The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature/Chapter XIV
RAPID PROGRESS OF THE HURON'S INTELLECT.
The ingenuous youth was making a rapid progress in the sciences, and particularly in the science of man. The cause of this sudden disclosure of his understanding was as much owing to his savage education as to the disposition of his soul; for, having learned nothing in his infancy, he had not imbibed any prejudices. His mind, not having been warped by error, had retained all its primitive rectitude. He saw things as they were; whereas the ideas that are communicated to us in our infancy make us see them all our life in a false light.
"Your persecutors are very abominable wretches," said he to his friend Gordon. "I pity you for being oppressed, but I condemn you for being a Jansenist. All sects appear to me to be founded in error. Tell me if there be any sectaries in geometry?"
"No, my child," said the good old Gordon, heaving a deep sigh; "all men are agreed concerning truth when demonstrated, but they are too much divided about latent truths."
"If there were but one single hidden truth in your load of arguments, which have been so often sifted for such a number of ages, it would doubtless have been discovered, and the universe would certainly have been unanimous, at least, in that respect. If this truth had been as necessary as the sun is to the earth, it would have been as brilliant as that planet. It is an absurdity, an insult to human nature—it is an attack upon the Infinite and Supreme Being to say there is a truth essential to the happiness of man which God conceals."
All that this ignorant youth, instructed only by nature, said, made a very deep impression upon the mind of the old unhappy scholiast.
"Is it really certain," he cried, "that I should have made myself truly miserable for mere chimeras? I am much more certain of my misery than of effectual grace. I have spent my time in reasoning about the liberty of God and human nature, but I have lost my own. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Prosner will extricate me from my present misfortunes."
The ingenuous Huron, who gave way to his natural instincts, at length said:
"Will you give me leave to speak to you boldly and frankly? Those who bring upon themselves persecution for such idle disputes seem to me to have very little sense; those who persecute appear to me very monsters."
The two captives entirely coincided with respect to the injustice of their captivity.
"I am a hundred times more to be pitied than you," said the Huron; "I am born free as the air; I had two lives, liberty and the object of my love; and I am deprived of both. We are both in fetters, without knowing who put them on us, or without being able to inquire. It is said that the Hurons are barbarians, because they avenge themselves on their enemies; but they never oppress their friends. I had scarce set foot in France before I shed my blood for this country. I have, perhaps, preserved a whole province, and my recompense is imprisonment. In this country men are condemned without being heard. This is not the case in England. Alas! it was not against the English that I should have fought."
Thus his growing philosophy could not brook nature being insulted in the first of her rights, and he gave vent to his just indignation.
His companion did not contradict him. Absence ever increases ungratified love, and philosophy does not diminish it. He as frequently spoke of his dear Miss St. Yves as he did of morality or metaphysics. The more he purified his sentiments, the more he loved. He read some new romances; but he met with few that depicted to him the real state of his soul. He felt that his heart stretched beyond the bounds of his author.
"Alas!" said he, "almost all these writers have nothing but wit and art."
At length the good Jansenist priest became insensibly the confidant of his tenderness. He was already acquainted with love as a sin with which a penitent accuses himself at confession. He now learned to know it as a sentiment equally noble and tender, which can elevate the soul as well as soften it, and can at times produce virtues. In fine, for the last miracle, a Huron converted a Jansenist.