my mind, and in this sense, Forgetfulness does not apply. But facts and feelings are distinct things, and it is against feelings that the opium wand of Forgetfulness draws us into ease. Look back on any scene or subject that once gave you distress, for all of us have felt some, and you will find, that though the remembrance of the fact is not extinct in your memory, the feeling is extinct in your mind. You can remember when you had felt distress, but you cannot feel that distress again, and perhaps will wonder you felt it then. It is like a shadow that loses itself by light.
It is often difficult to know what is a misfortune: that which we feel as a great one today, may be the means of turning aside our steps into some new path that leads to happiness yet unknown. tracing the scenes of my own life, I can discover that the condition I now enjoy, which is sweet to me, and will be more so when I get to America, except by the loss of your society, has been produced,