We now return to Valancourt, who, it may be remembered, remained at Tholouse,
some time after the departure of Emily, restless and miserable. Each morro_hat approached, he designed should carry him from thence; yet to-morrow an_o-morrow came, and still saw him lingering in the scene of his forme_appiness. He could not immediately tear himself from the spot, where he ha_een accustomed to converse with Emily, or from the objects they had viewe_ogether, which appeared to him memorials of her affection, as well as a kin_f surety for its faithfulness; and, next to the pain of bidding her adieu,
was that of leaving the scenes which so powerfully awakened her image.
Sometimes he had bribed a servant, who had been left in the care of Madam_ontoni's chateau, to permit him to visit the gardens, and there he woul_ander, for hours together, rapt in a melancholy, not unpleasing. The terrace,
and the pavilion at the end of it, where he had taken leave of Emily, on th_ve of her departure from Tholouse, were his most favourite haunts. There, a_e walked, or leaned from the window of the building, he would endeavour t_ecollect all she had said, on that night; to catch the tones of her voice, a_hey faintly vibrated on his memory, and to remember the exact expression o_er countenance, which sometimes came suddenly to his fancy, like a vision;
that beautiful countenance, which awakened, as by instantaneous magic, all th_enderness of his heart, and seemed to tell with irresistible eloquence—tha_e had lost her forever! At these moments, his hurried steps would hav_iscovered to a spectator the despair of his heart. The character of Montoni,
such as he had received from hints, and such as his fears represented it,
would rise to his view, together with all the dangers it seemed to threaten t_mily and to his love. He blamed himself, that he had not urged these mor_orcibly to her, while it might have been in his power to detain her, and tha_e had suffered an absurd and criminal delicacy, as he termed it, to conque_o soon the reasonable arguments he had opposed to this journey. Any evil,
that might have attended their marriage, seemed so inferior to those, whic_ow threatened their love, or even to the sufferings, that absence occasioned,
that he wondered how he could have ceased to urge his suit, till he ha_onvinced her of its propriety; and he would certainly now have followed he_o Italy, if he could have been spared from his regiment for so long _ourney. His regiment, indeed, soon reminded him, that he had other duties t_ttend, than those of love.
A short time after his arrival at his brother's house, he was summoned to joi_is brother officers, and he accompanied a battalion to Paris; where a scen_f novelty and gaiety opened upon him, such as, till then, he had only a fain_dea of. But gaiety disgusted, and company fatigued, his sick mind; and h_ecame an object of unceasing raillery to his companions, from whom, wheneve_e could steal an opportunity, he escaped, to think of Emily. The scene_round him, however, and the company with whom he was obliged to mingle,
engaged his attention, though they failed to amuse his fancy, and thu_radually weakened the habit of yielding to lamentation, till it appeared les_ duty to his love to indulge it. Among his brother-officers were many, wh_dded to the ordinary character of a French soldier's gaiety some of thos_ascinating qualities, which too frequently throw a veil over folly, an_ometimes even soften the features of vice into smiles. To these men th_eserved and thoughtful manners of Valancourt were a kind of tacit censure o_heir own, for which they rallied him when present, and plotted against hi_hen absent; they gloried in the thought of reducing him to their own level,
and, considering it to be a spirited frolic, determined to accomplish it.
Valancourt was a stranger to the gradual progress of scheme and intrigue,
against which he could not be on his guard. He had not been accustomed t_eceive ridicule, and he could ill endure its sting; he resented it, and thi_nly drew upon him a louder laugh. To escape from such scenes, he fled int_olitude, and there the image of Emily met him, and revived the pangs of lov_nd despair. He then sought to renew those tasteful studies, which had bee_he delight of his early years; but his mind had lost the tranquillity, whic_s necessary for their enjoyment. To forget himself and the grief and anxiety,
which the idea of her recalled, he would quit his solitude, and again mingl_n the crowd—glad of a temporary relief, and rejoicing to snatch amusement fo_he moment.
Thus passed weeks after weeks, time gradually softening his sorrow, and habi_trengthening his desire of amusement, till the scenes around him seemed t_waken into a new character, and Valancourt, to have fallen among them fro_he clouds.
His figure and address made him a welcome visitor, wherever he had bee_ntroduced, and he soon frequented the most gay and fashionable circles o_aris. Among these, was the assembly of the Countess Lacleur, a woman o_minent beauty and captivating manners. She had passed the spring of youth,
but her wit prolonged the triumph of its reign, and they mutually assisted th_ame of each other; for those, who were charmed by her loveliness, spoke wit_nthusiasm of her talents; and others, who admired her playful imagination,
declared, that her personal graces were unrivalled. But her imagination wa_erely playful, and her wit, if such it could be called, was brilliant, rathe_han just; it dazzled, and its fallacy escaped the detection of the moment;
for the accents, in which she pronounced it, and the smile, that accompanie_hem, were a spell upon the judgment of the auditors. Her petits soupers wer_he most tasteful of any in Paris, and were frequented by many of the secon_lass of literati. She was fond of music, was herself a scientific performer,
and had frequently concerts at her house. Valancourt, who passionately love_usic, and who sometimes assisted at these concerts, admired her execution,
but remembered with a sigh the eloquent simplicity of Emily's songs and th_atural expression of her manner, which waited not to be approved by th_udgment, but found their way at once to the heart.
Madame La Comtesse had often deep play at her house, which she affected t_estrain, but secretly encouraged; and it was well known among her friends,
that the splendour of her establishment was chiefly supplied from the profit_f her tables. But her petits soupers were the most charming imaginable! Her_ere all the delicacies of the four quarters of the world, all the wit and th_ighter efforts of genius, all the graces of conversation—the smiles o_eauty, and the charm of music; and Valancourt passed his pleasantest, as wel_s most dangerous hours in these parties.
His brother, who remained with his family in Gascony, had contented himsel_ith giving him letters of introduction to such of his relations, residing a_aris, as the latter was not already known to. All these were persons of som_istinction; and, as neither the person, mind, or manners of Valancourt th_ounger threatened to disgrace their alliance, they received him with as muc_indness as their nature, hardened by uninterrupted prosperity, would admi_f; but their attentions did not extend to acts of real friendship; for the_ere too much occupied by their own pursuits, to feel any interest in his; an_hus he was set down in the midst of Paris, in the pride of youth, with a_pen, unsuspicious temper and ardent affections, without one friend, to war_im of the dangers, to which he was exposed. Emily, who, had she been present,
would have saved him from these evils by awakening his heart, and engaging hi_n worthy pursuits, now only increased his danger;—it was to lose the grief,
which the remembrance of her occasioned, that he first sought amusement; an_or this end he pursued it, till habit made it an object of abstract interest.
There was also a Marchioness Champfort, a young widow, at whose assemblies h_assed much of his time. She was handsome, still more artful, gay and fond o_ntrigue. The society, which she drew round her, was less elegant and mor_icious, than that of the Countess Lacleur: but, as she had address enough t_hrow a veil, though but a slight one, over the worst part of her character,
she was still visited by many persons of what is called distinction.
Valancourt was introduced to her parties by two of his brother officers, whos_ate ridicule he had now forgiven so far, that he could sometimes join in th_augh, which a mention of his former manners would renew.
The gaiety of the most splendid court in Europe, the magnificence of th_alaces, entertainments, and equipages, that surrounded him—all conspired t_azzle his imagination, and re-animate his spirits, and the example and maxim_f his military associates to delude his mind. Emily's image, indeed, stil_ived there; but it was no longer the friend, the monitor, that saved him fro_imself, and to which he retired to weep the sweet, yet melancholy, tears o_enderness. When he had recourse to it, it assumed a countenance of mil_eproach, that wrung his soul, and called forth tears of unmixed misery; hi_nly escape from which was to forget the object of it, and he endeavoured,
therefore, to think of Emily as seldom as he could.
Thus dangerously circumstanced was Valancourt, at the time, when Emily wa_uffering at Venice, from the persecuting addresses of Count Morano, and th_njust authority of Montoni; at which period we leave him.