> Let those deplore their doom, Whose hope still grovels in this dark sojourn.
But lofty souls can look beyond the tomb, Can smile at fate, and wonder ho_hey mourn. Shall Spring to these sad scenes no more return? Is yonder wav_he sun's eternal bed?— Soon shall the orient with new lustre burn, And Sprin_hall soon her vital influence shed, Again attune the grove, again adorn th_ead!
Emily, called, as she had requested, at an early hour, awoke, little refreshe_y sleep, for uneasy dreams had pursued her, and marred the kindest blessin_f the unhappy. But, when she opened her casement, looked out upon the woods, bright with the morning sun, and inspired the pure air, her mind was soothed.
The scene was filled with that cheering freshness, which seems to breathe th_ery spirit of health, and she heard only sweet and PICTURESQUE sounds, i_uch an expression may be allowed—the matin-bell of a distant convent, th_aint murmur of the sea-waves, the song of birds, and the far-off low o_attle, which she saw coming slowly on between the trunks of trees. Struc_ith the circumstances of imagery around her, she indulged the pensiv_ranquillity which they inspired; and while she leaned on her window, waitin_ill St. Aubert should descend to breakfast, her ideas arranged themselves i_he following lines:
**THE FIRST HOUR OF MORNING**
How sweet to wind the forest's tangled shade, When early twilight, from th_astern bound, Dawns on the sleeping landscape in the glade, And fades a_orning spreads her blush around!
When ev'ry infant flower, that wept in night, Lifts its chill head sof_lowing with a tear, Expands its tender blossom to the light, And gives it_ncense to the genial air.
How fresh the breeze that wafts the rich perfume, And swells the melody o_aking birds; The hum of bees, beneath the verdant gloom, And woodman's song, and low of distant herds!
Then, doubtful gleams the mountain's hoary head, Seen through the partin_oliage from afar; And, farther still, the ocean's misty bed, With flittin_ails, that partial sun-beams share.
But, vain the sylvan shade—the breath of May, The voice of music floating o_he gale, And forms, that beam through morning's dewy veil, If health n_onger bid the heart be gay! O balmy hour! 'tis thine her wealth to give, Her_pread her blush, and bid the parent live!
Emily now heard persons moving below in the cottage, and presently the voic_f Michael, who was talking to his mules, as he led them forth from a hu_djoining. As she left her room, St. Aubert, who was now risen, met her at th_oor, apparently as little restored by sleep as herself. She led him dow_tairs to the little parlour, in which they had supped on the preceding night, where they found a neat breakfast set out, while the host and his daughte_aited to bid them good-morrow.
'I envy you this cottage, my good friends,' said St. Aubert, as he met them,
'it is so pleasant, so quiet, and so neat; and this air, that one breathes—i_ny thing could restore lost health, it would surely be this air.'
La Voisin bowed gratefully, and replied, with the gallantry of a Frenchman,
'Our cottage may be envied, sir, since you and Mademoiselle have honoured i_ith your presence.' St. Aubert gave him a friendly smile for his compliment, and sat down to a table, spread with cream, fruit, new cheese, butter, an_offee. Emily, who had observed her father with attention and thought h_ooked very ill, endeavoured to persuade him to defer travelling till th_fternoon; but he seemed very anxious to be at home, and his anxiety h_xpressed repeatedly, and with an earnestness that was unusual with him. H_ow said, he found himself as well as he had been of late, and that he coul_ear travelling better in the cool hour of the morning, than at any othe_ime. But, while he was talking with his venerable host, and thanking him fo_is kind attentions, Emily observed his countenance change, and, before sh_ould reach him, he fell back in his chair. In a few moments he recovered fro_he sudden faintness that had come over him, but felt so ill, that h_erceived himself unable to set out, and, having remained a little while, struggling against the pressure of indisposition, he begged he might be helpe_p stairs to bed. This request renewed all the terror which Emily had suffere_n the preceding evening; but, though scarcely able to support herself, unde_he sudden shock it gave her, she tried to conceal her apprehensions from St.
Aubert, and gave her trembling arm to assist him to the door of his chamber.
When he was once more in bed, he desired that Emily, who was then weeping i_er own room, might be called; and, as she came, he waved his hand for ever_ther person to quit the apartment. When they were alone, he held out his han_o her, and fixed his eyes upon her countenance, with an expression so full o_enderness and grief, that all her fortitude forsook her, and she burst int_n agony of tears. St. Aubert seemed struggling to acquire firmness, but wa_till unable to speak; he could only press her hand, and check the tears tha_tood trembling in his eyes. At length he commanded his voice, 'My dea_hild,' said he, trying to smile through his anguish, 'my dear Emily!'—an_aused again. He raised his eyes to heaven, as if in prayer, and then, in _irmer tone, and with a look, in which the tenderness of the father wa_ignified by the pious solemnity of the saint, he said, "My dear child, _ould soften the painful truth I have to tell you, but I find myself quit_nequal to the art. Alas! I would, at this moment, conceal it from you, bu_hat it would be most cruel to deceive you. It cannot be long before we mus_art; let us talk of it, that our thoughts and our prayers may prepare us t_ear it.' His voice faltered, while Emily, still weeping, pressed his han_lose to her heart, which swelled with a convulsive sigh, but she could no_ook up.
'Let me not waste these moments,' said St. Aubert, recovering himself, 'I hav_uch to say. There is a circumstance of solemn consequence, which I have t_ention, and a solemn promise to obtain from you; when this is done I shall b_asier. You have observed, my dear, how anxious I am to reach home, but kno_ot all my reasons for this. Listen to what I am going to say.—Yet stay—befor_ say more give me this promise, a promise made to your dying father!'—St.
Aubert was interrupted; Emily, struck by his last words, as if for the firs_ime, with a conviction of his immediate danger, raised her head; her tear_topped, and, gazing at him for a moment with an expression of unutterabl_nguish, a slight convulsion seized her, and she sunk senseless in her chair.
St. Aubert's cries brought La Voisin and his daughter to the room, and the_dministered every means in their power to restore her, but, for _onsiderable time, without effect. When she recovered, St. Aubert was s_xhausted by the scene he had witnessed, that it was many minutes before h_ad strength to speak; he was, however, somewhat revived by a cordial, whic_mily gave him; and, being again alone with her, he exerted himself t_ranquilize her spirits, and to offer her all the comfort of which he_ituation admitted. She threw herself into his arms, wept on his neck, an_rief made her so insensible to all he said, that he ceased to offer th_lleviations, which he himself could not, at this moment, feel, and mingle_is silent tears with hers. Recalled, at length, to a sense of duty, she trie_o spare her father from a farther view of her suffering; and, quitting hi_mbrace, dried her tears, and said something, which she meant for consolation.
'My dear Emily,' replied St. Aubert, 'my dear child, we must look up wit_umble confidence to that Being, who has protected and comforted us in ever_anger, and in every affliction we have known; to whose eye every moment o_ur lives has been exposed; he will not, he does not, forsake us now; I fee_is consolations in my heart. I shall leave you, my child, still in his care; and, though I depart from this world, I shall be still in his presence. Nay, weep not again, my Emily. In death there is nothing new, or surprising, sinc_e all know, that we are born to die; and nothing terrible to those, who ca_onfide in an all-powerful God. Had my life been spared now, after a very fe_ears, in the course of nature, I must have resigned it; old age, with all it_rain of infirmity, its privations and its sorrows, would have been mine; an_hen, at last, death would have come, and called forth the tears you now shed.
Rather, my child, rejoice, that I am saved from such suffering, and that I a_ermitted to die with a mind unimpaired, and sensible of the comforts of fait_nd resignation.' St. Aubert paused, fatigued with speaking. Emily agai_ndeavoured to assume an air of composure; and, in replying to what he ha_aid, tried to sooth him with a belief, that he had not spoken in vain.
When he had reposed a while, he resumed the conversation. 'Let me return,'
said he, 'to a subject, which is very near my heart. I said I had a solem_romise to receive from you; let me receive it now, before I explain the chie_ircumstance which it concerns; there are others, of which your peace require_hat you should rest in ignorance. Promise, then, that you will perfor_xactly what I shall enjoin.'
Emily, awed by the earnest solemnity of his manner, dried her tears, that ha_egun again to flow, in spite of her efforts to suppress them; and, lookin_loquently at St. Aubert, bound herself to do whatever he should require by _ow, at which she shuddered, yet knew not why.
He proceeded: 'I know you too well, my Emily, to believe, that you would brea_ny promise, much less one thus solemnly given; your assurance gives me peace, and the observance of it is of the utmost importance to your tranquillity.
Hear, then, what I am going to tell you. The closet, which adjoins my chambe_t La Vallee, has a sliding board in the floor. You will know it by _emarkable knot in the wood, and by its being the next board, except one, t_he wainscot, which fronts the door. At the distance of about a yard from tha_nd, nearer the window, you will perceive a line across it, as if the plan_ad been joined;—the way to open it is this:—Press your foot upon the line; the end of the board will then sink, and you may slide it with ease beneat_he other. Below, you will see a hollow place.' St. Aubert paused for breath, and Emily sat fixed in deep attention. 'Do you understand these directions, m_ear?' said he. Emily, though scarcely able to speak, assured him that sh_id.
'When you return home, then,' he added with a deep sigh—
At the mention of her return home, all the melancholy circumstances, that mus_ttend this return, rushed upon her fancy; she burst into convulsive grief, and St. Aubert himself, affected beyond the resistance of the fortitude whic_e had, at first, summoned, wept with her. After some moments, he compose_imself. 'My dear child,' said he, 'be comforted. When I am gone, you will no_e forsaken—I leave you only in the more immediate care of that Providence, which has never yet forsaken me. Do not afflict me with this excess of grief; rather teach me by your example to bear my own.' He stopped again, and Emily, the more she endeavoured to restrain her emotion, found it the less possibl_o do so.
St. Aubert, who now spoke with pain, resumed the subject. 'That closet, m_ear,—when you return home, go to it; and, beneath the board I have described, you will find a packet of written papers. Attend to me now, for the promis_ou have given particularly relates to what I shall direct. These papers yo_ust burn—and, solemnly I command you, WITHOUT EXAMINING THEM.'
Emily's surprise, for a moment, overcame her grief, and she ventured to ask, why this must be? St. Aubert replied, that, if it had been right for him t_xplain his reasons, her late promise would have been unnecessarily exacted.
'It is sufficient for you, my love, to have a deep sense of the importance o_bserving me in this instance.' St. Aubert proceeded. 'Under that board yo_ill also find about two hundred louis d'ors, wrapped in a silk purse; indeed, it was to secure whatever money might be in the chateau, that this secre_lace was contrived, at a time when the province was over-run by troops o_en, who took advantage of the tumults, and became plunderers.
'But I have yet another promise to receive from you, which is—that you wil_ever, whatever may be your future circumstances, SELL the chateau.' St.
Aubert even enjoined her, whenever she might marry, to make it an article i_he contract, that the chateau should always be hers. He then gave her a mor_inute account of his present circumstances than he had yet done, adding, 'Th_wo hundred louis, with what money you will now find in my purse, is all th_eady money I have to leave you. I have told you how I am circumstanced wit_. Motteville, at Paris. Ah, my child! I leave you poor—but not destitute,' h_dded, after a long pause. Emily could make no reply to any thing he now said, but knelt at the bed-side, with her face upon the quilt, weeping over the han_he held there.
After this conversation, the mind of St. Aubert appeared to be much more a_ase; but, exhausted by the effort of speaking, he sunk into a kind of doze, and Emily continued to watch and weep beside him, till a gentle tap at th_hamber-door roused her. It was La Voisin, come to say, that a confessor fro_he neighbouring convent was below, ready to attend St. Aubert. Emily woul_ot suffer her father to be disturbed, but desired, that the priest might no_eave the cottage. When St. Aubert awoke from this doze, his senses wer_onfused, and it was some moments before he recovered them sufficiently t_now, that it was Emily who sat beside him. He then moved his lips, an_tretched forth his hand to her; as she received which, she sunk back in he_hair, overcome by the impression of death on his countenance. In a fe_inutes he recovered his voice, and Emily then asked, if he wished to see th_onfessor; he replied, that he did; and, when the holy father appeared, sh_ithdrew. They remained alone together above half an hour; when Emily wa_alled in, she found St. Aubert more agitated than when she had left him, an_he gazed, with a slight degree of resentment, at the friar, as the cause o_his; who, however, looked mildly and mournfully at her, and turned away. St.
Aubert, in a tremulous voice, said, he wished her to join in prayer with him, and asked if La Voisin would do so too. The old man and his daughter came; they both wept, and knelt with Emily round the bed, while the holy father rea_n a solemn voice the service for the dying. St. Aubert lay with a seren_ountenance, and seemed to join fervently in the devotion, while tears ofte_tole from beneath his closed eyelids, and Emily's sobs more than onc_nterrupted the service.
When it was concluded, and extreme unction had been administered, the fria_ithdrew. St. Aubert then made a sign for La Voisin to come nearer. He gav_im his hand, and was, for a moment, silent. At length, he said, in _rembling voice, 'My good friend, our acquaintance has been short, but lon_nough to give you an opportunity of shewing me much kind attention. I canno_oubt, that you will extend this kindness to my daughter, when I am gone; sh_ill have need of it. I entrust her to your care during the few days she wil_emain here. I need say no more—you know the feelings of a father, for yo_ave children; mine would be, indeed, severe if I had less confidence in you.'
He paused. La Voisin assured him, and his tears bore testimony to hi_incerity, that he would do all he could to soften her affliction, and that, if St. Aubert wished it, he would even attend her into Gascony; an offer s_leasing to St. Aubert, that he had scarcely words to acknowledge his sense o_he old man's kindness, or to tell him, that he accepted it. The scene, tha_ollowed between St. Aubert and Emily, affected La Voisin so much, that h_uitted the chamber, and she was again left alone with her father, whos_pirits seemed fainting fast, but neither his senses, or his voice, yet faile_im; and, at intervals, he employed much of these last awful moments i_dvising his daughter, as to her future conduct. Perhaps, he never had though_ore justly, or expressed himself more clearly, than he did now.
'Above all, my dear Emily,' said he, 'do not indulge in the pride of fin_eeling, the romantic error of amiable minds. Those, who really posses_ensibility, ought early to be taught, that it is a dangerous quality, whic_s continually extracting the excess of misery, or delight, from ever_urrounding circumstance. And, since, in our passage through this world, painful circumstances occur more frequently than pleasing ones, and since ou_ense of evil is, I fear, more acute than our sense of good, we become th_ictims of our feelings, unless we can in some degree command them. I know yo_ill say, (for you are young, my Emily) I know you will say, that you ar_ontented sometimes to suffer, rather than to give up your refined sense o_appiness, at others; but, when your mind has been long harassed b_icissitude, you will be content to rest, and you will then recover from you_elusion. You will perceive, that the phantom of happiness is exchanged fo_he substance; for happiness arises in a state of peace, not of tumult. It i_f a temperate and uniform nature, and can no more exist in a heart, that i_ontinually alive to minute circumstances, than in one that is dead t_eeling. You see, my dear, that, though I would guard you against the danger_f sensibility, I am not an advocate for apathy. At your age I should hav_aid THAT is a vice more hateful than all the errors of sensibility, and I sa_o still. I call it a VICE, because it leads to positive evil; in this, however, it does no more than an ill- governed sensibility, which, by such _ule, might also be called a vice; but the evil of the former is of mor_eneral consequence. I have exhausted myself,' said St. Aubert, feebly, 'an_ave wearied you, my Emily; but, on a subject so important to your futur_omfort, I am anxious to be perfectly understood.'
Emily assured him, that his advice was most precious to her, and that sh_ould never forget it, or cease from endeavouring to profit by it. St. Auber_miled affectionately and sorrowfully upon her. 'I repeat it,' said he, '_ould not teach you to become insensible, if I could; I would only warn you o_he evils of susceptibility, and point out how you may avoid them. Beware, m_ove, I conjure you, of that self-delusion, which has been fatal to the peac_f so many persons; beware of priding yourself on the gracefulness o_ensibility; if you yield to this vanity, your happiness is lost for ever.
Always remember how much more valuable is the strength of fortitude, than th_race of sensibility. Do not, however, confound fortitude with apathy; apath_annot know the virtue. Remember, too, that one act of beneficence, one act o_eal usefulness, is worth all the abstract sentiment in the world. Sentimen_s a disgrace, instead of an ornament, unless it lead us to good actions. Th_iser, who thinks himself respectable, merely because he possesses wealth, an_hus mistakes the means of doing good, for the actual accomplishment of it, i_ot more blameable than the man of sentiment, without active virtue. You ma_ave observed persons, who delight so much in this sort of sensibility t_entiment, which excludes that to the calls of any practical virtue, that the_urn from the distressed, and, because their sufferings are painful to b_ontemplated, do not endeavour to relieve them. How despicable is tha_umanity, which can be contented to pity, where it might assuage!'
St. Aubert, some time after, spoke of Madame Cheron, his sister. 'Let m_nform you of a circumstance, that nearly affects your welfare,' he added. 'W_ave, you know, had little intercourse for some years, but, as she is now you_nly female relation, I have thought it proper to consign you to her care, a_ou will see in my will, till you are of age, and to recommend you to he_rotection afterwards. She is not exactly the person, to whom I would hav_ommitted my Emily, but I had no alternative, and I believe her to be upon th_hole—a good kind of woman. I need not recommend it to your prudence, my love, to endeavour to conciliate her kindness; you will do this for his sake, wh_as often wished to do so for yours.'
Emily assured him, that, whatever he requested she would religiously perfor_o the utmost of her ability. 'Alas!' added she, in a voice interrupted b_ighs, 'that will soon be all which remains for me; it will be almost my onl_onsolation to fulfil your wishes.'
St. Aubert looked up silently in her face, as if would have spoken, but hi_pirit sunk a while, and his eyes became heavy and dull. She felt that look a_er heart. 'My dear father!' she exclaimed; and then, checking herself, pressed his hand closer, and hid her face with her handkerchief. Her tear_ere concealed, but St. Aubert heard her convulsive sobs. His spirit_eturned. 'O my child!' said he, faintly, 'let my consolations be yours. I di_n peace; for I know, that I am about to return to the bosom of my Father, wh_ill still be your Father, when I am gone. Always trust in him, my love, an_e will support you in these moments, as he supports me.'
Emily could only listen, and weep; but the extreme composure of his manner, and the faith and hope he expressed, somewhat soothed her anguish. Yet, whenever she looked upon his emaciated countenance, and saw the lines of deat_eginning to prevail over it—saw his sunk eyes, still bent on her, and thei_eavy lids pressing to a close, there was a pang in her heart, such as defie_xpression, though it required filial virtue, like hers, to forbear th_ttempt.
He desired once more to bless her; 'Where are you, my dear?' said he, as h_tretched forth his hands. Emily had turned to the window, that he might no_erceive her anguish; she now understood, that his sight had failed him. Whe_e had given her his blessing, and it seemed to be the last effort of expirin_ife, he sunk back on his pillow. She kissed his forehead; the damps of deat_ad settled there, and, forgetting her fortitude for a moment, her tear_ingled with them. St. Aubert lifted up his eyes; the spirit of a fathe_eturned to them, but it quickly vanished, and he spoke no more.
St. Aubert lingered till about three o'clock in the afternoon, and, thu_radually sinking into death, he expired without a struggle, or a sigh.
Emily was led from the chamber by La Voisin and his daughter, who did wha_hey could to comfort her. The old man sat and wept with her. Agnes was mor_rroneously officious.