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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 421 Volume 17, New Series, January 24, 1852   By:

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No. 421. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 24, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d


One winter evening some years ago, I sat with a small circle of friends round the fire, in the house of a Polish gentleman, whom his acquaintances agreed in calling Mr Charles, as the most pronounceable of his names. He had fought in all his country's battles of the unsuccessful revolution of 1831; and being one of the many who sought life and liberty in the British dominions, on the failure of that last national effort, he had, with a spirit worthy of an exiled patriot, made the best of his unchosen fortunes, and worked his way up, through a thousand difficulties and privations, to a respectable standing in the mercantile profession. At the period mentioned, Mr Charles had become almost naturalised in one of our great commercial towns, was a member of a British church, and the head of a British household; but when the conversation happened to turn on sporting matters round his own fireside, he related in perfect seriousness the following wild and legend like story of his early life in Poland:

The year before the rising, I went from my native place in Samogitia (Szamaït), to spend Christmas at the house of my uncle, situated in the wooded country of Upper Lithuania. He was a nobleman who boasted his descent from one of the oldest houses in Poland, and still held the estate which his ancestors had defended for themselves through many a Tartar invasion as much land as a hunting train could course over in a summer's day. But ample as his domain appeared, my uncle was by no means rich upon it. The greater portion had been forest land for ages; elsewhere it was occupied by poor peasants and their fields; and in the centre he lived, after the fashion of his forefathers, in a huge timber house with antiquated fortifications, where he exercised liberal hospitality, especially at Christmas times. My uncle was a widower, but he had three sons Armand, Henrique, and Constantine brave, handsome young men, who kept close intimacy and right merry companionship with their nearest neighbours, a family named Lorenski. Their property bordered on my uncle's land, and there was not a family of their station within leagues; but independently of that circumstance, the household must have had attractions for my cousins, for it consisted of the young Count Emerich, his sister Constanza, and two orphan cousins, Marcella and Eustachia, who had been brought up with them from childhood.

The count's parents had died in his early youth, leaving him not only his own guardian, but that of his sister and cousins; and the young people had grown up safely and happily together in that forest land. The cousins were like most of our Polish girls in the provinces, dark eyed and comely, gay and fearless, and ready alike for the dance or the chase; but Count Emerich and his sister had the praise of the whole province for their noble carriage, their wise and virtuous lives, and the great affection that was between them. Both had strange courage, and were said to fear neither ghost nor goblin which, I must remark, was not a common case in Lithuania. Constanza was the oldest by two years, and by far the most discreet and calm of temper, by which it was believed she rather ruled the household, though her brother had a high and fiery spirit. But they were never known to disagree, and, though still young, neither seemed to think of marrying. Fortunately, it was not so with all their neighbours. My stay at my uncle's house had not been long when I found out that Armand was as good as engaged to Marcella, and Henrique to Eustachia, while Constantine, the youngest and handsomest of the three brothers, paid vain though deferential court to Constanza... Continue reading book >>

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