> I care not, Fortune! what you me deny; You cannot rob me of free nature'_race; You cannot shut the windows of the sky, Through which Aurora shews he_rightening face; You cannot bar my constant feet to trace The woods an_awns, by living stream, at eve: Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace, And I their toys to the great children leave: Of fancy, reason, virtue, nough_an me bereave.
In the morning, Valancourt breakfasted with St. Aubert and Emily, neither o_hom seemed much refreshed by sleep. The languor of illness still hung ove_t. Aubert, and to Emily's fears his disorder appeared to be increasing fas_pon him. She watched his looks with anxious affection, and their expressio_as always faithfully reflected in her own.
At the commencement of their acquaintance, Valancourt had made known his nam_nd family. St. Aubert was not a stranger to either, for the family estates, which were now in the possession of an elder brother of Valancourt, wer_ittle more than twenty miles distant from La Vallee, and he had sometimes me_he elder Valancourt on visits in the neighbourhood. This knowledge had mad_im more willingly receive his present companion; for, though his countenanc_nd manners would have won him the acquaintance of St. Aubert, who was ver_pt to trust to the intelligence of his own eyes, with respect t_ountenances, he would not have accepted these, as sufficient introductions t_hat of his daughter.
The breakfast was almost as silent as the supper of the preceding night; bu_heir musing was at length interrupted by the sound of the carriage wheels, which were to bear away St. Aubert and Emily. Valancourt started from hi_hair, and went to the window; it was indeed the carriage, and he returned t_is seat without speaking. The moment was now come when they must part. St.
Aubert told Valancourt, that he hoped he would never pass La Vallee withou_avouring him with a visit; and Valancourt, eagerly thanking him, assured hi_hat he never would; as he said which he looked timidly at Emily, who tried t_mile away the seriousness of her spirits. They passed a few minutes i_nteresting conversation, and St. Aubert then led the way to the carriage, Emily and Valancourt following in silence. The latter lingered at the doo_everal minutes after they were seated, and none of the party seemed to hav_ourage enough to say—Farewell. At length, St. Aubert pronounced th_elancholy word, which Emily passed to Valancourt, who returned it, with _ejected smile, and the carriage drove on.
The travellers remained, for some time, in a state of tranquil pensiveness, which is not unpleasing. St. Aubert interrupted it by observing, 'This is _ery promising young man; it is many years since I have been so much please_ith any person, on so short an acquaintance. He brings back to my memory th_ays of my youth, when every scene was new and delightful!' St. Aubert sighed, and sunk again into a reverie; and, as Emily looked back upon the road the_ad passed, Valancourt was seen, at the door of the little inn, following the_ith his eyes. Her perceived her, and waved his hand; and she returned th_dieu, till the winding road shut her from his sight.
'I remember when I was about his age,' resumed St. Aubert, 'and I thought, an_elt exactly as he does. The world was opening upon me then, now—it i_losing.'
'My dear sir, do not think so gloomily,' said Emily in a trembling voice, '_ope you have many, many years to live—for your own sake— for MY sake.'
'Ah, my Emily!' replied St. Aubert, 'for thy sake! Well- I hope it is so.' H_iped away a tear, that was stealing down his cheek, threw a smile upon hi_ountenance, and said in a cheering voice, 'there is something in the ardou_nd ingenuousness of youth, which is particularly pleasing to th_ontemplation of an old man, if his feelings have not been entirely corrode_y the world. It is cheering and reviving, like the view of spring to a sic_erson; his mind catches somewhat of the spirit of the season, and his eye_re lighted up with a transient sunshine. Valancourt is this spring to me.'
Emily, who pressed her father's hand affectionately, had never before listene_ith so much pleasure to the praises he bestowed; no, not even when he ha_estowed them on herself.
They travelled on, among vineyards, woods, and pastures, delighted with th_omantic beauty of the landscape, which was bounded, on one side, by th_randeur of the Pyrenees, and, on the other, by the ocean; and, soon afte_oon, they reached the town of Colioure, situated on the Mediterranean. Her_hey dined, and rested till towards the cool of day, when they pursued thei_ay along the shores—those enchanting shores!—which extend to Languedoc. Emil_azed with enthusiasm on the vastness of the sea, its surface varying, as th_ights and shadows fell, and on its woody banks, mellowed with autumnal tints.
St. Aubert was impatient to reach Perpignan, where he expected letters from M.
Quesnel; and it was the expectation of these letters, that had induced him t_eave Colioure, for his feeble frame had required immediate rest. Afte_ravelling a few miles, he fell asleep; and Emily, who had put two or thre_ooks into the carriage, on leaving La Vallee, had now the leisure for lookin_nto them. She sought for one, in which Valancourt had been reading the da_efore, and hoped for the pleasure of re-tracing a page, over which the eye_f a beloved friend had lately passed, of dwelling on the passages, which h_ad admired, and of permitting them to speak to her in the language of his ow_ind, and to bring himself to her presence. On searching for the book, sh_ould find it no where, but in its stead perceived a volume of Petrarch'_oems, that had belonged to Valancourt, whose name was written in it, and fro_hich he had frequently read passages to her, with all the patheti_xpression, that characterized the feelings of the author. She hesitated i_elieving, what would have been sufficiently apparent to almost any othe_erson, that he had purposely left this book, instead of the one she had lost, and that love had prompted the exchange; but, having opened it with impatien_leasure, and observed the lines of his pencil drawn along the variou_assages he had read aloud, and under others more descriptive of delicat_enderness than he had dared to trust his voice with, the conviction came, a_ength, to her mind. For some moments she was conscious only of being beloved; then, a recollection of all the variations of tone and countenance, with whic_e had recited these sonnets, and of the soul, which spoke in thei_xpression, pressed to her memory, and she wept over the memorial of hi_ffection.
They arrived at Perpignan soon after sunset, where St. Aubert found, as he ha_xpected, letters from M. Quesnel, the contents of which so evidently an_rievously affected him, that Emily was alarmed, and pressed him, as far a_er delicacy would permit, to disclose the occasion of his concern; but h_nswered her only by tears, and immediately began to talk on other topics.
Emily, though she forbore to press the one most interesting to her, wa_reatly affected by her father's manner, and passed a night of sleeples_olicitude.
In the morning they pursued their journey along the coast towards Leucate, another town on the Mediterranean, situated on the borders of Languedoc an_ousillon. On the way, Emily renewed the subject of the preceding night, an_ppeared so deeply affected by St. Aubert's silence and dejection, that h_elaxed from his reserve. 'I was unwilling, my dear Emily,' said he, 'to thro_ cloud over the pleasure you receive from these scenes, and meant, therefore, to conceal, for the present, some circumstances, with which, however, you mus_t length have been made acquainted. But your anxiety has defeated my purpose; you suffer as much from this, perhaps, as you will do from a knowledge of th_acts I have to relate. M. Quesnel's visit proved an unhappy one to me; h_ame to tell me part of the news he has now confirmed. You may have heard m_ention a M. Motteville, of Paris, but you did not know that the chief of m_ersonal property was invested in his hands. I had great confidence in him, and I am yet willing to believe, that he is not wholly unworthy of my esteem.
A variety of circumstances have concurred to ruin him, and—I am ruined wit_im.'
St. Aubert paused to conceal his emotion.
'The letters I have just received from M. Quesnel,' resumed he, struggling t_peak with firmness, 'enclosed others from Motteville, which confirmed all _readed.'
'Must we then quit La Vallee?' said Emily, after a long pause of silence.
'That is yet uncertain,' replied St. Aubert, 'it will depend upon th_ompromise Motteville is able to make with his creditors. My income, you know, was never large, and now it will be reduced to little indeed! It is for you, Emily, for you, my child, that I am most afflicted.' His last words faltered; Emily smiled tenderly upon him through her tears, and then, endeavouring t_vercome her emotion, 'My dear father,' said she, 'do not grieve for me, o_or yourself; we may yet be happy;—if La Vallee remains for us, we must b_appy. We will retain only one servant, and you shall scarcely perceive th_hange in your income. Be comforted, my dear sir; we shall not feel the wan_f those luxuries, which others value so highly, since we never had a tast_or them; and poverty cannot deprive us of many consolations. It cannot rob u_f the affection we have for each other, or degrade us in our own opinion, o_n that of any person, whose opinion we ought to value.'
St. Aubert concealed his face with his handkerchief, and was unable to speak; but Emily continued to urge to her father the truths, which himself ha_mpressed upon her mind.
'Besides, my dear sir, poverty cannot deprive us of intellectual delights. I_annot deprive you of the comfort of affording me examples of fortitude an_enevolence; nor me of the delight of consoling a beloved parent. It canno_eaden our taste for the grand, and the beautiful, or deny us the means o_ndulging it; for the scenes of nature—those sublime spectacles, so infinitel_uperior to all artificial luxuries! are open for the enjoyment of the poor, as well as of the rich. Of what, then, have we to complain, so long as we ar_ot in want of necessaries? Pleasures, such as wealth cannot buy, will stil_e ours. We retain, then, the sublime luxuries of nature, and lose only th_rivolous ones of art.'
St. Aubert could not reply: he caught Emily to his bosom, their tears flowe_ogether, but—they were not tears of sorrow. After this language of the heart, all other would have been feeble, and they remained silent for some time.
Then, St. Aubert conversed as before; for, if his mind had not recovered it_atural tranquillity, it at least assumed the appearance of it.
They reached the romantic town of Leucate early in the day, but St. Aubert wa_eary, and they determined to pass the night there. In the evening, he exerte_imself so far as to walk with his daughter to view the environs that overloo_he lake of Leucate, the Mediterranean, part of Rousillon, with the Pyrenees, and a wide extent of the luxuriant province of Languedoc, now blushing wit_he ripened vintage, which the peasants were beginning to gather. St. Auber_nd Emily saw the busy groups, caught the joyous song, that was wafted on th_reeze, and anticipated, with apparent pleasure, their next day's journey ove_his gay region. He designed, however, still to wind along the sea-shore. T_eturn home immediately was partly his wish, but from this he was withheld b_ desire to lengthen the pleasure, which the journey gave his daughter, and t_ry the effect of the sea air on his own disorder.
On the following day, therefore, they recommenced their journey throug_anguedoc, winding the shores of the Mediterranean; the Pyrenees still formin_he magnificent back-ground of their prospects, while on their right was th_cean, and, on their left, wide extended plains melting into the blue horizon.
St. Aubert was pleased, and conversed much with Emily, yet his cheerfulnes_as sometimes artificial, and sometimes a shade of melancholy would steal upo_is countenance, and betray him. This was soon chased away by Emily's smile; who smiled, however, with an aching heart, for she saw that his misfortune_reyed upon his mind, and upon his enfeebled frame.
It was evening when they reached a small village of Upper Languedoc, wher_hey meant to pass the night, but the place could not afford them beds; fo_ere, too, it was the time of the vintage, and they were obliged to proceed t_he next post. The languor of illness and of fatigue, which returned upon St.
Aubert, required immediate repose, and the evening was now far advanced; bu_rom necessity there was no appeal, and he ordered Michael to proceed.
The rich plains of Languedoc, which exhibited all the glories of the vintage, with the gaieties of a French festival, no longer awakened St. Aubert t_leasure, whose condition formed a mournful contrast to the hilarity an_outhful beauty which surrounded him. As his languid eyes moved over th_cene, he considered, that they would soon, perhaps, be closed for ever o_his world. 'Those distant and sublime mountains,' said he secretly, as h_azed on a chain of the Pyrenees that stretched towards the west, 'thes_uxuriant plains, this blue vault, the cheerful light of day, will be shu_rom my eyes! The song of the peasant, the cheering voice of man—will n_onger sound for me!'
The intelligent eyes of Emily seemed to read what passed in the mind of he_ather, and she fixed them on his face, with an expression of such tende_ity, as recalled his thoughts from every desultory object of regret, and h_emembered only, that he must leave his daughter without protection. Thi_eflection changed regret to agony; he sighed deeply, and remained silent, while she seemed to understand that sigh, for she pressed his han_ffectionately, and then turned to the window to conceal her tears. The su_ow threw a last yellow gleam on the waves of the Mediterranean, and the gloo_f twilight spread fast over the scene, till only a melancholy ray appeared o_he western horizon, marking the point where the sun had set amid the vapour_f an autumnal evening. A cool breeze now came from the shore, and Emily le_own the glass; but the air, which was refreshing to health, was as chillin_o sickness, and St. Aubert desired, that the window might be drawn up.
Increasing illness made him now more anxious than ever to finish the day'_ourney, and he stopped the muleteer to enquire how far they had yet to go t_he next post. He replied, 'Nine miles.' 'I feel I am unable to proceed muc_urther,' said St. Aubert; 'enquire, as you go, if there is any house on th_oad that would accommodate us for the night.' He sunk back in the carriage, and Michael, cracking his whip in the air, set off, and continued on the ful_allop, till St. Aubert, almost fainting, called to him to stop. Emily looke_nxiously from the window, and saw a peasant walking at some little distanc_n the road, for whom they waited, till he came up, when he was asked, i_here was any house in the neighbourhood that accommodated travellers. H_eplied, that he knew of none. 'There is a chateau, indeed, among those wood_n the right,' added he, 'but I believe it receives nobody, and I cannot sho_ou the way, for I am almost a stranger here.' St. Aubert was going to ask hi_ome further question concerning the chateau, but the man abruptly passed on.
After some consideration, he ordered Michael to proceed slowly to the woods.
Every moment now deepened the twilight, and increased the difficulty o_inding the road. Another peasant soon after passed. 'Which is the way to th_hateau in the woods?' cried Michael.
'The chateau in the woods!' exclaimed the peasant—'Do you mean that with th_urret, yonder?'
'I don't know as for the turret, as you call it,' said Michael, 'I mean tha_hite piece of a building, that we see at a distance there, among the trees.'
'Yes, that is the turret; why, who are you, that you are going thither?' sai_he man with surprise.
St. Aubert, on hearing this odd question, and observing the peculiar tone i_hich it was delivered, looked out from the carriage. 'We are travellers,'
said he, 'who are in search of a house of accommodation for the night; i_here any hereabout?'
'None, Monsieur, unless you have a mind to try your luck yonder,' replied th_easant, pointing to the woods, 'but I would not advise you to go there.'
'To whom does the chateau belong?'
'I scarcely know myself, Monsieur.'
'It is uninhabited, then?' 'No, not uninhabited; the steward and housekeepe_re there, I believe.'
On hearing this, St. Aubert determined to proceed to the chateau, and risqu_he refusal of being accommodated for the night; he therefore desired th_ountryman would shew Michael the way, and bade him expect reward for hi_rouble. The man was for a moment silent, and then said, that he was going o_ther business, but that the road could not be missed, if they went up a_venue to the right, to which he pointed. St. Aubert was going to speak, bu_he peasant wished him good night, and walked on.
The carriage now moved towards the avenue, which was guarded by a gate, an_ichael having dismounted to open it, they entered between rows of ancient oa_nd chesnut, whose intermingled branches formed a lofty arch above. There wa_omething so gloomy and desolate in the appearance of this avenue, and it_onely silence, that Emily almost shuddered as she passed along; and, recollecting the manner in which the peasant had mentioned the chateau, sh_ave a mysterious meaning to his words, such as she had not suspected when h_ttered them. These apprehensions, however, she tried to check, considerin_hat they were probably the effect of a melancholy imagination, which he_ather's situation, and a consideration of her own circumstances, had mad_ensible to every impression.
They passed slowly on, for they were now almost in darkness, which, togethe_ith the unevenness of the ground, and the frequent roots of old trees, tha_hot up above the soil, made it necessary to proceed with caution. On a sudde_ichael stopped the carriage; and, as St. Aubert looked from the window t_nquire the cause, he perceived a figure at some distance moving up th_venue. The dusk would not permit him to distinguish what it was, but he bad_ichael go on.
'This seems a wild place,' said Michael; 'there is no house hereabout, don'_our honour think we had better turn back?'
'Go a little farther, and if we see no house then, we will return to th_oad,' replied St. Aubert.
Michael proceeded with reluctance, and the extreme slowness of his pace mad_t. Aubert look again from the window to hasten him, when again he saw th_ame figure. He was somewhat startled: probably the gloominess of the spo_ade him more liable to alarm than usual; however this might be, he no_topped Michael, and bade him call to the person in the avenue.
'Please your honour, he may be a robber,' said Michael. 'It does not pleas_e,' replied St. Aubert, who could not forbear smiling at the simplicity o_is phrase, 'and we will, therefore, return to the road, for I see n_robability of meeting here with what we seek.'
Michael turned about immediately, and was retracing his way with alacrity, when a voice was heard from among the trees on the left. It was not the voic_f command, or distress, but a deep hollow tone, which seemed to be scarcel_uman. The man whipped his mules till they went as fast as possible, regardless of the darkness, the broken ground, and the necks of the whol_arty, nor once stopped till he reached the gate, which opened from the avenu_nto the high-road, where he went into a more moderate pace.
'I am very ill,' said St. Aubert, taking his daughter's hand. 'You are worse, then, sir!' said Emily, extremely alarmed by his manner, 'you are worse, an_ere is no assistance. Good God! what is to be done!' He leaned his head o_er shoulder, while she endeavoured to support him with her arm, and Michae_as again ordered to stop. When the rattling of the wheels had ceased, musi_as heard on their air; it was to Emily the voice of Hope. 'Oh! we are nea_ome human habitation!' said she, 'help may soon be had.'
She listened anxiously; the sounds were distant, and seemed to come from _emote part of the woods that bordered the road; and, as she looked toward_he spot whence they issued, she perceived in the faint moon-light somethin_ike a chateau. It was difficult, however, to reach this; St. Aubert was no_oo ill to bear the motion of the carriage; Michael could not quit his mules; and Emily, who still supported her father, feared to leave him, and als_eared to venture alone to such a distance, she knew not whither, or to whom.
Something, however, it was necessary to determine upon immediately; St.
Aubert, therefore, told Michael to proceed slowly; but they had not gone far, when he fainted, and the carriage was again stopped. He lay quit_enseless.—'My dear, dear father!' cried Emily in great agony, who began t_ear that he was dying, 'speak, if it is only one word to let me hear th_ound of your voice!' But no voice spoke in reply. In the agony of terror sh_ade Michael bring water from the rivulet, that flowed along the road; and, having received some in the man's hat, with trembling hands she sprinkled i_ver her father's face, which, as the moon's rays now fell upon it, seemed t_ear the impression of death. Every emotion of selfish fear now gave way to _tronger influence, and, committing St. Aubert to the care of Michael, wh_efused to go far from his mules, she stepped from the carriage in search o_he chateau she had seen at a distance. It was a still moon-light night, an_he music, which yet sounded on the air, directed her steps from the hig_oad, up a shadowy lane, that led to the woods. Her mind was for some time s_ntirely occupied by anxiety and terror for her father, that she felt none fo_erself, till the deepening gloom of the overhanging foliage, which now wholl_xcluded the moon-light, and the wildness of the place, recalled her to _ense of her adventurous situation. The music had ceased, and she had no guid_ut chance. For a moment she paused in terrified perplexity, till a sense o_er father's condition again overcoming every consideration for herself, sh_roceeded. The lane terminated in the woods, but she looked round in vain fo_ house, or a human being, and as vainly listened for a sound to guide her.
She hurried on, however, not knowing whither, avoiding the recesses of th_oods, and endeavouring to keep along their margin, till a rude kind o_venue, which opened upon a moon-light spot, arrested her attention. Th_ildness of this avenue brought to her recollection the one leading to th_urreted chateau, and she was inclined to believe, that this was a part of th_ame domain, and probably led to the same point. While she hesitated, whethe_o follow it or not, a sound of many voices in loud merriment burst upon he_ar. It seemed not the laugh of cheerfulness, but of riot, and she stoo_ppalled. While she paused, she heard a distant voice, calling from the wa_he had come, and not doubting but it was that of Michael, her first impuls_as to hasten back; but a second thought changed her purpose; she believe_hat nothing less than the last extremity could have prevailed with Michael t_uit his mules, and fearing that her father was now dying, she rushed forward, with a feeble hope of obtaining assistance from the people in the woods. He_eart beat with fearful expectation, as she drew near the spot whence th_oices issued, and she often startled when her steps disturbed the falle_eaves. The sounds led her towards the moon-light glade she had befor_oticed; at a little distance from which she stopped, and saw, between th_oles of the trees, a small circular level of green turf, surrounded by th_oods, on which appeared a group of figures. On drawing nearer, sh_istinguished these, by their dress, to be peasants, and perceived severa_ottages scattered round the edge of the woods, which waved loftily over thi_pot. While she gazed, and endeavoured to overcome the apprehensions tha_ithheld her steps, several peasant girls came out of a cottage; musi_nstantly struck up, and the dance began. It was the joyous music of th_intage! the same she had before heard upon the air. Her heart, occupied wit_error for her father, could not feel the contrast, which this gay scen_ffered to her own distress; she stepped hastily forward towards a group o_lder peasants, who were seated at the door of a cottage, and, havin_xplained her situation, entreated their assistance. Several of them rose wit_lacrity, and, offering any service in their power, followed Emily, who seeme_o move on the wind, as fast as they could towards the road.
When she reached the carriage she found St. Aubert restored to animation. O_he recovery of his senses, having heard from Michael whither his daughter wa_one, anxiety for her overcame every regard for himself, and he had sent hi_n search of her. He was, however, still languid, and, perceiving himsel_nable to travel much farther, he renewed his enquiries for an inn, an_oncerning the chateau in the woods. 'The chateau cannot accommodate you, sir,' said a venerable peasant who had followed Emily from the woods, 'it i_carcely inhabited; but, if you will do me the honour to visit my cottage, yo_hall be welcome to the best bed it affords.'
St. Aubert was himself a Frenchman; he therefore was not surprised at Frenc_ourtesy; but, ill as he was, he felt the value of the offer enhanced by th_anner which accompanied it. He had too much delicacy to apologize, or t_ppear to hesitate about availing himself of the peasant's hospitality, bu_mmediately accepted it with the same frankness with which it was offered.
The carriage again moved slowly on; Michael following the peasants up th_ane, which Emily had just quitted, till they came to the moon- light glade.
St. Aubert's spirits were so far restored by the courtesy of his host, and th_ear prospect of repose, that he looked with a sweet complacency upon th_oon-light scene, surrounded by the shadowy woods, through which, here an_here, an opening admitted the streaming splendour, discovering a cottage, o_ sparkling rivulet. He listened, with no painful emotion, to the merry note_f the guitar and tamborine; and, though tears came to his eyes, when he sa_he debonnaire dance of the peasants, they were not merely tears of mournfu_egret. With Emily it was otherwise; immediate terror for her father had no_ubsided into a gentle melancholy, which every note of joy, by awakenin_omparison, served to heighten.
The dance ceased on the approach of the carriage, which was a phenomenon i_hese sequestered woods, and the peasantry flocked round it with eage_uriosity. On learning that it brought a sick stranger, several girls ra_cross the turf, and returned with wine and baskets of grapes, which the_resented to the travellers, each with kind contention pressing for _reference. At length, the carriage stopped at a neat cottage, and hi_enerable conductor, having assisted St. Aubert to alight, led him and Emil_o a small inner room, illuminated only by moon-beams, which the open casemen_dmitted. St. Aubert, rejoicing in rest, seated himself in an arm- chair, an_is senses were refreshed by the cool and balmy air, that lightly waved th_mbowering honeysuckles, and wafted their sweet breath into the apartment. Hi_ost, who was called La Voisin, quitted the room, but soon returned wit_ruits, cream, and all the pastoral luxury his cottage afforded; having se_own which, with a smile of unfeigned welcome, he retired behind the chair o_is guest. St. Aubert insisted on his taking a seat at the table, and, whe_he fruit had allayed the fever of his palate, and he found himself somewha_evived, he began to converse with his host, who communicated severa_articulars concerning himself and his family, which were interesting, becaus_hey were spoken from the heart, and delineated a picture of the swee_ourtesies of family kindness. Emily sat by her father, holding his hand, and, while she listened to the old man, her heart swelled with the affectionat_ympathy he described, and her tears fell to the mournful consideration, tha_eath would probably soon deprive her of the dearest blessing she the_ossessed. The soft moon-light of an autumnal evening, and the distant music, which now sounded a plaintive strain, aided the melancholy of her mind. Th_ld man continued to talk of his family, and St. Aubert remained silent. '_ave only one daughter living,' said La Voisin, 'but she is happily married, and is every thing to me. When I lost my wife,' he added with a sigh, 'I cam_o live with Agnes, and her family; she has several children, who are al_ancing on the green yonder, as merry as grasshoppers—and long may they be so!
I hope to die among them, monsieur. I am old now, and cannot expect to liv_ong, but there is some comfort in dying surrounded by one's children.'
'My good friend,' said St. Aubert, while his voice trembled, 'I hope you wil_ong live surrounded by them.'
'Ah, sir! at my age I must not expect that!' replied the old man, and h_aused: 'I can scarcely wish it,' he resumed, 'for I trust that whenever I di_ shall go to heaven, where my poor wife is gone before me. I can sometime_lmost fancy I see her of a still moon- light night, walking among thes_hades she loved so well. Do you believe, monsieur, that we shall be permitte_o revisit the earth, after we have quitted the body?'
Emily could no longer stifle the anguish of her heart; her tears fell fas_pon her father's hand, which she yet held. He made an effort to speak, and a_ength said in a low voice, 'I hope we shall be permitted to look down o_hose we have left on the earth, but I can only hope it. Futurity is muc_eiled from our eyes, and faith and hope are our only guides concerning it. W_re not enjoined to believe, that disembodied spirits watch over the friend_hey have loved, but we may innocently hope it. It is a hope which I wil_ever resign,' continued he, while he wiped the tears from his daughter'_yes, 'it will sweeten the bitter moments of death!' Tears fell slowly on hi_heeks; La Voisin wept too, and there was a pause of silence. Then, La Voisin, renewing the subject, said, 'But you believe, sir, that we shall meet i_nother world the relations we have loved in this; I must believe this.' 'The_o believe it,' replied St. Aubert, 'severe, indeed, would be the pangs o_eparation, if we believed it to be eternal. Look up, my dear Emily, we shal_eet again!' He lifted his eyes towards heaven, and a gleam of moon-light, which fell upon his countenance, discovered peace and resignation, stealing o_he lines of sorrow.
La Voisin felt that he had pursued the subject too far, and he dropped it, saying, 'We are in darkness, I forgot to bring a light.'
'No,' said St. Aubert, 'this is a light I love. Sit down, my good friend.
Emily, my love, I find myself better than I have been all day; this ai_efreshes me. I can enjoy this tranquil hour, and that music, which floats s_weetly at a distance. Let me see you smile. Who touches that guitar s_astefully? are there two instruments, or is it an echo I hear?'
'It is an echo, monsieur, I fancy. That guitar is often heard at night, whe_ll is still, but nobody knows who touches it, and it is sometimes accompanie_y a voice so sweet, and so sad, one would almost think the woods wer_aunted.' 'They certainly are haunted,' said St. Aubert with a smile, 'but _elieve it is by mortals.' 'I have sometimes heard it at midnight, when _ould not sleep,' rejoined La Voisin, not seeming to notice this remark,
'almost under my window, and I never heard any music like it. It has ofte_ade me think of my poor wife till I cried. I have sometimes got up to th_indow to look if I could see anybody, but as soon as I opened the casemen_ll was hushed, and nobody to be seen; and I have listened, and listened til_ have been so timorous, that even the trembling of the leaves in the breez_as made me start. They say it often comes to warn people of their death, bu_ have heard it these many years, and outlived the warning.'
Emily, though she smiled at the mention of this ridiculous superstition, coul_ot, in the present tone of her spirits, wholly resist its contagion.
'Well, but, my good friend,' said St. Aubert, 'has nobody had courage t_ollow the sounds? If they had, they would probably have discovered who is th_usician.' 'Yes, sir, they have followed them some way into the woods, but th_usic has still retreated, and seemed as distant as ever, and the people hav_t last been afraid of being led into harm, and would go no further. It i_ery seldom that I have heard these sounds so early in the evening. The_sually come about midnight, when that bright planet, which is rising abov_he turret yonder, sets below the woods on the left.'
'What turret?' asked St. Aubert with quickness, 'I see none.'
'Your pardon, monsieur, you do see one indeed, for the moon shines full upo_t;—up the avenue yonder, a long way off; the chateau it belongs to is hi_mong the trees.'
'Yes, my dear sir,' said Emily, pointing, 'don't you see something glitte_bove the dark woods? It is a fane, I fancy, which the rays fall upon.'
'O yes, I see what you mean; and who does the chateau belong to?'
'The Marquis de Villeroi was its owner,' replied La Voisin, emphatically.
'Ah!' said St. Aubert, with a deep sigh, 'are we then so near Le- Blanc!' H_ppeared much agitated.
'It used to be the Marquis's favourite residence,' resumed La Voisin, 'but h_ook a dislike to the place, and has not been there for many years. We hav_eard lately that he is dead, and that it is fallen into other hands.' St.
Aubert, who had sat in deep musing, was roused by the last words. 'Dead!' h_xclaimed, 'Good God! when did he die?'
'He is reported to have died about five weeks since,' replied La Voisin. 'Di_ou know the Marquis, sir?'
'This is very extraordinary!' said St. Aubert without attending to th_uestion. 'Why is it so, my dear sir?' said Emily, in a voice of timi_uriosity. He made no reply, but sunk again into a reverie; and in a fe_oments, when he seemed to have recovered himself, asked who had succeeded t_he estates. 'I have forgot his title, monsieur,' said La Voisin; 'but my lor_esides at Paris chiefly; I hear no talk of his coming hither.'
'The chateau is shut up then, still?'
'Why, little better, sir; the old housekeeper, and her husband the steward, have the care of it, but they live generally in a cottage hard by.'
'The chateau is spacious, I suppose,' said Emily, 'and must be desolate fo_he residence of only two persons.'
'Desolate enough, mademoiselle,' replied La Voisin, 'I would not pass on_ight in the chateau, for the value of the whole domain.'
'What is that?' said St. Aubert, roused again from thoughtfulness. As his hos_epeated his last sentence, a groan escaped from St. Aubert, and then, as i_nxious to prevent it from being noticed, he hastily asked La Voisin how lon_e had lived in this neighbourhood. 'Almost from my childhood, sir,' replie_is host.
'You remember the late marchioness, then?' said St. Aubert in an altere_oice.
'Ah, monsieur!—that I do well. There are many besides me who remember her.'
'Yes—' said St. Aubert, 'and I am one of those.'
'Alas, sir! you remember, then, a most beautiful and excellent lady. Sh_eserved a better fate.'
Tears stood in St. Aubert's eyes; 'Enough,' said he, in a voice almost stifle_y the violence of his emotions,—'it is enough, my friend.'
Emily, though extremely surprised by her father's manner, forbore to expres_er feelings by any question. La Voisin began to apologize, but St. Auber_nterrupted him; 'Apology is quite unnecessary,' said he, 'let us change th_opic. You was speaking of the music we just now heard.'
'I was, monsieur—but hark!—it comes again; listen to that voice!' They wer_ll silent;
At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound Rose, like a stream of ric_istilled perfumes, And stole upon the air, that even Silence Was took ere sh_as 'ware, and wished she might Deny her nature, and be never more Still, t_e so displaced.* *Milton.
In a few moments the voice died into air, and the instrument, which had bee_eard before, sounded in low symphony. St. Aubert now observed, that i_roduced a tone much more full and melodious than that of a guitar, and stil_ore melancholy and soft than the lute. They continued to listen, but th_ounds returned no more. 'This is strange!' said St. Aubert, at lengt_nterrupting the silence. 'Very strange!' said Emily. 'It is so,' rejoined L_oisin, and they were again silent.
After a long pause, 'It is now about eighteen years since I first heard tha_usic,' said La Voisin; 'I remember it was on a fine summer's night, much lik_his, but later, that I was walking in the woods, and alone. I remember, too, that my spirits were very low, for one of my boys was ill, and we feared w_hould lose him. I had been watching at his bed-side all the evening while hi_other slept; for she had sat up with him the night before. I had bee_atching, and went out for a little fresh air, the day had been very sultry.
As I walked under the shades and mused, I heard music at a distance, an_hought it was Claude playing upon his flute, as he often did of a fin_vening, at the cottage door. But, when I came to a place where the tree_pened, (I shall never forget it!) and stood looking up at the north-lights, which shot up the heaven to a great height, I heard all of a sudden suc_ounds!—they came so as I cannot describe. It was like the music of angels, and I looked up again almost expecting to see them in the sky. When I cam_ome, I told what I had heard, but they laughed at me, and said it must b_ome of the shepherds playing on their pipes, and I could not persuade them t_he contrary. A few nights after, however, my wife herself heard the sam_ounds, and was as much surprised as I was, and Father Denis frightened he_adly by saying, that it was music come to warn her of her child's death, an_hat music often came to houses where there was a dying person.'
Emily, on hearing this, shrunk with a superstitious dread entirely new to her, and could scarcely conceal her agitation from St. Aubert.
'But the boy lived, monsieur, in spite of Father Denis.'
'Father Denis!' said St. Aubert, who had listened to 'narrative old age' wit_atient attention, 'are we near a convent, then?'
'Yes, sir; the convent of St. Clair stands at no great distance, on the se_hore yonder.'
'Ah!' said St. Aubert, as if struck with some sudden remembrance, 'the conven_f St. Clair!' Emily observed the clouds of grief, mingled with a fain_xpression of horror, gathering on his brow; his countenance became fixed, and, touched as it now was by the silver whiteness of the moon-light, h_esembled one of those marble statues of a monument, which seem to bend, i_opeless sorrow, over the ashes of the dead, shewn
by the blunted light That the dim moon through painted casements lends.* * Th_migrants.
'But, my dear sir,' said Emily, anxious to dissipate his thoughts, 'you forge_hat repose is necessary to you. If our kind host will give me leave, I wil_repare your bed, for I know how you like it to be made.' St. Aubert, recollecting himself, and smiling affectionately, desired she would not add t_er fatigue by that attention; and La Voisin, whose consideration for hi_uest had been suspended by the interests which his own narrative ha_ecalled, now started from his seat, and, apologizing for not having calle_gnes from the green, hurried out of the room.
In a few moments he returned with his daughter, a young woman of pleasin_ountenance, and Emily learned from her, what she had not before suspected, that, for their accommodation, it was necessary part of La Voisin's famil_hould leave their beds; she lamented this circumstance, but Agnes, by he_eply, fully proved that she inherited, at least, a share of her father'_ourteous hospitality. It was settled, that some of her children and Michae_hould sleep in the neighbouring cottage.
'If I am better, to-morrow, my dear,' said St. Aubert when Emily returned t_im, 'I mean to set out at an early hour, that we may rest, during the heat o_he day, and will travel towards home. In the present state of my health an_pirits I cannot look on a longer journey with pleasure, and I am also ver_nxious to reach La Vallee.' Emily, though she also desired to return, wa_rieved at her father's sudden wish to do so, which she thought indicated _reater degree of indisposition than he would acknowledge. St. Aubert no_etired to rest, and Emily to her little chamber, but not to immediate repose.
Her thoughts returned to the late conversation, concerning the state o_eparted spirits; a subject, at this time, particularly affecting to her, whe_he had every reason to believe that her dear father would ere long b_umbered with them. She leaned pensively on the little open casement, and i_eep thought fixed her eyes on the heaven, whose blue unclouded concave wa_tudded thick with stars, the worlds, perhaps, of spirits, unsphered of morta_ould. As her eyes wandered along the boundless aether, her thoughts rose, a_efore, towards the sublimity of the Deity, and to the contemplation o_uturity. No busy note of this world interrupted the course of her mind; th_erry dance had ceased, and every cottager had retired to his home. The stil_ir seemed scarcely to breathe upon the woods, and, now and then, the distan_ound of a solitary sheep-bell, or of a closing casement, was all that brok_n silence. At length, even this hint of human being was heard no more.
Elevated and enwrapt, while her eyes were often wet with tears of sublim_evotion and solemn awe, she continued at the casement, till the gloom of mid- night hung over the earth, and the planet, which La Voisin had pointed out, sunk below the woods. She then recollected what he had said concerning thi_lanet, and the mysterious music; and, as she lingered at the window, hal_oping and half fearing that it would return, her mind was led to th_emembrance of the extreme emotion her father had shewn on mention of th_arquis La Villeroi's death, and of the fate of the Marchioness, and she fel_trongly interested concerning the remote cause of this emotion. Her surpris_nd curiosity were indeed the greater, because she did not recollect ever t_ave heard him mention the name of Villeroi.
No music, however, stole on the silence of the night, and Emily, perceivin_he lateness of the hour, returned to a scene of fatigue, remembered that sh_as to rise early in the morning, and withdrew from the window to repose.