Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 3

  • > 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.