> O how canst thou renounce the boundless store Of charms which nature to he_ot'ry yields! The warbling woodland, the resounding shore, The pomp o_roves, and garniture of fields; All that the genial ray of morning gilds, An_ll that echoes to the song of even; All that the mountain's shelt'ring boso_hields, And all the dread magnificence of heaven; O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven! … . . These charms shall work thy soul's eterna_ealth, And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart.
> THE MINSTREL
St. Aubert, instead of taking the more direct road, that ran along the feet o_he Pyrenees to Languedoc, chose one that, winding over the heights, afforde_ore extensive views and greater variety of romantic scenery. He turned _ittle out of his way to take leave of M. Barreaux, whom he found botanizin_n the wood near his chateau, and who, when he was told the purpose of St.
Aubert's visit, expressed a degree of concern, such as his friend had though_t was scarcely possible for him to feel on any similar occasion. They parte_ith mutual regret.
'If any thing could have tempted me from my retirement,' said M. Barreaux, 'i_ould have been the pleasure of accompanying you on this little tour. I do no_ften offer compliments; you may, therefore, believe me, when I say, that _hall look for your return with impatience.'
The travellers proceeded on their journey. As they ascended the heights, St.
Aubert often looked back upon the chateau, in the plain below; tender image_rowded to his mind; his melancholy imagination suggested that he shoul_eturn no more; and though he checked this wandering thought, still h_ontinued to look, till the haziness of distance blended his home with th_eneral landscape, and St. Aubert seemed to
Drag at each remove a lengthening chain.
He and Emily continued sunk in musing silence for some leagues, from whic_elancholy reverie Emily first awoke, and her young fancy, struck with th_randeur of the objects around, gradually yielded to delightful impressions.
The road now descended into glens, confined by stupendous walls of rock, gre_nd barren, except where shrubs fringed their summits, or patches of meagr_egetation tinted their recesses, in which the wild goat was frequentl_rowsing. And now, the way led to the lofty cliffs, from whence the landscap_as seen extending in all its magnificence.
Emily could not restrain her transport as she looked over the pine forests o_he mountains upon the vast plains, that, enriched with woods, towns, blushin_ines, and plantations of almonds, palms, and olives, stretched along, til_heir various colours melted in distance into one harmonious hue, that seeme_o unite earth with heaven. Through the whole of this glorious scene th_ajestic Garonne wandered; descending from its source among the Pyrenees, an_inding its blue waves towards the Bay of Biscay.
The ruggedness of the unfrequented road often obliged the wanderers to aligh_rom their little carriage, but they thought themselves amply repaid for thi_nconvenience by the grandeur of the scenes; and, while the muleteer led hi_nimals slowly over the broken ground, the travellers had leisure to linge_mid these solitudes, and to indulge the sublime reflections, which soften, while they elevate, the heart, and fill it with the certainty of a presen_od! Still the enjoyment of St. Aubert was touched with that pensiv_elancholy, which gives to every object a mellower tint, and breathes a sacre_harm over all around.
They had provided against part of the evil to be encountered from a want o_onvenient inns, by carrying a stock of provisions in the carriage, so tha_hey might take refreshment on any pleasant spot, in the open air, and pas_he nights wherever they should happen to meet with a comfortable cottage. Fo_he mind, also, they had provided, by a work on botany, written by M.
Barreaux, and by several of the Latin and Italian poets; while Emily's penci_nabled her to preserve some of those combinations of forms, which charmed he_t every step.
The loneliness of the road, where, only now and then, a peasant was see_riving his mule, or some mountaineer-children at play among the rocks, heightened the effect of the scenery. St. Aubert was so much struck with it, that he determined, if he could hear of a road, to penetrate further among th_ountains, and, bending his way rather more to the south, to emerge int_ousillon, and coast the Mediterranean along part of that country t_anguedoc.
Soon after mid-day, they reached the summit of one of those cliffs, which, bright with the verdure of palm-trees, adorn, like gems, the tremendous wall_f the rocks, and which overlooked the greater part of Gascony, and part o_anguedoc. Here was shade, and the fresh water of a spring, that, glidin_mong the turf, under the trees, thence precipitated itself from rock to rock, till its dashing murmurs were lost in the abyss, though its white foam wa_ong seen amid the darkness of the pines below.
This was a spot well suited for rest, and the travellers alighted to dine, while the mules were unharnessed to browse on the savoury herbs that enriche_his summit.
It was some time before St. Aubert or Emily could withdraw their attentio_rom the surrounding objects, so as to partake of their little repast. Seate_n the shade of the palms, St. Aubert pointed out to her observation th_ourse of the rivers, the situation of great towns, and the boundaries o_rovinces, which science, rather than the eye, enabled him to describe.
Notwithstanding this occupation, when he had talked awhile he suddenly becam_ilent, thoughtful, and tears often swelled to his eyes, which Emily observed, and the sympathy of her own heart told her their cause. The scene before the_ore some resemblance, though it was on a much grander scale, to a favourit_ne of the late Madame St. Aubert, within view of the fishing-house. They bot_bserved this, and thought how delighted she would have been with the presen_andscape, while they knew that her eyes must never, never more open upon thi_orld. St. Aubert remembered the last time of his visiting that spot i_ompany with her, and also the mournfully presaging thoughts which had the_risen in his mind, and were now, even thus soon, realized! The recollection_ubdued him, and he abruptly rose from his seat, and walked away to where n_ye could observe his grief.
When he returned, his countenance had recovered its usual serenity; he too_mily's hand, pressed it affectionately, without speaking, and soon afte_alled to the muleteer, who sat at a little distance, concerning a road amon_he mountains towards Rousillon. Michael said, there were several that way, but he did not know how far they extended, or even whether they were passable; and St. Aubert, who did not intend to travel after sun-set, asked what villag_hey could reach about that time. The muleteer calculated that they coul_asily reach Mateau, which was in their present road; but that, if they took _oad that sloped more to the south, towards Rousillon, there was a hamlet, which he thought they could gain before the evening shut in.
St. Aubert, after some hesitation, determined to take the latter course, an_ichael, having finished his meal, and harnessed his mules, again set forward, but soon stopped; and St. Aubert saw him doing homage to a cross, that stoo_n a rock impending over their way. Having concluded his devotions, he smacke_is whip in the air, and, in spite of the rough road, and the pain of his poo_ules, which he had been lately lamenting, rattled, in a full gallop, alon_he edge of a precipice, which it made the eye dizzy to look down. Emily wa_errified almost to fainting; and St. Aubert, apprehending still greate_anger from suddenly stopping the driver, was compelled to sit quietly, an_rust his fate to the strength and discretion of the mules, who seemed t_ossess a greater portion of the latter quality than their master; for the_arried the travellers safely into the valley, and there stopped upon th_rink of the rivulet that watered it.
Leaving the splendour of extensive prospects, they now entered this narro_alley screened by
Rocks on rocks piled, as if by magic spell, Here scorch'd by lightnings, ther_ith ivy green.
The scene of barrenness was here and there interrupted by the spreadin_ranches of the larch and cedar, which threw their gloom over the cliff, o_thwart the torrent that rolled in the vale. No living creature appeared, except the izard, scrambling among the rocks, and often hanging upon points s_angerous, that fancy shrunk from the view of them. This was such a scene a_ALVATOR would have chosen, had he then existed, for his canvas; St. Aubert, impressed by the romantic character of the place, almost expected to se_anditti start from behind some projecting rock, and he kept his hand upon th_rms with which he always travelled.
As they advanced, the valley opened; its savage features gradually softened, and, towards evening, they were among heathy mountains, stretched in fa_erspective, along which the solitary sheep-bell was heard, and the voice o_he shepherd calling his wandering flocks to the nightly fold. His cabin, partly shadowed by the cork-tree and the ilex, which St. Aubert observed t_lourish in higher regions of the air than any other trees, except the fir, was all the human habitation that yet appeared. Along the bottom of thi_alley the most vivid verdure was spread; and, in the little hollow recesse_f the mountains, under the shade of the oak and chestnut, herds of cattl_ere grazing. Groups of them, too, were often seen reposing on the banks o_he rivulet, or laving their sides in the cool stream, and sipping its wave.
The sun was now setting upon the valley; its last light gleamed upon th_ater, and heightened the rich yellow and purple tints of the heath and broom, that overspread the mountains. St. Aubert enquired of Michael the distance t_he hamlet he had mentioned, but the man could not with certainty tell; an_mily began to fear that he had mistaken the road. Here was no human being t_ssist, or direct them; they had left the shepherd and his cabin far behind, and the scene became so obscured in twilight, that the eye could not follo_he distant perspective of the valley in search of a cottage, or a hamlet. _low of the horizon still marked the west, and this was of some little use t_he travellers. Michael seemed endeavouring to keep up his courage by singing; his music, however, was not of a kind to disperse melancholy; he sung, in _ort of chant, one of the most dismal ditties his present auditors had eve_eard, and St. Aubert at length discovered it to be a vesper-hymn to hi_avourite saint.
They travelled on, sunk in that thoughtful melancholy, with which twilight an_olitude impress the mind. Michael had now ended his ditty, and nothing wa_eard but the drowsy murmur of the breeze among the woods, and its ligh_lutter, as it blew freshly into the carriage. They were at length roused b_he sound of fire-arms. St. Aubert called to the muleteer to stop, and the_istened. The noise was not repeated; but presently they heard a rustlin_mong the brakes. St. Aubert drew forth a pistol, and ordered Michael t_roceed as fast as possible; who had not long obeyed, before a horn sounded, that made the mountains ring. He looked again from the window, and then saw _oung man spring from the bushes into the road, followed by a couple of dogs.
The stranger was in a hunter's dress. His gun was slung across his shoulders, the hunter's horn hung from his belt, and in his hand was a small pike, which, as he held it, added to the manly grace of his figure, and assisted th_gility of his steps.
After a moment's hesitation, St. Aubert again stopped the carriage, and waite_ill he came up, that they might enquire concerning the hamlet they were i_earch of. The stranger informed him, that it was only half a league distant, that he was going thither himself, and would readily shew the way. St. Auber_hanked him for the offer, and, pleased with his chevalier-like air and ope_ountenance, asked him to take a seat in the carriage; which the stranger, with an acknowledgment, declined, adding that he would keep pace with th_ules. 'But I fear you will be wretchedly accommodated,' said he: 'th_nhabitants of these mountains are a simple people, who are not only withou_he luxuries of life, but almost destitute of what in other places are held t_e its necessaries.'
'I perceive you are not one of its inhabitants, sir,' said St. Aubert.
'No, sir, I am only a wanderer here.'
The carriage drove on, and the increasing dusk made the travellers ver_hankful that they had a guide; the frequent glens, too, that now opened amon_he mountains, would likewise have added to their perplexity. Emily, as sh_ooked up one of these, saw something at a great distance like a bright clou_n the air. 'What light is yonder, sir?' said she.
St. Aubert looked, and perceived that it was the snowy summit of a mountain, so much higher than any around it, that it still reflected the sun's rays, while those below lay in deep shade.
At length, the village lights were seen to twinkle through the dusk, and, soo_fter, some cottages were discovered in the valley, or rather were seen b_eflection in the stream, on whose margin they stood, and which still gleame_ith the evening light.
The stranger now came up, and St. Aubert, on further enquiry, found not onl_hat there was no inn in the place, but not any sort of house of publi_eception. The stranger, however, offered to walk on, and enquire for _ottage to accommodate them; for which further civility St. Aubert returne_is thanks, and said, that, as the village was so near, he would alight, an_alk with him. Emily followed slowly in the carriage.
On the way, St. Aubert asked his companion what success he had had in th_hase. 'Not much, sir,' he replied, 'nor do I aim at it. I am pleased with th_ountry, and mean to saunter away a few weeks among its scenes. My dogs I tak_ith me more for companionship than for game. This dress, too, gives me a_stensible business, and procures me that respect from the people, whic_ould, perhaps, be refused to a lonely stranger, who had no visible motive fo_oming among them.'
'I admire your taste,' said St. Aubert, 'and, if I was a younger man, shoul_ike to pass a few weeks in your way exceedingly. I, too, am a wanderer, bu_either my plan nor pursuits are exactly like yours— I go in search of health, as much as of amusement.' St. Aubert sighed, and paused; and then, seeming t_ecollect himself, he resumed: 'If I can hear of a tolerable road, that shal_fford decent accommodation, it is my intention to pass into Rousillon, an_long the sea-shore to Languedoc. You, sir, seem to be acquainted with th_ountry, and can, perhaps, give me information on the subject.'
The stranger said, that what information he could give was entirely at hi_ervice; and then mentioned a road rather more to the east, which led to _own, whence it would be easy to proceed into Rousillon.
They now arrived at the village, and commenced their search for a cottage, that would afford a night's lodging. In several, which they entered, ignorance, poverty, and mirth seemed equally to prevail; and the owners eye_t. Aubert with a mixture of curiosity and timidity. Nothing like a bed coul_e found, and he had ceased to enquire for one, when Emily joined him, wh_bserved the languor of her father's countenance, and lamented, that he ha_aken a road so ill provided with the comforts necessary for an invalid. Othe_ottages, which they examined, seemed somewhat less savage than the former, consisting of two rooms, if such they could be called; the first of thes_ccupied by mules and pigs, the second by the family, which generall_onsisted of six or eight children, with their parents, who slept on beds o_kins and dried beech leaves, spread upon a mud floor. Here, light wa_dmitted, and smoke discharged, through an aperture in the roof; and here th_cent of spirits (for the travelling smugglers, who haunted the Pyrenees, ha_ade this rude people familiar with the use of liquors) was generall_erceptible enough. Emily turned from such scenes, and looked at her fathe_ith anxious tenderness, which the young stranger seemed to observe; for, drawing St. Aubert aside, he made him an offer of his own bed. 'It is a decen_ne,' said he, 'when compared with what we have just seen, yet such as i_ther circumstances I should be ashamed to offer you.' St. Aubert acknowledge_ow much he felt himself obliged by this kindness, but refused to accept it, till the young stranger would take no denial. 'Do not give me the pain o_nowing, sir,' said he, 'that an invalid, like you, lies on hard skins, whil_ sleep in a bed. Besides, sir, your refusal wounds my pride; I must believ_ou think my offer unworthy your acceptance. Let me shew you the way. I hav_o doubt my landlady can accommodate this young lady also.'
St. Aubert at length consented, that, if this could be done, he would accep_is kindness, though he felt rather surprised, that the stranger had prove_imself so deficient in gallantry, as to administer to the repose of an infir_an, rather than to that of a very lovely young woman, for he had not onc_ffered the room for Emily. But she thought not of herself, and the animate_mile she gave him, told how much she felt herself obliged for the preferenc_f her father.
On their way, the stranger, whose name was Valancourt, stepped on first t_peak to his hostess, and she came out to welcome St. Aubert into a cottage, much superior to any he had seen. This good woman seemed very willing t_ccommodate the strangers, who were soon compelled to accept the only two bed_n the place. Eggs and milk were the only food the cottage afforded; bu_gainst scarcity of provisions St. Aubert had provided, and he requeste_alancourt to stay, and partake with him of less homely fare; an invitation, which was readily accepted, and they passed an hour in intelligen_onversation. St. Aubert was much pleased with the manly frankness, simplicity, and keen susceptibility to the grandeur of nature, which his ne_cquaintance discovered; and, indeed, he had often been heard to say, that, without a certain simplicity of heart, this taste could not exist in an_trong degree.
The conversation was interrupted by a violent uproar without, in which th_oice of the muleteer was heard above every other sound. Valancourt starte_rom his seat, and went to enquire the occasion; but the dispute continued s_ong afterwards, that St. Aubert went himself, and found Michael quarrellin_ith the hostess, because she had refused to let his mules lie in a littl_oom where he and three of her sons were to pass the night. The place wa_retched enough, but there was no other for these people to sleep in; and, with somewhat more of delicacy than was usual among the inhabitants of thi_ild tract of country, she persisted in refusing to let the animals have th_ame BED-CHAMBER with her children. This was a tender point with the muleteer; his honour was wounded when his mules were treated with disrespect, and h_ould have received a blow, perhaps, with more meekness. He declared that hi_easts were as honest beasts, and as good beasts, as any in the whol_rovince; and that they had a right to be well treated wherever they went.
'They are as harmless as lambs,' said he, 'if people don't affront them. _ever knew them behave themselves amiss above once or twice in my life, an_hen they had good reason for doing so. Once, indeed, they kicked at a boy'_eg that lay asleep in the stable, and broke it; but I told them they were ou_here, and by St. Anthony! I believe they understood me, for they never did s_gain.'
He concluded this eloquent harangue with protesting, that they should shar_ith him, go where he would.
The dispute was at length settled by Valancourt, who drew the hostess aside, and desired she would let the muleteer and his beasts have the place i_uestion to themselves, while her sons should have the bed of skins designe_or him, for that he would wrap himself in his cloak, and sleep on the benc_y the cottage door. But this she thought it her duty to oppose, and she fel_t to be her inclination to disappoint the muleteer. Valancourt, however, wa_ositive, and the tedious affair was at length settled.
It was late when St. Aubert and Emily retired to their rooms, and Valancour_o his station at the door, which, at this mild season, he preferred to _lose cabin and a bed of skins. St. Aubert was somewhat surprised to find i_is room volumes of Homer, Horace, and Petrarch; but the name of Valancourt, written in them, told him to whom they belonged.