> Home is the resort Of love, of joy, of peace and plenty, where, Supportin_nd supported, polish'd friends And dear relations mingle into bliss.
On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, i_he year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert. From its windows were see_he pastoral landscapes of Guienne and Gascony stretching along the river, ga_ith luxuriant woods and vine, and plantations of olives. To the south, th_iew was bounded by the majestic Pyrenees, whose summits, veiled in clouds, o_xhibiting awful forms, seen, and lost again, as the partial vapours rolle_long, were sometimes barren, and gleamed through the blue tinge of air, an_ometimes frowned with forests of gloomy pine, that swept downward to thei_ase. These tremendous precipices were contrasted by the soft green of th_astures and woods that hung upon their skirts; among whose flocks, and herds, and simple cottages, the eye, after having scaled the cliffs above, delighte_o repose. To the north, and to the east, the plains of Guienne and Languedo_ere lost in the mist of distance; on the west, Gascony was bounded by th_aters of Biscay.
M. St. Aubert loved to wander, with his wife and daughter, on the margin o_he Garonne, and to listen to the music that floated on its waves. He ha_nown life in other forms than those of pastoral simplicity, having mingled i_he gay and in the busy scenes of the world; but the flattering portrait o_ankind, which his heart had delineated in early youth, his experience had to_orrowfully corrected. Yet, amidst the changing visions of life, hi_rinciples remained unshaken, his benevolence unchilled; and he retired fro_he multitude 'more in PITY than in anger,' to scenes of simple nature, to th_ure delights of literature, and to the exercise of domestic virtues.
He was a descendant from the younger branch of an illustrious family, and i_as designed, that the deficiency of his patrimonial wealth should be supplie_ither by a splendid alliance in marriage, or by success in the intrigues o_ublic affairs. But St. Aubert had too nice a sense of honour to fulfil th_atter hope, and too small a portion of ambition to sacrifice what he calle_appiness, to the attainment of wealth. After the death of his father h_arried a very amiable woman, his equal in birth, and not his superior i_ortune. The late Monsieur St. Aubert's liberality, or extravagance, had s_uch involved his affairs, that his son found it necessary to dispose of _art of the family domain, and, some years after his marriage, he sold it t_onsieur Quesnel, the brother of his wife, and retired to a small estate i_ascony, where conjugal felicity, and parental duties, divided his attentio_ith the treasures of knowledge and the illuminations of genius.
To this spot he had been attached from his infancy. He had often mad_xcursions to it when a boy, and the impressions of delight given to his min_y the homely kindness of the grey-headed peasant, to whom it was intrusted, and whose fruit and cream never failed, had not been obliterated by succeedin_ircumstances. The green pastures along which he had so often bounded in th_xultation of health, and youthful freedom—the woods, under whose refreshin_hade he had first indulged that pensive melancholy, which afterwards made _trong feature of his character—the wild walks of the mountains, the river, o_hose waves he had floated, and the distant plains, which seemed boundless a_is early hopes—were never after remembered by St. Aubert but with enthusias_nd regret. At length he disengaged himself from the world, and retire_ither, to realize the wishes of many years.
The building, as it then stood, was merely a summer cottage, rendere_nteresting to a stranger by its neat simplicity, or the beauty of th_urrounding scene; and considerable additions were necessary to make it _omfortable family residence. St. Aubert felt a kind of affection for ever_art of the fabric, which he remembered in his youth, and would not suffer _tone of it to be removed, so that the new building, adapted to the style o_he old one, formed with it only a simple and elegant residence. The taste o_adame St. Aubert was conspicuous in its internal finishing, where the sam_haste simplicity was observable in the furniture, and in the few ornaments o_he apartments, that characterized the manners of its inhabitants.
The library occupied the west side of the chateau, and was enriched by _ollection of the best books in the ancient and modern languages. This roo_pened upon a grove, which stood on the brow of a gentle declivity, that fel_owards the river, and the tall trees gave it a melancholy and pleasing shade; while from the windows the eye caught, beneath the spreading branches, the ga_nd luxuriant landscape stretching to the west, and overlooked on the left b_he bold precipices of the Pyrenees. Adjoining the library was a green- house, stored with scarce and beautiful plants; for one of the amusements of St.
Aubert was the study of botany, and among the neighbouring mountains, whic_fforded a luxurious feast to the mind of the naturalist, he often passed th_ay in the pursuit of his favourite science. He was sometimes accompanied i_hese little excursions by Madame St. Aubert, and frequently by his daughter; when, with a small osier basket to receive plants, and another filled wit_old refreshments, such as the cabin of the shepherd did not afford, the_andered away among the most romantic and magnificent scenes, nor suffered th_harms of Nature's lowly children to abstract them from the observance of he_tupendous works. When weary of sauntering among cliffs that seemed scarcel_ccessible but to the steps of the enthusiast, and where no track appeared o_he vegetation, but what the foot of the izard had left; they would seek on_f those green recesses, which so beautifully adorn the bosom of thes_ountains, where, under the shade of the lofty larch, or cedar, they enjoye_heir simple repast, made sweeter by the waters of the cool stream, that crep_long the turf, and by the breath of wild flowers and aromatic plants, tha_ringed the rocks, and inlaid the grass.
Adjoining the eastern side of the green-house, looking towards the plains o_anguedoc, was a room, which Emily called hers, and which contained her books, her drawings, her musical instruments, with some favourite birds and plants.
Here she usually exercised herself in elegant arts, cultivated only becaus_hey were congenial to her taste, and in which native genius, assisted by th_nstructions of Monsieur and Madame St. Aubert, made her an early proficient.
The windows of this room were particularly pleasant; they descended to th_loor, and, opening upon the little lawn that surrounded the house, the ey_as led between groves of almond, palm-trees, flowering-ash, and myrtle, t_he distant landscape, where the Garonne wandered.
The peasants of this gay climate were often seen on an evening, when the day'_abour was done, dancing in groups on the margin of the river. Their sprightl_elodies, debonnaire steps, the fanciful figure of their dances, with th_asteful and capricious manner in which the girls adjusted their simple dress, gave a character to the scene entirely French.
The front of the chateau, which, having a southern aspect, opened upon th_randeur of the mountains, was occupied on the ground floor by a rustic hall, and two excellent sitting rooms. The first floor, for the cottage had n_econd story, was laid out in bed-chambers, except one apartment that opene_o a balcony, and which was generally used for a breakfast-room.
In the surrounding ground, St. Aubert had made very tasteful improvements; yet, such was his attachment to objects he had remembered from his boyis_ays, that he had in some instances sacrificed taste to sentiment. There wer_wo old larches that shaded the building, and interrupted the prospect; St.
Aubert had sometimes declared that he believed he should have been weak enoug_o have wept at their fall. In addition to these larches he planted a littl_rove of beech, pine, and mountain-ash. On a lofty terrace, formed by th_welling bank of the river, rose a plantation of orange, lemon, and palm- trees, whose fruit, in the coolness of evening, breathed delicious fragrance.
With these were mingled a few trees of other species. Here, under the ampl_hade of a plane-tree, that spread its majestic canopy towards the river, St.
Aubert loved to sit in the fine evenings of summer, with his wife an_hildren, watching, beneath its foliage, the setting sun, the mild splendou_f its light fading from the distant landscape, till the shadows of twiligh_elted its various features into one tint of sober grey. Here, too, he love_o read, and to converse with Madame St. Aubert; or to play with his children, resigning himself to the influence of those sweet affections, which are eve_ttendant on simplicity and nature. He has often said, while tears of pleasur_rembled in his eyes, that these were moments infinitely more delightful tha_ny passed amid the brilliant and tumultuous scenes that are courted by th_orld. His heart was occupied; it had, what can be so rarely said, no wish fo_ happiness beyond what it experienced. The consciousness of acting righ_iffused a serenity over his manners, which nothing else could impart to a ma_f moral perceptions like his, and which refined his sense of ever_urrounding blessing.
The deepest shade of twilight did not send him from his favourite plane-tree.
He loved the soothing hour, when the last tints of light die away; when th_tars, one by one, tremble through aether, and are reflected on the dar_irror of the waters; that hour, which, of all others, inspires the mind wit_ensive tenderness, and often elevates it to sublime contemplation. When th_oon shed her soft rays among the foliage, he still lingered, and his pastora_upper of cream and fruits was often spread beneath it. Then, on the stillnes_f night, came the song of the nightingale, breathing sweetness, and awakenin_elancholy.
The first interruptions to the happiness he had known since his retirement, were occasioned by the death of his two sons. He lost them at that age whe_nfantine simplicity is so fascinating; and though, in consideration of Madam_t. Aubert's distress, he restrained the expression of his own, an_ndeavoured to bear it, as he meant, with philosophy, he had, in truth, n_hilosophy that could render him calm to such losses. One daughter was now hi_nly surviving child; and, while he watched the unfolding of her infan_haracter, with anxious fondness, he endeavoured, with unremitting effort, t_ounteract those traits in her disposition, which might hereafter lead he_rom happiness. She had discovered in her early years uncommon delicacy o_ind, warm affections, and ready benevolence; but with these was observable _egree of susceptibility too exquisite to admit of lasting peace. As sh_dvanced in youth, this sensibility gave a pensive tone to her spirits, and _oftness to her manner, which added grace to beauty, and rendered her a ver_nteresting object to persons of a congenial disposition. But St. Aubert ha_oo much good sense to prefer a charm to a virtue; and had penetration enoug_o see, that this charm was too dangerous to its possessor to be allowed th_haracter of a blessing. He endeavoured, therefore, to strengthen her mind; t_nure her to habits of self- command; to teach her to reject the first impuls_f her feelings, and to look, with cool examination, upon the disappointment_e sometimes threw in her way. While he instructed her to resist firs_mpressions, and to acquire that steady dignity of mind, that can alon_ounterbalance the passions, and bear us, as far as is compatible with ou_ature, above the reach of circumstances, he taught himself a lesson o_ortitude; for he was often obliged to witness, with seeming indifference, th_ears and struggles which his caution occasioned her.
In person, Emily resembled her mother; having the same elegant symmetry o_orm, the same delicacy of features, and the same blue eyes, full of tende_weetness. But, lovely as was her person, it was the varied expression of he_ountenance, as conversation awakened the nicer emotions of her mind, tha_hrew such a captivating grace around her:
Those tend'rer tints, that shun the careless eye, And, in the world'_ontagious circle, die.
St. Aubert cultivated her understanding with the most scrupulous care. He gav_er a general view of the sciences, and an exact acquaintance with every par_f elegant literature. He taught her Latin and English, chiefly that she migh_nderstand the sublimity of their best poets. She discovered in her earl_ears a taste for works of genius; and it was St. Aubert's principle, as wel_s his inclination, to promote every innocent means of happiness. 'A well- informed mind,' he would say, 'is the best security against the contagion o_olly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and read_o plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. Store it wit_deas, teach it the pleasure of thinking; and the temptations of the worl_ithout, will be counteracted by the gratifications derived from the worl_ithin. Thought, and cultivation, are necessary equally to the happiness of _ountry and a city life; in the first they prevent the uneasy sensations o_ndolence, and afford a sublime pleasure in the taste they create for th_eautiful, and the grand; in the latter, they make dissipation less an objec_f necessity, and consequently of interest.'
It was one of Emily's earliest pleasures to ramble among the scenes of nature; nor was it in the soft and glowing landscape that she most delighted; sh_oved more the wild wood-walks, that skirted the mountain; and still more th_ountain's stupendous recesses, where the silence and grandeur of solitud_mpressed a sacred awe upon her heart, and lifted her thoughts to the GOD O_EAVEN AND EARTH. In scenes like these she would often linger along, wrapt i_ melancholy charm, till the last gleam of day faded from the west; till th_onely sound of a sheep-bell, or the distant bark of a watch-dog, were al_hat broke on the stillness of the evening. Then, the gloom of the woods; th_rembling of their leaves, at intervals, in the breeze; the bat, flitting o_he twilight; the cottage-lights, now seen, and now lost—were circumstance_hat awakened her mind into effort, and led to enthusiasm and poetry.
Her favourite walk was to a little fishing-house, belonging to St. Aubert, i_ woody glen, on the margin of a rivulet that descended from the Pyrenees, and, after foaming among their rocks, wound its silent way beneath the shade_t reflected. Above the woods, that screened this glen, rose the lofty summit_f the Pyrenees, which often burst boldly on the eye through the glades below.
Sometimes the shattered face of a rock only was seen, crowned with wil_hrubs; or a shepherd's cabin seated on a cliff, overshadowed by dark cypress, or waving ash. Emerging from the deep recesses of the woods, the glade opene_o the distant landscape, where the rich pastures and vine-covered slopes o_ascony gradually declined to the plains; and there, on the winding shores o_he Garonne, groves, and hamlets, and villas—their outlines softened b_istance, melted from the eye into one rich harmonious tint.
This, too, was the favourite retreat of St. Aubert, to which he frequentl_ithdrew from the fervour of noon, with his wife, his daughter, and his books; or came at the sweet evening hour to welcome the silent dusk, or to listen fo_he music of the nightingale. Sometimes, too, he brought music of his own, an_wakened every fairy echo with the tender accents of his oboe; and often hav_he tones of Emily's voice drawn sweetness from the waves, over which the_rembled.
It was in one of these excursions to this spot, that she observed th_ollowing lines written with a pencil on a part of the wainscot:
Go, pencil! faithful to thy master's sighs! Go—tell the Goddess of the fair_cene, When next her light steps wind these wood-walks green, Whence all hi_ears, his tender sorrows, rise; Ah! paint her form, her soul-illumin'd eyes, The sweet expression of her pensive face, The light'ning smile, the animate_race— The portrait well the lover's voice supplies; Speaks all his heart mus_eel, his tongue would say: Yet ah! not all his heart must sadly feel! How of_he flow'ret's silken leaves conceal The drug that steals the vital spar_way! And who that gazes on that angel-smile, Would fear its charm, or thin_t could beguile!
These lines were not inscribed to any person; Emily therefore could not appl_hem to herself, though she was undoubtedly the nymph of these shades. Havin_lanced round the little circle of her acquaintance without being detained b_ suspicion as to whom they could be addressed, she was compelled to rest i_ncertainty; an uncertainty which would have been more painful to an idle min_han it was to hers. She had no leisure to suffer this circumstance, triflin_t first, to swell into importance by frequent remembrance. The little vanit_t had excited (for the incertitude which forbade her to presume upon havin_nspired the sonnet, forbade her also to disbelieve it) passed away, and th_ncident was dismissed from her thoughts amid her books, her studies, and th_xercise of social charities.
Soon after this period, her anxiety was awakened by the indisposition of he_ather, who was attacked with a fever; which, though not thought to be of _angerous kind, gave a severe shock to his constitution. Madame St. Aubert an_mily attended him with unremitting care; but his recovery was very slow, and, as he advanced towards health, Madame seemed to decline.
The first scene he visited, after he was well enough to take the air, was hi_avourite fishing-house. A basket of provisions was sent thither, with books, and Emily's lute; for fishing-tackle he had no use, for he never could fin_musement in torturing or destroying.
After employing himself, for about an hour, in botanizing, dinner was served.
It was a repast, to which gratitude, for being again permitted to visit thi_pot, gave sweetness; and family happiness once more smiled beneath thes_hades. Monsieur St. Aubert conversed with unusual cheerfulness; every objec_elighted his senses. The refreshing pleasure from the first view of nature, after the pain of illness, and the confinement of a sick-chamber, is above th_onceptions, as well as the descriptions, of those in health. The green wood_nd pastures; the flowery turf; the blue concave of the heavens; the balm_ir; the murmur of the limpid stream; and even the hum of every little insec_f the shade, seem to revivify the soul, and make mere existence bliss.
Madame St. Aubert, reanimated by the cheerfulness and recovery of her husband, was no longer sensible of the indisposition which had lately oppressed her; and, as she sauntered along the wood-walks of this romantic glen, an_onversed with him, and with her daughter, she often looked at the_lternately with a degree of tenderness, that filled her eyes with tears. St.
Aubert observed this more than once, and gently reproved her for the emotion; but she could only smile, clasp his hand, and that of Emily, and weep th_ore. He felt the tender enthusiasm stealing upon himself in a degree tha_ecame almost painful; his features assumed a serious air, and he could no_orbear secretly sighing—'Perhaps I shall some time look back to thes_oments, as to the summit of my happiness, with hopeless regret. But let m_ot misuse them by useless anticipation; let me hope I shall not live to mour_he loss of those who are dearer to me than life.'
To relieve, or perhaps to indulge, the pensive temper of his mind, he bad_mily fetch the lute she knew how to touch with such sweet pathos. As she dre_ear the fishing-house, she was surprised to hear the tones of the instrument, which were awakened by the hand of taste, and uttered a plaintive air, whos_xquisite melody engaged all her attention. She listened in profound silence, afraid to move from the spot, lest the sound of her steps should occasion he_o lose a note of the music, or should disturb the musician. Every thin_ithout the building was still, and no person appeared. She continued t_isten, till timidity succeeded to surprise and delight; a timidity, increase_y a remembrance of the pencilled lines she had formerly seen, and sh_esitated whether to proceed, or to return.
While she paused, the music ceased; and, after a momentary hesitation, she re- collected courage to advance to the fishing-house, which she entered wit_altering steps, and found unoccupied! Her lute lay on the table; every thin_eemed undisturbed, and she began to believe it was another instrument she ha_eard, till she remembered, that, when she followed M. and Madame St. Auber_rom this spot, her lute was left on a window seat. She felt alarmed, yet kne_ot wherefore; the melancholy gloom of evening, and the profound stillness o_he place, interrupted only by the light trembling of leaves, heightened he_anciful apprehensions, and she was desirous of quitting the building, bu_erceived herself grow faint, and sat down. As she tried to recover herself, the pencilled lines on the wainscot met her eye; she started, as if she ha_een a stranger; but, endeavouring to conquer the tremor of her spirits, rose, and went to the window. To the lines before noticed she now perceived tha_thers were added, in which her name appeared.
Though no longer suffered to doubt that they were addressed to herself, sh_as as ignorant, as before, by whom they could be written. While she mused, she thought she heard the sound of a step without the building, and agai_larmed, she caught up her lute, and hurried away. Monsieur and Madame St.
Aubert she found in a little path that wound along the sides of the glen.
Having reached a green summit, shadowed by palm-trees, and overlooking th_allies and plains of Gascony, they seated themselves on the turf; and whil_heir eyes wandered over the glorious scene, and they inhaled the sweet breat_f flowers and herbs that enriched the grass, Emily played and sung several o_heir favourite airs, with the delicacy of expression in which she so muc_xcelled.
Music and conversation detained them in this enchanting spot, till the sun'_ast light slept upon the plains; till the white sails that glided beneath th_ountains, where the Garonne wandered, became dim, and the gloom of evenin_tole over the landscape. It was a melancholy but not unpleasing gloom. St.
Aubert and his family rose, and left the place with regret; alas! Madame St.
Aubert knew not that she left it for ever.
When they reached the fishing-house she missed her bracelet, and recollecte_hat she had taken it from her arm after dinner, and had left it on the tabl_hen she went to walk. After a long search, in which Emily was very active, she was compelled to resign herself to the loss of it. What made this bracele_aluable to her was a miniature of her daughter to which it was attached, esteemed a striking resemblance, and which had been painted only a few month_efore. When Emily was convinced that the bracelet was really gone, sh_lushed, and became thoughtful. That some stranger had been in the fishing- house, during her absence, her lute, and the additional lines of a pencil, ha_lready informed her: from the purport of these lines it was not unreasonabl_o believe, that the poet, the musician, and the thief were the same person.
But though the music she had heard, the written lines she had seen, and th_isappearance of the picture, formed a combination of circumstances ver_emarkable, she was irresistibly restrained from mentioning them; secretl_etermining, however, never again to visit the fishing-house without Monsieu_r Madame St. Aubert.
They returned pensively to the chateau, Emily musing on the incident which ha_ust occurred; St. Aubert reflecting, with placid gratitude, on the blessing_e possessed; and Madame St. Aubert somewhat disturbed, and perplexed, by th_oss of her daughter's picture. As they drew near the house, they observed a_nusual bustle about it; the sound of voices was distinctly heard, servant_nd horses were seen passing between the trees, and, at length, the wheels o_ carriage rolled along. Having come within view of the front of the chateau, a landau, with smoking horses, appeared on the little lawn before it. St.
Aubert perceived the liveries of his brother-in-law, and in the parlour h_ound Monsieur and Madame Quesnel already entered. They had left Paris som_ays before, and were on the way to their estate, only ten leagues distan_rom La Vallee, and which Monsieur Quesnel had purchased several years befor_f St. Aubert. This gentleman was the only brother of Madame St. Aubert; bu_he ties of relationship having never been strengthened by congeniality o_haracter, the intercourse between them had not been frequent. M. Quesnel ha_ived altogether in the world; his aim had been consequence; splendour was th_bject of his taste; and his address and knowledge of character had carrie_im forward to the attainment of almost all that he had courted. By a man o_uch a disposition, it is not surprising that the virtues of St. Aubert shoul_e overlooked; or that his pure taste, simplicity, and moderated wishes, wer_onsidered as marks of a weak intellect, and of confined views. The marriag_f his sister with St. Aubert had been mortifying to his ambition, for he ha_esigned that the matrimonial connection she formed should assist him t_ttain the consequence which he so much desired; and some offers were made he_y persons whose rank and fortune flattered his warmest hope. But his sister, who was then addressed also by St. Aubert, perceived, or thought sh_erceived, that happiness and splendour were not the same, and she did no_esitate to forego the last for the attainment of the former. Whether Monsieu_uesnel thought them the same, or not, he would readily have sacrificed hi_ister's peace to the gratification of his own ambition; and, on her marriag_ith St. Aubert, expressed in private his contempt of her spiritless conduct, and of the connection which it permitted. Madame St. Aubert, though sh_oncealed this insult from her husband, felt, perhaps, for the first time, resentment lighted in her heart; and, though a regard for her own dignity, united with considerations of prudence, restrained her expression of thi_esentment, there was ever after a mild reserve in her manner towards M.
Quesnel, which he both understood and felt.
In his own marriage he did not follow his sister's example. His lady was a_talian, and an heiress by birth; and, by nature and education, was a vain an_rivolous woman.
They now determined to pass the night with St. Aubert; and as the chateau wa_ot large enough to accommodate their servants, the latter were dismissed t_he neighbouring village. When the first compliments were over, and th_rrangements for the night made M. Quesnel began the display of hi_ntelligence and his connections; while St. Aubert, who had been long enoug_n retirement to find these topics recommended by their novelty, listened, with a degree of patience and attention, which his guest mistook for th_umility of wonder. The latter, indeed, described the few festivities whic_he turbulence of that period permitted to the court of Henry the Third, wit_ minuteness, that somewhat recompensed for his ostentation; but, when he cam_o speak of the character of the Duke de Joyeuse, of a secret treaty, which h_new to be negotiating with the Porte, and of the light in which Henry o_avarre was received, M. St. Aubert recollected enough of his forme_xperience to be assured, that his guest could be only of an inferior class o_oliticians; and that, from the importance of the subjects upon which h_ommitted himself, he could not be of the rank to which he pretended t_elong. The opinions delivered by M. Quesnel, were such as St. Aubert forebor_o reply to, for he knew that his guest had neither humanity to feel, no_iscernment to perceive, what is just.
Madame Quesnel, meanwhile, was expressing to Madame St. Aubert he_stonishment, that she could bear to pass her life in this remote corner o_he world, as she called it, and describing, from a wish, probably, o_xciting envy, the splendour of the balls, banquets, and processions which ha_ust been given by the court, in honour of the nuptials of the Duke de Joyeus_ith Margaretta of Lorrain, the sister of the Queen. She described with equa_inuteness the magnificence she had seen, and that from which she had bee_xcluded; while Emily's vivid fancy, as she listened with the ardent curiosit_f youth, heightened the scenes she heard of; and Madame St. Aubert, lookin_n her family, felt, as a tear stole to her eye, that though splendour ma_race happiness, virtue only can bestow it.
'It is now twelve years, St. Aubert,' said M. Quesnel, 'since I purchased you_amily estate.'—'Somewhere thereabout,' replied St. Aubert, suppressing _igh. 'It is near five years since I have been there,' resumed Quesnel; 'fo_aris and its neighbourhood is the only place in the world to live in, and _m so immersed in politics, and have so many affairs of moment on my hands, that I find it difficult to steal away even for a month or two.' St. Auber_emaining silent, M. Quesnel proceeded: 'I have sometimes wondered how you, who have lived in the capital, and have been accustomed to company, can exis_lsewhere;—especially in so remote a country as this, where you can neithe_ear nor see any thing, and can in short be scarcely conscious of life.'
'I live for my family and myself,' said St. Aubert; 'I am now contented t_now only happiness;—formerly I knew life.'
'I mean to expend thirty or forty thousand livres on improvements,' said M.
Quesnel, without seeming to notice the words of St. Aubert; 'for I design, next summer, to bring here my friends, the Duke de Durefort and the Marqui_amont, to pass a month or two with me.' To St. Aubert's enquiry, as to thes_ntended improvements, he replied, that he should take down the whole eas_ing of the chateau, and raise upon the site a set of stables. 'Then I shal_uild,' said he, 'a SALLE A MANGER, a SALON, a SALLE AU COMMUNE, and a numbe_f rooms for servants; for at present there is not accommodation for a thir_art of my own people.'
'It accommodated our father's household,' said St. Aubert, grieved that th_ld mansion was to be thus improved, 'and that was not a small one.'
'Our notions are somewhat enlarged since those days,' said M. Quesnel;—'wha_as then thought a decent style of living would not now be endured.' Even th_alm St. Aubert blushed at these words, but his anger soon yielded t_ontempt. 'The ground about the chateau is encumbered with trees; I mean t_ut some of them down.'
'Cut down the trees too!' said St. Aubert.
'Certainly. Why should I not? they interrupt my prospects. There is a chesnu_hich spreads its branches before the whole south side of the chateau, an_hich is so ancient that they tell me the hollow of its trunk will hold _ozen men. Your enthusiasm will scarcely contend that there can be either use, or beauty, in such a sapless old tree as this.'
'Good God!' exclaimed St. Aubert, 'you surely will not destroy that nobl_hesnut, which has flourished for centuries, the glory of the estate! It wa_n its maturity when the present mansion was built. How often, in my youth, have I climbed among its broad branches, and sat embowered amidst a world o_eaves, while the heavy shower has pattered above, and not a rain drop reache_e! How often I have sat with a book in my hand, sometimes reading, an_ometimes looking out between the branches upon the wide landscape, and th_etting sun, till twilight came, and brought the birds home to their littl_ests among the leaves! How often—but pardon me,' added St. Aubert, recollecting that he was speaking to a man who could neither comprehend, no_llow his feelings, 'I am talking of times and feelings as old-fashioned a_he taste that would spare that venerable tree.'
'It will certainly come down,' said M. Quesnel; 'I believe I shall plant som_ombardy poplars among the clumps of chesnut, that I shall leave of th_venue; Madame Quesnel is partial to the poplar, and tells me how much i_dorns a villa of her uncle, not far from Venice.'
'On the banks of the Brenta, indeed,' continued St. Aubert, 'where its spir_orm is intermingled with the pine, and the cypress, and where it plays ove_ight and elegant porticos and colonnades, it, unquestionably, adorns th_cene; but among the giants of the forest, and near a heavy gothic mansion—'
'Well, my good sir,' said M. Quesnel, 'I will not dispute with you. You mus_eturn to Paris before our ideas can at all agree. But A- PROPOS of Venice, _ave some thoughts of going thither, next summer; events may call me to tak_ossession of that same villa, too, which they tell me is the most charmin_hat can be imagined. In that case I shall leave the improvements I mention t_nother year, and I may, perhaps, be tempted to stay some time in Italy.'
Emily was somewhat surprised to hear him talk of being tempted to remai_broad, after he had mentioned his presence to be so necessary at Paris, tha_t was with difficulty he could steal away for a month or two; but St. Auber_nderstood the self-importance of the man too well to wonder at this trait; and the possibility, that these projected improvements might be deferred, gav_im a hope, that they might never take place.
Before they separated for the night, M. Quesnel desired to speak with St.
Aubert alone, and they retired to another room, where they remained _onsiderable time. The subject of this conversation was not known; but, whatever it might be, St. Aubert, when he returned to the supper-room, seeme_uch disturbed, and a shade of sorrow sometimes fell upon his features tha_larmed Madame St. Aubert. When they were alone she was tempted to enquire th_ccasion of it, but the delicacy of mind, which had ever appeared in hi_onduct, restrained her: she considered that, if St. Aubert wished her to b_cquainted with the subject of his concern, he would not wait on he_nquiries.
On the following day, before M. Quesnel departed, he had a second conferenc_ith St. Aubert.
The guests, after dining at the chateau, set out in the cool of the day fo_pourville, whither they gave him and Madame St. Aubert a pressing invitation, prompted rather by the vanity of displaying their splendour, than by a wish t_ake their friends happy.
Emily returned, with delight, to the liberty which their presence ha_estrained, to her books, her walks, and the rational conversation of M. an_adame St. Aubert, who seemed to rejoice, no less, that they were delivere_rom the shackles, which arrogance and frivolity had imposed.
Madame St. Aubert excused herself from sharing their usual evening walk, complaining that she was not quite well, and St. Aubert and Emily went ou_ogether.
They chose a walk towards the mountains, intending to visit some ol_ensioners of St. Aubert, which, from his very moderate income, he contrive_o support, though it is probable M. Quesnel, with his very large one, coul_ot have afforded this.
After distributing to his pensioners their weekly stipends, listenin_atiently to the complaints of some, redressing the grievances of others, an_oftening the discontents of all, by the look of sympathy, and the smile o_enevolence, St. Aubert returned home through the woods,
where At fall of eve the fairy-people throng, In various games and revelry t_ass The summer night, as village stories tell.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_1)
'The evening gloom of woods was always delightful to me,' said St. Aubert, whose mind now experienced the sweet calm, which results from th_onsciousness of having done a beneficent action, and which disposes it t_eceive pleasure from every surrounding object. 'I remember that in my yout_his gloom used to call forth to my fancy a thousand fairy visions, an_omantic images; and, I own, I am not yet wholly insensible of that hig_nthusiasm, which wakes the poet's dream: I can linger, with solemn steps, under the deep shades, send forward a transforming eye into the distan_bscurity, and listen with thrilling delight to the mystic murmuring of th_oods.' 'O my dear father,' said Emily, while a sudden tear started to he_ye, 'how exactly you describe what I have felt so often, and which I though_obody had ever felt but myself! But hark! here comes the sweeping sound ove_he wood-tops;—now it dies away;—how solemn the stillness that succeeds! No_he breeze swells again. It is like the voice of some supernatural being—th_oice of the spirit of the woods, that watches over them by night. Ah! wha_ight is yonder? But it is gone. And now it gleams again, near the root o_hat large chestnut: look, sir!' 'Are you such an admirer of nature,' said St.
Aubert, 'and so little acquainted with her appearances as not to know that fo_he glow- worm? But come,' added he gaily, 'step a little further, and w_hall see fairies, perhaps; they are often companions. The glow-worm lends hi_ight, and they in return charm him with music, and the dance. Do you se_othing tripping yonder?' Emily laughed. 'Well, my dear sir,' said she, 'sinc_ou allow of this alliance, I may venture to own I have anticipated you; an_lmost dare venture to repeat some verses I made one evening in these ver_oods.' 'Nay,' replied St. Aubert, 'dismiss the ALMOST, and venture quite; le_s hear what vagaries fancy has been playing in your mind. If she has give_ou one of her spells, you need not envy those of the fairies.' 'If it i_trong enough to enchant your judgment, sir,' said Emily, 'while I disclos_er images, I need NOT envy them. The lines go in a sort of tripping measure, which I thought might suit the subject well enough, but I fear they are to_rregular.'
**THE GLOW-WORM** How pleasant is the green-wood's deep-matted shade On a mid-summer's eve, whe_he fresh rain is o'er; When the yellow beams slope, and sparkle thro' th_lade, And swiftly in the thin air the light swallows soar! But sweeter, sweeter still, when the sun sinks to rest, And twilight comes on, with th_airies so gay Tripping through the forest-walk, where flow'rs, unprest, Bo_ot their tall heads beneath their frolic play. To music's softest sounds the_ance away the hour, Till moon-light steals down among the trembling leaves, And checquers all the ground, and guides them to the bow'r, The long haunte_ow'r, where the nightingale grieves. Then no more they dance, till her sa_ong is done, But, silent as the night, to her mourning attend; And often a_er dying notes their pity have won, They vow all her sacred haunts fro_ortals to defend. When, down among the mountains, sinks the ev'ning star, An_he changing moon forsakes this shadowy sphere, How cheerless would they be, tho' they fairies are, If I, with my pale light, came not near! Yet cheerles_ho' they'd be, they're ungrateful to my love! For, often when the traveller'_enighted on his way, And I glimmer in his path, and would guide him thro' th_rove, They bind me in their magic spells to lead him far astray; And in th_ire to leave him, till the stars are all burnt out, While, in strange-lookin_hapes, they frisk about the ground, And, afar in the woods, they raise _ismal shout, Till I shrink into my cell again for terror of the sound! But, see where all the tiny elves come dancing in a ring, With the merry, merr_ipe, and the tabor, and the horn, And the timbrel so clear, and the lute wit_ulcet string; Then round about the oak they go till peeping of the morn. Dow_onder glade two lovers steal, to shun the fairy-queen, Who frowns upon thei_lighted vows, and jealous is of me, That yester-eve I lighted them, along th_ewy green, To seek the purple flow'r, whose juice from all her spells ca_ree. And now, to punish me, she keeps afar her jocund band, With the merry, merry pipe, and the tabor, and the lute; If I creep near yonder oak she wil_ave her fairy wand, And to me the dance will cease, and the music all b_ute. O! had I but that purple flow'r whose leaves her charms can foil, An_new like fays to draw the juice, and throw it on the wind, I'd be her slav_o longer, nor the traveller beguile, And help all faithful lovers, nor fea_he fairy kind! But soon the VAPOUR OF THE WOODS will wander afar, And th_ickle moon will fade, and the stars disappear, Then, cheerless will they be, tho' they fairies are, If I, with my pale light, come not near! Whatever St.
Aubert might think of the stanzas, he would not deny his daughter the pleasur_f believing that he approved them; and, having given his commendation, h_unk into a reverie, and they walked on in silence. A faint erroneous ra_lanc'd from th' imperfect surfaces of things, Flung half an image on th_training eye; While waving woods, and villages, and streams, And rocks, an_ountain-tops, that long retain The ascending gleam, are all one swimmin_cene, Uncertain if beheld.* *Thomson. St. Aubert continued silent till h_eached the chateau, where his wife had retired to her chamber. The languo_nd dejection, that had lately oppressed her, and which the exertion calle_orth by the arrival of her guests had suspended, now returned with increase_ffect. On the following day, symptoms of fever appeared, and St. Aubert, having sent for medical advice, learned, that her disorder was a fever of th_ame nature as that, from which he had lately recovered. She had, indeed, taken the infection, during her attendance upon him, and, her constitutio_eing too weak to throw out the disease immediately, it had lurked in he_eins, and occasioned the heavy languor of which she had complained. St.
Aubert, whose anxiety for his wife overcame every other consideration, detained the physician in his house. He remembered the feelings and th_eflections that had called a momentary gloom upon his mind, on the day whe_e had last visited the fishing-house, in company with Madame St. Aubert, an_e now admitted a presentiment, that this illness would be a fatal one. But h_ffectually concealed this from her, and from his daughter, whom h_ndeavoured to re-animate with hopes that her constant assiduities would no_e unavailing. The physician, when asked by St. Aubert for his opinion of th_isorder, replied, that the event of it depended upon circumstances which h_ould not ascertain. Madame St. Aubert seemed to have formed a more decide_ne; but her eyes only gave hints of this. She frequently fixed them upon he_nxious friends with an expression of pity, and of tenderness, as if sh_nticipated the sorrow that awaited them, and that seemed to say, it was fo_heir sakes only, for their sufferings, that she regretted life. On th_eventh day, the disorder was at its crisis. The physician assumed a grave_anner, which she observed, and took occasion, when her family had onc_uitted the chamber, to tell him, that she perceived her death wa_pproaching. 'Do not attempt to deceive me,' said she, 'I feel that I canno_ong survive. I am prepared for the event, I have long, I hope, been preparin_or it. Since I have not long to live, do not suffer a mistaken compassion t_nduce you to flatter my family with false hopes. If you do, their afflictio_ill only be the heavier when it arrives: I will endeavour to teach the_esignation by my example.' The physician was affected; he promised to obe_er, and told St. Aubert, somewhat abruptly, that there was nothing to expect.
The latter was not philosopher enough to restrain his feelings when h_eceived this information; but a consideration of the increased afflictio_hich the observance of his grief would occasion his wife, enabled him, afte_ome time, to command himself in her presence. Emily was at first overwhelme_ith the intelligence; then, deluded by the strength of her wishes, a hop_prung up in her mind that her mother would yet recover, and to this sh_ertinaciously adhered almost to the last hour. The progress of this disorde_as marked, on the side of Madame St. Aubert, by patient suffering, an_ubjected wishes. The composure, with which she awaited her death, could b_erived only from the retrospect of a life governed, as far as human frailt_ermits, by a consciousness of being always in the presence of the Deity, an_y the hope of a higher world. But her piety could not entirely subdue th_rief of parting from those whom she so dearly loved. During these her las_ours, she conversed much with St. Aubert and Emily, on the prospect o_uturity, and on other religious topics. The resignation she expressed, wit_he firm hope of meeting in a future world the friends she left in this, an_he effort which sometimes appeared to conceal her sorrow at this temporar_eparation, frequently affected St. Aubert so much as to oblige him to leav_he room. Having indulged his tears awhile, he would dry them and return t_he chamber with a countenance composed by an endeavour which did but increas_is grief. Never had Emily felt the importance of the lessons, which ha_aught her to restrain her sensibility, so much as in these moments, and neve_ad she practised them with a triumph so complete. But when the last was over, she sunk at once under the pressure of her sorrow, and then perceived that i_as hope, as well as fortitude, which had hitherto supported her. St. Auber_as for a time too devoid of comfort himself to bestow any on his daughter.