A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“Nor are those empty hearted, whose low sound
The conversation related in the last chapter was interrupted by the entrance of Peter, who, as he left the room, looked significantly at Adeline and almost beckoned. She was anxious to know what he meant, and soon after went into the hall, where she found him loitering. The moment he saw her, he made a sign of silence and beckoned her into the recess. “Well, Peter, what is it you would say?” said Adeline.
“Hush, Ma’mselle; for Heaven’s sake speak lower: if we should be overheard, we are all blown up.” — Adeline begged him to explain what he meant. “Yes, Ma’mselle, that is what I have wanted all day long. I have watched and watched for an opportunity, and looked and looked, till I was afraid my master himself would see me: but all would not do; you would not understand.”
Adeline entreated he would be quick. “Yes, Ma’am, but I’m so afraid we shall be seen; but I would do much to serve such a good young lady, for I could not bear to think of what threatened you, without telling you of it.”
“For God’s sake, said Adeline, speak quickly, or we shall be interrupted.”
“Well, then; but you must first promise by the Holy Virgin never to say it was I that told you, My master would” —
“I do, I do!” said Adeline.
“Well, then — on Monday evening as I — hark! did not I hear a step? do, Ma’mselle, just step this way to the cloisters. I would not for the world we should be seen. I’ll go out at the hall door and you can go through the passage. I would not for the world we should be seen.” — Adeline was much alarmed by Peter’s words, and hurried to the cloisters. He quickly appeared, and, looking cautiously round, resumed his discourse. “As I was saying, Ma’mselle, Monday night, when the Marquis slept here, you know he sat up very late, and I can guess, perhaps, the reason of that. Strange things came out, but it is not my business to tell all I think.”
“Pray do speak to the purpose,” said Adeline impatiently, “what is this danger which you say threatens me? Be quick, or we shall be observed.”
“Danger enough, Ma’mselle,” replied Peter, “if you knew all, and when you do, what will it signify, for you can’t help yourself. But that’s neither here nor there: I was resolved to tell you, though I may repent it.”
“Or rather you are resolved not to tell me,” said Adeline; “for you have made no progress towards it. But what do you mean? You was speaking of the Marquis.”
“Hush, Ma’am, not so loud. The Marquis, as I said, sat up very late and my master sat up with him. One of his men went to bed in the oak room, and the other stayed to undress his Lord. So as we were sitting together — Lord have mercy! it made my hair stand on end! I tremble yet. So as we were sitting together, — but as sure as I live yonder is my master: I caught a glimpse of him between the trees, if he sees me it is all over with us. I’ll tell you another time.” So saying, he hurried into the abbey, leaving Adeline in a state of alarm, curiosity, and vexation. She walked out into the forest, ruminating upon Peter’s words, and endeavouring to guess to what they alluded; there Madame La Motte joined her, and they conversed on various topics till they reached the abbey.
Adeline watched in vain through that day for an opportunity of speaking with Peter. While he waited at supper, she occasionally observed his countenance with great anxiety, hoping it might afford her some degree of intelligence on the subject of her fears. When she retired, Madame La Motte accompanied her to her chamber, and continued to converse with her for a considerable time, so that she had no means of obtaining an interview with Peter. — Madame La Motte appeared to labour under some great affliction, and when Adeline, noticing this, entreated to know the cause of her dejection, tears started into her eyes, and she abruptly left the room.
This behaviour of Madame La Motte concurred with Peter’s discourse, to alarm Adeline, who sat pensively upon her bed, given up to reflection, till she was roused by the sound of a clock which stood in the room below, and which now struck twelve. She was preparing for rest, when she recollected the MS. and was unable to conclude the night without reading it. The first words she could distinguish were the following: Again I return to this poor consolation — again I have been permitted to see another day. It is now midnight! My solitary lamp burns beside me; the time is awful, but to me the silence of noon is as the silence of midnight: a deeper gloom is all in which they differ. The still, unvarying hours are numbered only by my sufferings! Great God! when shall I be released!
But whence this strange confinement? I have never injured him. If death is designed me, why this delay; and for what but death am I brought hither? This abbey — alas!” — Here the MS. was again illegible, and for several pages Adeline could only make out disjointed sentences.
“O bitter draught! when, when shall I have rest! O my friends! will none of ye fly to aid me; will none of ye avenge my sufferings? Ah! when it is too late — when I am gone for ever, ye will endeavour to avenge them.
Once more is night returned to me. Another day has passed in solitude and misery. I have climbed to the casement, thinking the view of nature would refresh my soul, and somewhat enable me to support these afflictions. Alas! even this small comfort is denied me, the windows open towards other parts of this abbey, and admit only a portion of that day which I must never more fully behold. Laft night! laft night! O scene of horror!”
Adeline shuddered. She feared to read the coming sentence, yet curiosity prompted her to proceed. Still she paused: an unaccountable dread came over her. “Some horrid deed has been done here,” said she; “the reports of the peasants are true. Murder has been committed.” The idea shrilled her with horror. She recollected the dagger which had impeded her steps in the secret chamber, and this circumstance served to confirm her most terrible conjectures. She wished to examine it, but it lay in one of these chambers, and she feared to go in quest of it.
“Wretched, wretched victim!” she exclaimed, “could no friend rescue thee from destruction! O that I had been near! yet what could I have done to save thee? Alas! nothing. I forget that even now, perhaps, I am like thee abandoned to dangers, from which I have no friend to succour me. Too surely I guess the author of thy miseries!” She stopped, and thought she heard a sigh, such as, on the preceding night, had passed along the chamber. Her blood was chilled and she sat motionless. The lonely situation of her room, remote from the rest of the family, (for she was now in her old apartment, from which Madame La Motte had removed) who were almost beyond call, struck so forcibly upon her imagination, that she with difficulty preserved herself from fainting. She sat for a considerable time, but all was still. When she was somewhat recovered, her first design was to alarm the family; but farther reflection again withheld her.
She endeavoured to compose her spirits, and addressed a short prayer to that Being who had hitherto protected her in every danger. While she was thus employed, her mind gradually became elevated and re-assured; a sublime complacency filled her heart, and she sat down once more to pursue the narrative.
Several lines that immediately followed were obliterated. —
He had told me I should not be permitted to live long, not more than three days, and bade me chuse whether I would die by poison or the sword. O the agonies of that moment! Great God! thou seest my sufferings! I often viewed, with a momentary hope of escaping, the high grated windows of my prison — all things within the compass of possibility I was resolved to try, and with an eager desperation I climbed towards the casements, but my foot slipped, and falling back to the floor, I was stunned by the blow. On recovering, the first sounds I heard were the steps of a person entering my prison. A recollection of the past returned, and deplorable was my condition. I shuddered at what was to come. The same man approached; he looked at me at first with pity, but his countenance soon recovered its natural ferocity. Yet he did not then come to execute the purposes of his employer: I am reserved to another day — Great God, thy will be done!”
Adeline could not go on. All the circumstances that seemed to corroborate the fate of this unhappy man, crowded upon her mind. The reports concerning the abbey — the dreams, which had forerun her discovery of the private apartments — the singular manner in which she had found the MS. and the apparition, which she now believed she had really seen. She blamed herself for having not yet mentioned the discovery of the manuscript and chambers to La Motte, and resolved to delay the disclosure no longer than the following morning. The immediate cares that had occupied her mind, and a fear of losing the manuscript before she had read it, had hitherto kept her silent.
Such a combination of circumstances she believed could only be produced by some supernatural power, operating for the retribution of the guilty. These reflections filled her mind with a degree of awe, which the loneliness of the large old chamber in which she sat, and the hour of the night, soon heightened into terror. She had never been superstitious, but circumstances so uncommon had hitherto conspired in this affair, that she could not believe them accidental. Her imagination, wrought upon by these reflections, again became sensible to every impression, she feared to look round, lest she should again see some dreadful phantom, and she almost fancied she heard voices swell in the storm, which now shook the fabric.
Still she tried to command her feelings so as to avoid disturbing the family, but they became so painful, that even the dread of La Motte’s ridicule had hardly power to prevent her quitting the chamber. Her mind was now in such a state, that she found it impossible to pursue the story in the MS. though, to avoid the tortures of suspense, she had attempted it. She laid it down again, and tried to argue herself into composure. “What have I to fear?” said she, “I am at least innocent, and I shall not be punished for the crime of another.”
The violent gust of wind that now rushed through the whole suit of apartments, shook the door that led from her late bedchamber to the private rooms so forcibly, that Adeline, unable to remain longer in doubt, ran to see from whence the noise issued. The arras, which concealed the door, was violently agitated, and she stood for a moment observing it in indescribable terror, till believing it was swayed by the wind, she made a sudden effort to overcome her feelings, and was stooping to raise it. At that instant, she thought she heard a voice. She stopped and listened, but every thing was still; yet apprehension so far overcame her, that she had no power, either to examine, or to leave the chambers.
In a few moments the voice returned, she was now convinced she had not been deceived, for, though low, she heard it distinctly, and was almost sure it repeated her own name. So much was her fancy affected, that she even thought it was the same voice she had heard in her dreams. This conviction entirely subdued the small remains of her courage, and, sinking into a chair, she lost all recollection.
How long she remained in this state she knew not, but when she recovered, she exerted all her strength, and reached the winding staircase, where she called aloud. No one heard her, and she hastened, as fast as her feebleness would permit, to the chamber of Madame La Motte. She tapped gently at the door, and was answered by Madame, who was alarmed at being awakened at so unusual an hour, and believed that some danger threatened her husband. When she understood that it was Adeline, and that she was unwell, she quickly came to her relief. The terror that was yet visible in Adeline’s countenance excited her inquiries, and the occasion of it was explained to her.
Madame was so much discomposed by the relation that she called La Motte from his bed, who, more angry at being disturbed than interested for the agitation he witnessed, reproved Adeline for suffering her fancies to overcome her reason. She now mentioned the discovery she had made of the inner chambers and the manuscript, circumstances, which roused the attention of La Motte so much, that he desired to see the MS. and resolved to go immediately to the apartments described by Adeline.
Madame La Motte endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose; but La Motte, with whom opposition had always an effect contrary to the one designed, and who wished to throw father ridicule upon the terrors of Adeline, persisted in his intention. He called to Peter to attend with a light, and insisted that Madame La Motte and Adeline should accompany him; Madame La Motte desired to be excused, and Adeline, at first, declared she could not go; but he would be obeyed.
They ascended the tower, and entered the first chambers together, for each of the party was reluctant to be the last; in the second chamber all was quiet and in order. Adeline presented the MS. and pointed to the arras which concealed the door: La Motte lifted the arras, and opened the door; but Madame La Motte and Adeline entreated to go no farther — again he called to them to follow. All was quiet in the first chamber; he expressed his surprise that the room should so long have remained undiscovered, and was proceeding to the second, but suddenly stopped. “We will defer our examination till to-morrow,” said he, “the damps of these apartments are unwholesome at any time; but they strike one more sensibly at night. I am chilled. Peter, remember to throw open the windows early in the morning, that the air may circulate.”
“Lord bless your honour,” said Peter, “don’t you see, I can’t reach them? Besides, I don’t believe they are made to open; see what strong iron bars there are; the room looks, for all the world, like a prison; I suppose this is the place the people meant, when they said, nobody that had been in ever came out.” La Motte, who, during this speech, had been looking attentively at the high windows, which, if he had seen them at first, he had certainly not observed; now interrupted the eloquence of Peter, and bade him carry the light before them. They all willingly quitted these chambers, and returned to the room below, where a fire was lighted, and the party remained together for some time.
La Motte, for reasons best known to himself, attempted to ridicule the discovery and fears of Adeline, till she, with a seriousness that checked him, entreated he would desist. He was silent, and soon after, Adeline, encouraged by the return of day-light, ventured to her chamber, and, for some hours, experienced the blessing of undisturbed repose.
On the following day, Adeline’s first care was to obtain an interview with Peter, whom she had some hopes of seeing as she went down stairs; he, however, did not appear, and she proceeded to the sitting room, where she found La Motte, apparently much disturbed. Adeline asked him if he had looked at the MS. “I have run my eye over it,” said he, “but it is so much obscured by time that it can scarcely be decyphered. It appears to exhibit a strange romantic story; and I do not wonder, that after you had suffered its terrors to impress your imagination, you fancied you saw spectres, and heard wondrous noises.”
Adeline thought La Motte did not chuse to be convinced, and she, therefore, forbore reply. During breakfast, she often looked at Peter, (who waited) with anxious inquiry; and, from his countenance, was still more assured, that he had something of importance to communicate. In the hope of some conversation with him, she left the room as soon as possible, and repaired to her favourite avenue, where she had not long remained when he appeared. “God bless you! Ma’amselle,” said he, “I’m sorry I frighted you so last night.”
“Frighted me,” said Adeline; “how was you concerned in that?”
He then informed her, that when he thought Monsieur and Madame La Motte were asleep, he had stole to her chamber door, with an intention of giving her the sequel of what he had begun in the morning; that he had called several times as loudly as he dared, but receiving no answer, he believed she was asleep, or did not chuse to speak with him, and he had, therefore, left the door. This account of the voice she had heard relieved Adeline’s spirits; she was even surprised that she did not know it, till remembering the perturbation of her mind for some time preceding, this surprise disappeared.
She entreated Peter to be brief in explaining the danger with which she was threatened. “If you’ll let me go on my own way, Ma’am, you’ll soon know it; but if you hurry me, and ask me questions, here and there, out of their places, I don’t know what I am saying.”
“Be it so;” said Adeline, “only remember that we may be observed.”
“Yes, Ma’amselle, I’m as much afraid of that as you are, for I believe I should be almost as ill off; however, that is neither here nor there, but I’m sure, if you stay in this old abbey another night, it will be worse for you; for, as I said before, I know all about it.”
“What mean you, Peter?”
“Why, about this scheme that’s going on.”
“What, then, is my father?” —
“Your father,” interrupted Peter; “Lord bless you, that is all fudge, to frighten you; your father, nor nobody else has ever sent after you; I dare say, he knows no more of you than the Pope does — not he.” Adeline looked displeased. “You trifle,” said she, “if you have any thing to tell, say it quickly; I am in haste.”
“Bless you, young Lady, I meant no harm, I hope you’re not angry; but I’m sure you can’t deny that your father is cruel. But, as I was saying, the Marquis de Montalt likes you; and he and my master (Peter looked round) have been laying their heads together about you.” Adeline turned pale — she comprehended a part of the truth, and eagerly entreated him to proceed.
“They have been laying their heads together about you. This is what Jacques, the Marquis’s man, tells me: Says he, Peter, you little know what is going on — I could tell all if I chose it, but it is not for those who are trusted to tell again. I warrant now your master is close enough with you. Upon which I was piqued, and resolved to make him believe I could be trusted as well as he. Perhaps not, says I, perhaps I know as much as you, though I do not chuse to brag on’t; and I winked. — Do you so? says he, then you are closer than I thought for. She is a fine girl, says he, meaning you, Ma’amselle; but she is nothing but a poor foundling after all — so it does not much signify.” “I had a mind to know farther what he meant — so I did not knock him down. By seeming to know as much as he, I at last made him discover all, and he told me — but you look pale, Ma’amselle, are you ill?
“No,” said Adeline, in a tremulous accent, and scarcely able to support herself, “pray proceed.”
“And he told me, that the Marquis had been courting you a good while, but you would not listen to him, and had even pretended he would marry you, and all would not do. As for marriage, says I, I suppose she knows the Marchioness is alive; and I’m sure she is not one for his turn upon other terms.”
“The Marchioness is really living then!” said Adeline.
“O yes, Ma’amselle! we all know that, and I thought you had known it “too.” — “We shall see that, replies Jacques; at least, I believe, that our “master will outwit her.” — I stared; I could not help it. — “Aye, says he, you know your master has agreed to give her up to my Lord.”
“Good God! what will become of me?” exclaimed Adeline.
“Aye, Ma’amselle, I am sorry for you; but hear me out. When Jacques said this, I quite forgot myself. I’ll never believe it, said I; I’ll never believe my master would be guilty of such a base action: he’ll not give her up, or I’m no Christian.” — “Oh! said Jacques, for that matter, I thought you’d known all, else I should not have said a word about it. However, you may soon satisfy yourself by going to the parlour door, as I have done; they’re in consultation about it now, I dare say.”
“You need not repeat any more of this conversation,” said Adeline; “but tell me the result of what you heard from the parlour.”
“Why, Ma’amselle, when he said this, I took him at his word and went to the door, where, sure enough, I heard my master and the Marquis talking about you. They said a great deal, which I could make nothing of; but, at last, I heard the Marquis say, You know the terms; on these terms only will I consent to bury the past in ob — ob — oblivion — that was the word. Monsieur La Motte then told the Marquis, if he would return to the abbey upon such a night, meaning this very night, Ma’amselle, every thing should be prepared according to his wishes; Adeline shall then be yours, my Lord, said he, — you are already acquainted with her chamber.”
At these words, Adeline clasped her hands and raised her eyes to Heaven in silent despair. — Peter went on. “When I heard this, I could not doubt what Jacques had said. — “Well, said he, what do you think of it now?” — Why, that my master’s a rascal, says “I.” — “It’s well you don’t think mine “one too, says he.” — “Why, as for that matter, says I” — Adeline, interrupting him, inquired if he had heard any thing farther. “Just then,” said Peter, “we heard Madame La Motte come out from another room, and so we made haste back to the kitchen.”
“She was not present at this conversation then?” said Adeline. “No, Ma’amselle, but my master has told her of it, I warrant.” Adeline was almost as much shocked by this apparent perfidy of Madame La Motte, as by a knowledge of the destruction that threatened her. After musing a few moments in extreme agitation, “Peter,” said she, “you have a good heart, and feel a just indignation at your master’s treachery — will you assist me to escape?”
“Ah, Ma’amselle! said he, “how can I assist you; besides, where can we go? I have no friends about here, no more than yourself.”
“O!” replied Adeline, in extreme emotion, “we fly from enemies; strangers may prove friends: assist me but to escape from this forest, and you will claim my eternal gratitude: I have no fears beyond it.”
“Why, as for this forest,” replied Peter, “I am weary of it myself; though, when we first came, I thought it would be fine living here, at least, I thought it was very different from any life I had ever lived before. But these ghosts that haunt the abbey, I am no more a coward than other men, but I don’t like them: and then there is so many strange reports abroad; and my master — I thought I could have served him to the end of the world, but now I care not how soon I leave him, for his behaviour to you, Ma’amselle.”
“You consent, then, to assist me in escaping?” said Adeline with eagerness.
“Why as to that, Ma’amselle, I would willingly if I knew where to go. To be sure, I have a sister lives in Savoy, but that is a great way off: and I have saved a little money out of my wages, but that won’t carry us such a long journey.”
“Regard not that,” said Adeline, “if I was once beyond this forest, I would then endeavour to take care of myself, and repay you for your kindness.”
“O! as for that, Madam” —
“Well, well, Peter, let us consider how we may escape. This night, say you, this night — the Marquis is to return?”
“Yes, Ma’amselle, to-night, about dark. I have just thought of a scheme: My master’s horses are grazing in the forest, we may take one of them, and send it back from the first stage: but how shall we avoid being seen? besides, if we go off in the day-light, he will soon pursue and overtake us; and if you stay till night, the Marquis will be come, and then there is no chance. If they miss us both at the same time too, they’ll guess how it is, and set off directly. Could not you contrive to go first and wait for me till the hurly-burly’s over? Then, while they’re searching in the place under ground for you, I can slip away, and we should be out of their reach, before they thought of pursuing us.”
Adeline agreed to the truth of all this, and was somewhat surprized at Peter’s sagacity. She inquired if he knew of any place in the neighbourhood of the abbey, where she could remain concealed till he came with a horse. “Why yes, Madam, there is a place, now I think of it, where you may be safe enough, for nobody goes near: but they say it’s haunted, and, perhaps, you would not like to go there.” Adeline, remembering the last night, was somewhat startled at this intelligence; but a sense of her present danger pressed again upon her mind, and overcame every other apprehension. “Where is this place?” said she, “if it will conceal me, I shall not hesitate to go.”
“It is an old tomb that stands in the thickest part of the forest about a quarter of a mile off the nearest way, and almost a mile the other. When my master used to hide himself so much in the forest, I have followed him somewhere thereabouts, but I did not find out the tomb till t’other day. However, that’s neither here nor there; if you dare venture to it, Ma’amselle, I’ll shew you the nearest way.” So saying, he pointed to a winding path on the right. Adeline, having looked round, without perceiving any person near, directed Peter to lead her to the tomb: they pursued the path, till turning into a gloomy romantic part of the forest, almost impervious to the rays of the sun, they came to the spot whither Louis had formerly traced his father.
The stillness and solemnity of the scene struck awe upon the heart of Adeline, who paused and surveyed it for some time in silence. At length, Peter led her into the interior part of the ruin, to which they descended by several steps. “Some old Abbot,” said he, “was formerly buried here, as the Marquis’s people say; and it’s like enough that he belonged to the abbey yonder. But I don’t see why he should take it in his head to walk; he was not murdered, surely?”
“I hope not,” said Adeline.
“That’s more than can be said for all that lies buried at the abbey though, and” — Adeline interrupted him; “Hark! surely, I hear a noise;” said she, “Heaven protect us from discovery!” They listened, but all was still, and they went on. Peter opened a low door, and they entered upon a dark passage, frequently obstructed by loose fragments of stone, and along which they moved with caution. “Whither “are we going?” said Adeline — “I scarcely know myself,” said Peter, for I never was so far before; but the place seems quiet enough.” Something obstructed his way; it was a door, which yielded to his hand, and discovered a kind of cell, obscurely seen by the twilight admitted through a grate above. A partial gleam shot athwart the place, leaving the greatest part of it in shadow.
Adeline sighed as she surveyed it. “This is a frightful spot,” said she, “but if it will afford me a shelter, it is a palace. Remember, Peter, that my peace and honour depend upon your faithfulness; be both discrete and resolute. In the dusk of the evening I can pass from the abbey with least danger of being observed, and in this cell I will wait your arrival. As soon as Monsieur and Madame La Motte are engaged in searching the vaults, you will bring here a horse; three knocks upon the tomb shall inform me of your arrival. For Heaven’s sake be cautious, and be punctual.”
“I will, Ma’amselle, let come what may.”
They re-ascended to the forest, and Adeline, fearful of observation, directed Peter to run first to the abbey, and invent some excuse for his absence, if he had been missed. When she was again alone, she yielded to a flood of tears, and indulged the excess of her distress. She saw herself without friends, without relations, destitute, forlorn, and abandoned to the worst of evils. Betrayed by the very persons, to whose comfort she had so long administered, whom she had loved as her protectors, and revered as her parents! These reflections touched her heart with the most afflicting sensations, and the sense of her immediate danger was for a while absorbed in the grief occasioned by a discovery of such guilt in others.
At length she roused all her fortitude, and turning towards the abbey, endeavoured to await with patience the hour of evening, and to sustain an appearance of composure in the presence of Monsieur and Madame La Motte. For the present she wished to avoid seeing either of them, doubting her ability to disguise her emotions: having reached the abbey, she, therefore, passed on to her chamber. Here she endeavoured to direct her attention to indifferent subjects, but in vain; the danger of her situation, and the severe disappointment she had received, in the character of those whom she had so much esteemed, and even loved, pressed hard upon her thoughts. To a generous mind few circumstances are more afflicting than a discovery of perfidy in those whom we have trusted, even though it may fail of any absolute inconvenience to ourselves. The behaviour of Madame La Motte in thus, by concealment, conspiring to her destruction, particularly shocked her.
“How has my imagination deceived me!” said she; “what a picture did “it draw of the goodness of the world! And must I then believe that every body is cruel and deceitful? No — let me still be deceived, and still suffer, rather than be condemned to a state of such wretched suspicion.” She now endeavoured to extenuate the conduct of Madame La Motte, by attributing it to a fear of her husband. “She dare not oppose his will,” said she, “else she would warn me of my danger, and assist me to escape from it. No — I will never believe her capable of conspiring my ruin. Terror alone keeps her silent.”
Adeline was somewhat comforted by this thought. The benevolence of her heart taught her, in this instance, to sophisticate. She perceived not, that by ascribing the conduct of Madame La Motte to terror, she only softened the degree of her guilt, imputing it to a motive less depraved, but not less selfish. She remained in her chamber till summoned to dinner, when, drying her tears, she descended with faltering steps and a palpitating heart to the parlour. When she saw La Motte, in spite of all her efforts, she trembled and grew pale: she could not behold, even with apparent indifference, the man who she knew had destined her to destruction. He observed her emotion, and inquiring if she was ill, she saw the danger to which her agitation exposed her. Fearful lest La Motte should suspect its true cause, she rallied all her spirits, and, with a look of complacency, answered she was well.
During dinner she preserved a degree of composure, that effectually concealed the varied anguish of her heart. When she looked at La Motte, terror and indignation were her predominant feelings; but when she regarded Madame La Motte, it was otherwise; gratitude for her former tenderness had long been confirmed into affection, and her heart now swelled with the bitterness of grief and disappointment. Madame La Motte appeared depressed, and said little. La Motte seemed anxious to prevent thought, by assuming a fictitious and unnatural gaiety: he laughed and talked, and threw off frequent bumpers of wine: it was the mirth of desperation. Madame became alarmed, and would have restrained him, but he persisted in his libations to Bacchus till reflection seemed to be almost overcome.
Madame La Motte, fearful that in the carelessness of the present moment he might betray himself, withdrew with Adeline to another room. Adeline recollected the happy hours she once passed with her, when confidence banished reserve, and sympathy and esteem dictated the sentiments of friendship: now those hours were gone for ever; she could no longer unbosom her griefs to Madame La Motte; no longer even esteem her. Yet, notwithstanding all the danger to which she was exposed by the criminal silence of the latter, she could not converse with her, consciously for the last time, without feeling a degree of sorrow, which wisdom may call weakness, but to which benevolence will allow a softer name.
Madame La Motte, in her conversation, appeared to labour under an almost equal oppression with Adeline: her thoughts were abstracted from the subject of discourse, and there were long and frequent intervals of silence. Adeline more than once caught her gazing with a look of tenderness upon her, and saw her eyes fill with tears. By this circumstance she was so much affected, that she was several times upon the point of throwing herself at her feet, and imploring her pity and protection. Cooler reflection shewed her the extravagance and danger of this conduct: she suppressed her emotions, but they at length compelled her to withdraw from the presence of Madame La Motte.