The society had sent him the books with thanks. The books came in the natural way; but at the first moment the old man could not seize those thoughts. Polish books in Aspinwall, on his tower, amid his solitude—that was for him something uncommon, a certain breath from past times, a kind of miracle.
Now it seemed to him, as to those sailors in the night, that something was calling him by name with a voice greatly beloved and nearly forgotten. He sat for a while with closed eyes, and was almost certain that, when he opened them, the dream would be gone.
The package, cut open, lay before him, shone upon clearly by the afternoon sun, and on it was an open book. When the old man stretched his hand toward it again, he heard in the stillness the beating of his own heart. He looked; it was poetry. On the outside stood printed in great letters the title, underneath the name of the author.
Strange to Skavinski
The name was not strange to Skavinski; he saw that it belonged to the great poet, whose productions he had read in 1830 in Paris. Afterward, when campaigning in Algiers and Spain, he had heard from his countrymen of the growing fame of the great seer; but he was so accustomed to the musket at that time that he took no book in hand.
In 1849 he went to America, and in the adventurous life which he led he hardly ever met a Pole, and never a Polish book. With the greater eagerness, therefore, and with a livelier beating of the heart, did he turn to the title-page. It seemed to him then that on his lonely rock some solemnity is about to take place. Indeed it was a moment of great calm and silence.
The clocks of Aspinwall were striking five in the afternoon. Not a cloud darkened the clear sky; only a few sea-mews were sailing through the air. The ocean was as if cradled to sleep The waves on the shore stammered quietly, spreading softly on the sand. In the distance the white houses of Aspinwall, and the wonderful there was something there solemn, calm, and full of dignity. Suddenly, in the midst of that calm of Nature was heard the trembling voice of the old man, who read aloud as if to understand himself better:
“Thou art like health, O my birth-land Litva!”
How much we should prize thee he only can know who Thy beauty in perfect adornment this day I see and describe, because I am yearning for thee.”
Voice failed Skavmski. The letters began to dance before his eyes:
And went like a wave from his heart higher and higher, choking his voice and pressing his throat. A moment more he controlled himself, and read further:
“O Holy Lady, who guardest bright Chenstohova,