Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 8

  • > He wears the rose of youth upon his cheek.
  • >
  • > SHAKESPEARE
  • 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.