A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“And Hope enchanted smil’d, and wav’d her
Ode To The Passions.
The dawn of morning now trembled through the clouds, when the travellers stopped at a small town to change horses. Theodore entreated Adeline to alight and take some refreshment, and to this she at length consented. But the people of the inn were not yet up, and it was some time before the knocking and roaring of the postillion could rouse them.
Having taken some slight refreshment, Theodore and Adeline returned to the carriage. The only subject upon which Theodore could have spoke with interest, delicacy forbade him at this time to notice; and after pointing out some beautiful scenery on the road, and making other efforts to support a conversation, he relapsed into silence. His mind, though still anxious, was now relieved from the apprehension that had long oppressed it. When he first saw Adeline, her loveliness made a deep impression on his heart: there was a sentiment in her beauty, which his mind immediately acknowledged, and the effect of which, her manners and conversation had afterwards confirmed. Her charms appeared to him like those since so finely described by an English poet:
“Oh! have you seen, bath’d in the morning dew, The budding rose its infant bloom display; When first its virgin tints unfold to view, It shrinks and scarcely trusts the blaze of day?
So soft, so delicate, so sweet she came, Youth’s damask glow just dawning on her cheek. I gaz’d, I sigh’d, I caught the tender flame, Felt the fond pang, and droop’d with passion weak.”
A knowledge of her destitute condition, and of the dangers with which she was environed, had awakened in his heart the tenderest touch of pity, and assisted the change of admiration into love. The distress he suffered, when compelled to leave her exposed to these dangers, without being able to warn her of them, can only be imagined. During his residence with his regiment, his mind was the constant prey of terrors, which he saw no means of combating, but by returning to the neighbourhood of the abbey, where he might obtain early intelligence of the Marquis’s schemes, and be ready to give his assistance to Adeline.
Leave of absence he could not request, without betraying his design where most he dreaded it should be known, and, at length, with a generous rashness, which, though it defied law, was impelled by virtue, he secretly quitted his regiment. The progress of the Marquis’s plan he had observed, with trembling anxiety, till the night that was to decide the fate of Adeline and himself roused all his mind to action, and involved him in a tumult of hope and fear — horror and expectation.
Never, till the present hour, had he ventured to believe she was in safety. Now the distance they had gained from the chateau, without perceiving any pursuit, increased his best hopes. It was impossible he could sit by the side of his beloved Adeline, and receive assurances of her gratitude and esteem, without venturing to hope for her love. He congratulated himself as her preserver, and anticipated scenes of happiness when she should be under the protection of his family. The clouds of misery and apprehension disappeared from his mind, and left it to the sunshine of joy. When a shadow of fear would sometimes return, or when he recollected, with compunction, the circumstances under which he had left his regiment, stationed, as it was, upon the frontiers, and in a time of war, he looked at Adeline, and her countenance, with instantaneous magic, beamed peace upon his heart.
But Adeline had a subject of anxiety from which Theodore was exempt; the prospect of her future days was involved in darkness and uncertainty. Again she was going to claim the bounty of strangers
— again going to encounter the uncertainty of their
Adeline was lost in meditation upon subjects like these, when the postillion stopped the carriage; and pointing to part of a road, which wound down the side of a hill they had passed, said there were several horsemen in pursuit! Theodore immediately ordered him to proceed with all possible speed, and to strike out of the great road into the first obscure way that offered. The postillion cracked his whip in the air, and sat off as if he was flying for life. In the mean while Theodore endeavoured to re-animate Adeline, who was sinking with terror, and who now thought, if she could only escape from the Marquis, she could defy the future.
Presently they struck into a bye lane, screened and overshadowed by thick trees; Theodore again looked from the window, but the closing boughs prevented his seeing far enough to determine whether the pursuit continued. For his sake Adeline endeavoured to disguise her emotions. “This lane,” said Theodore, “will certainly lead to a town or village, and then we have nothing to apprehend; for, though my single arm could not defend you against the number of our pursuers, I have no doubt of being able to interest some of the inhabitants in our behalf.”
Adeline appeared to be comforted by the hope this reflection suggested, and Theodore again looked back, but the windings of the road closed his view, and the rattling of the wheels overcame every other sound. At length he called to the postillion to stop, and having listened attentively, without perceiving any sound of horses, he began to hope they were now in safety. “Do you know where this road leads?” said he. The postillion answered that he did not, but he saw some houses through the trees at a distance, and believed it led to them. This was most welcome intelligence to Theodore, who looked forward and perceived the houses. The postillion sat off, “Fear nothing, my adored Adeline,” said he, “you are now safe; I will part with you but with life.” Adeline sighed, not for herself only, but for the danger to which Theodore might be exposed.
They had continued to travel in this manner for near half an hour, when they arrived at a small village, and soon after stopped at an inn, the best the place afforded. As Theodore lifted Adeline from the chaise, he again entreated her to dismiss her apprehensions, and spoke with a tenderness, to which she could reply only by a smile that ill concealed her anxiety. After ordering refreshments, he went out to speak with the landlord, but had scarcely left the room, when Adeline observed a party of horsemen enter the inn-yard, and she had no doubt these were the persons from whom they fled. The faces of two of them only were turned towards her, but she thought the figure of one of the others not unlike that of the Marquis.
Her heart was chilled, and for some moments the powers of reason forsook her. Her first design was to seek concealment; but while she considered the means one of the horsemen looked up to the window near which she stood, and speaking to his companions, they entered the inn. To quit the room, without being observed, was impossible; to remain there, alone and unprotected as she was, would almost be equally dangerous. She paced the room in an agony of terror, often secretly calling on Theodore, and often wondering he did not return. These were moments of indescribable suffering. A loud and tumultuous sound of voices now arose from a distant part of the house, and she soon distinguished the words of the disputants. “I arrest you in the King’s name,” said one; “and bid you, at your peril, attempt to go from hence, except under a guard.”
The next minute Adeline heard the voice of Theodore in reply. “I do not mean to dispute the King’s orders,” said he, “and give you my word of honour not to go without you; but first unhand me, that I may return to that room; I have a friend there whom I wish to speak with.” To this proposal they at first objected, considering it merely as an excuse to obtain an opportunity of escaping; but, after much altercation and entreaty, his request was granted. He sprang forwards towards the room where Adeline remained, and while a serjeant and corporal followed him to the door, the two soldiers went out into the yard of the inn, to watch the windows of the apartment.
With an eager hand he unclosed the door, but Adeline hastened not to meet him, for she had fainted almost at the beginning of the dispute. Theodore called loudly for assistance, and the mistress of the inn soon appeared with her stock of remedies, which were administered in vain to Adeline, who remained insensible, and by breathing alone gave signs of her existence. The distress of Theodore was in the mean time heightened by the appearance of the officers, who, laughing at the discovery of his pretended friend, declared they could wait no longer. Saying this, they would have forced him from the inanimate form of Adeline, over whom he hung in unutterable anguish, when fiercely turning upon them, he drew his sword, and swore no power on earth should force him away before the lady recovered.
The men, enraged by the action and the determined air of Theodore, exclaimed, “Do you oppose the King’s orders?” and advanced to seize him, but he presented the point of his sword, and bid them at their peril approach. One of them immediately drew, Theodore kept his guard, but did not advance. “I demand only to wait here till the lady recovers,” said he; “you understand the alternative.” The man, already exasperated by the opposition of Theodore, regarded the latter part of his speech as a threat, and became determined not to give up the point; he pressed forward, and while his comrade called the men from the yard, Theodore wounded him slightly in the shoulder, and received himself the stroke of a sabre on his head.
The blood gushed furiously from the wound; Theodore, staggering to a chair, sunk into it, just as the remainder of the party entered the room, and Adeline unclosed her eyes to see him ghastly pale, and covered with blood. She uttered an involuntary scream, and exclaiming, “they have murdered him,” nearly relapsed. At the sound of her voice he raised his head, and smiling held out his hand to her. “I am not much hurt,” said he saintly, “and shall soon be better, if indeed you are recovered.” She hastened towards him, and gave her hand. “Is nobody gone for a surgeon?” said she, with a look of agony. “Do not be alarmed,” said Theodore, “I am not so ill as you imagine.” The room was now crowded with people, whom the report of the affray had brought together; among these was a man, who acted as physician, apothecary, and surgeon to the village, and who now stepped forward to the assistance of Theodore.
Having examined the wound, he declined giving his opinion, but ordered the patient to be immediately put to bed, to which the officers objected, alledging that it was their duty to carry him to the regiment. “That cannot be done without great danger to his life,” replied the doctor; “and” —
“Oh! his life,” said the serjeant; “we have nothing to do with that, we must do our duty.” Adeline, who had hitherto stood in trembling anxiety, could now no longer be silent. “Since the surgeon,” said she, “has declared it his opinion, that this gentleman cannot be removed in his present condition, without endangering his life, you will remember, that if he dies, yours will probably answer it.”
“Yes,” rejoined the surgeon, who was unwilling to relinquish his patient, “I declare before these witnesses, that he cannot be removed with safety: you will do well, therefore, to consider the consequences. He has received a very dangerous wound, which requires the most careful treatment, and the event is even then doubtful; but, if he travels, a fever may ensue, and the wound will then be mortal.” Theodore heard this sentence with composure, but Adeline could with difficulty conceal the anguish of her heart: she roused all her fortitude to suppress the tears that struggled in her eyes; and though she wished to interest the humanity, or to awaken the fears of the men, in behalf of their unfortunate prisoner, she dared not to trust her voice with utterance.
From this internal struggle she was relieved by the compassion of the people who filled the room, and becoming clamorous in the cause of Theodore, declared the officers would be guilty of murder if they removed him. “Why he must die at any rate,” said the serjeant, “for quitting his post, and drawing upon me in the execution of the King’s orders.” A faint sickness seized the heart of Adeline, and she leaned for support against Theodore’s chair, whose concern for himself was for a while suspended in his anxiety for her. He supported her with his arm, and forcing a smile, said in a low voice, which she only could hear, “This is a misrepresentation; I doubt not, when the affair is inquired into, it will be settled without any serious consequences.”
Adeline knew these words were uttered only to console her, and therefore did not give much credit to them, though Theodore continued to give her similar assurances of his safety. Meanwhile the mob, whose compassion for him had been gradually excited by the obduracy of the officer, were now roused to pity and indignation by the seeming certainty of his punishment, and the unfeeling manner in which it had been denounced. In a short time they became so much enraged, that, partly from a dread of farther consequences, and partly from the shame which their charges of cruelty occasioned, the serjeant consented that he should be put to bed, till his commanding officer might direct what was to be done. Adeline’s joy at this circumstance overcame for a moment the sense of her misfortunes, and of her situation.
She waited in an adjoining room the sentence of the surgeon, who was now engaged in examining the wound; and though the accident would in any other circumstances have severely afflicted her, she now lamented it the more, because she considered herself as the cause of it, and because the misfortune, by illustrating more fully the affection of her lover, drew him closer to her heart, and seemed, therefore, to sharpen the poignancy of her affliction. The dreadful assertion that Theodore, should he recover, would be punished with death, she scarcely dared to consider, but endeavoured to believe that it was no more than a cruel exaggeration of his antagonist.
Upon the whole, Theodore’s present danger, together with the attendant circumstances, awakened all her tenderness, and discovered to her the true state of her affections. The graceful form, the noble, intelligent countenance, and the engaging manners which she had at first admired in Theodore, became afterwards more interesting by that strength of thought, and elegance of sentiment, exhibited in his conversation. His conduct, since her escape, had excited her warmest gratitude, and the danger which he had now encountered in her behalf, called forth her tenderness, and heightened it into love. The veil was removed from her heart, and she saw, for the first time, its genuine emotions.
The surgeon at length came out of Theodore’s chamber into the room where Adeline was waiting to speak with him. She inquired concerning the state of his wound. “You are a relation of the gentleman’s, I presume, Madam; his sister, perhaps.” The question vexed and embarrassed her, and, without answering it, she repeated her inquiry. “Perhaps, Madam, you are more nearly related,” pursued the surgeon, seeming also to disregard her question, “perhaps you are his wife.” Adeline blushed, and was about to reply, but he continued his speech. “The interest you take in his welfare is, at least, very flattering, and I would almost consent to exchange conditions with him, were I sure of receiving such tender compassion from so charming a lady.” Saying this, he bowed to the ground. Adeline assuming a very reserved air, said, “Now, Sir, that you have concluded your compliment, you will, perhaps, attend to my question; I have inquired how you left your patient.”
“That, Madam, is, perhaps, a question very difficult to be resolved; and it is likewise a very disagreeable office to pronounce ill news — I fear he will die.” The surgeon opened his snuff-box and presented it to Adeline. “Die!” she exclaimed in a faint voice, “Die!”
“Do not be alarmed, Madam,” resumed the surgeon, observing her grow pale, “do not be alarmed. It is possible that the wound may not have reached the — ,” he stammered; “in that case the — ,” stammering again, “is not affected; and if so, the interior membranes of the brain are not touched: in this case the wound may, perhaps, escape inflammation, and the patient may possibly recover. But if, on the other hand, — ”
“I beseech you, Sir, to speak intelligibly,” interrupted Adeline, “and not to trifle with my anxiety. Do you really believe him in danger?
“In danger, Madam,” exclaimed the surgeon, “in danger! yes, certainly, in very great danger.” Saying this, he walked away with an air of chagrin and displeasure. Adeline remained for some moments in the room, in an excess of sorrow, which she found it impossible to restrain, and then drying her tears, and endeavouring to compose her countenance, she went to inquire for the mistress of the inn, to whom she sent a waiter. After expecting her in vain for some time, she rang the bell, and sent another message somewhat more pressing. Still the hostess did not appear, and Adeline, at length, went herself down stairs, where she found her, surrounded by a number of people, relating, with a loud voice and various gesticulations, the particulars of the late accident. Perceiving Adeline, she called out, “Oh! here is Mademoiselle herself,” and the eyes of the assembly were immediately turned upon her. Adeline, whom the crowd prevented from approaching the hostess, now beckoned her, and was going to withdraw, but the landlady, eager in the pursuit of her story, disregarded the signal. In vain did Adeline endeavour to catch her eye; it glanced every where but upon her, who was unwilling to attract the farther notice of the crowd by calling out.
“It is a great pity, to be sure, that he should be shot,” said the landlady, “he’s such a handsome man; but they say he certainly will if he recovers. Poor gentleman! he will very likely not suffer though, for the doctor says he will never go out of this house alive.” Adeline now spoke to a man who stood near, and desiring he would tell the hostess she wished to speak with her, left the place.
In about ten minutes the landlady appeared. “Alas! Madamoiselle,” said she, “your brother is in a sad condition; they fear he won’t get over it.” Adeline inquired whether there was any other medical person in the town than the surgeon whom she had seen. “Lord, Madam, this is a rare healthy place; we have little need of medicine people here; such an accident never happened in it before. The doctor has been here ten years, but there’s very bad encouragement for his trade, and I believe he’s poor enough himself. One of the sort’s quite enough for us.” Adeline interrupted her to ask some questions concerning Theodore, whom the hostess had attended to his chamber. She inquired how he had borne the dressing of the wound, and whether he appeared to be easier after the operation; questions to which the hostess gave no very satisfactory answers. She now inquired whether there was any surgeon in the neighbourhood of the town, and was told there was not.
The distress visible in Adeline’s countenance, seemed to excite the compassion of the landlady, who now endeavoured to console her in the best manner she was able. She advised her to send for her friends, and offered to procure a messenger. Adeline sighed and said it was unnecessary. “I don’t know, Ma’amselle, what you may think necessary,” continued the hostess, “but I know I should think it very hard to die in a strange place with no relations near me, and I dare say the poor gentleman thinks so himself; and, besides, who is to pay for his funeral if he dies?” Adeline begged she would be silent, and, desiring that every proper attention might be given, she promised her a reward for her trouble, and requested pen and ink immediately. “Ay, to be sure, Ma’amselle, that is the proper way; why your friends would never forgive you if you did not acquaint them; I know it by myself. And as for taking care of him, he shall have every thing the house affords, and I warrant there is never a better inn in the province, though the town is none of the biggest.” Adeline was obliged to repeat her request for pen and ink, before the loquacious hostess would quit the room.
The thought of sending for Theodore’s friends had, in the tumult of the late scenes, never occurred to her, and she was now somewhat consoled by the prospect of comfort which it opened for him. When the pen and ink were brought, she wrote the following note to Theodore.
“In your present condition, you have need of every comfort that can be procured you, and surely there is no cordial more valuable in illness, than the presence of a friend: suffer me, therefore, to acquaint your family with your situation; it will be a satisfaction to me, and, I doubt not, a consolation to you.”
In a short time after she had sent the note, she received a message from Theodore, entreating most respectfully, but earnestly, to see her for a few minutes. She immediately went to his chamber, and found her worst apprehensions confirmed, by the languor expressed in his countenance, while the shock she received, together with her struggle to disguise her emotions, almost overcame her. “I thank you for this goodness,” said he, extending his hand, which she received, and, sitting down by the bed, burst into a flood of tears. When her agitation had somewhat subsided, and, removing her handkerchief from her eyes, she again looked on Theodore, a smile of the tenderest love expressed his sense of the interest she took in his welfare, and administered a temporary relief to her heart.
“Forgive this weakness,” said she; “my spirits have of late been so variously agitated” — Theodore interrupted her — “These tears are most flattering to my heart. But, for my sake, endeavour to support yourself: I doubt not I shall soon be better; the surgeon” — “I do not like him,” said Adeline, “but tell me how you find yourself?” He assured her that he was now much easier than he had yet been, and mentioning her kind note, he led to the subject, on account of which he had solicited to see her. “My family,” said he, “reside at a great distance from hence, and I well know their affection is such, that, were they informed of my situation, no consideration, however reasonable, could prevent their coming to my assistance; but before they can arrive, their presence will probably be unnecessary,” (Adeline looked earnestly at him) “I should probably be well,” pursued he, smiling, “before a letter could reach them; it would, therefore, occasion them unnecessary pain, and, moreover, a fruitless journey. For your sake, Adeline, I could wish they were here, but a few days will more fully shew the consequences of my wound: let us wait, at least, till then, and be directed by circumstances.”
Adeline forbore to press the subject farther, and turned to one more immediately interesting. “I much wish,” said she, “that you had a more able surgeon; you know the geography of the province better than I do; are we in the neighbourhood of any town likely to afford you other advice?”
“I believe not,” said he, “and this is an affair of little consequence, for my wound is so inconsiderable, that a very moderate share of skill may suffice to cure it. But why, my beloved Adeline, do you give way to this anxiety? Why suffer yourself to be disturbed by this tendency to forbode the worst? I am willing, perhaps, presumptuously so, to attribute it to your kindness, and suffer me to assure you, that, while it excites my gratitude, it increases my tenderest esteem. O Adeline! since you wish my speedy recovery, let me see you composed: while I believe you to be unhappy I cannot be well.” — She assured him she would endeavour to be, at least, tranquil, and fearing the conversation, if prolonged, would be prejudicial to him, she left him to repose.
As she turned out of the gallery, she met the hostess, upon whom certain words of Adeline had operated as a talisman, transforming neglect and impertinence into officious civility. She came to inquire whether the gentleman above stairs had every thing that he liked, for she was sure it was her endeavour that he should. “I have got him a nurse, Ma’amselle, to attend him, and I dare say she will do very well, but I will look to that, for I shall not mind helping him myself sometimes. Poor gentleman! how patiently he bears it! One would not think now that he believes he is going to die; yet the doctor told him so himself, or, at least as good.” Adeline was extremely shocked at this imprudent conduct of the surgeon, and dismissed the landlady, after ordering a slight dinner.
Towards evening the surgeon again made his appearance, and, having passed some time with his patient, returned to the parlour, according to the desire of Adeline, to inform her of his condition. He answered Adeline’s inquiries with great solemnity. “It is impossible to determine positively, at present, Madam, but I have reason to adhere to the opinion I gave you this morning. I am not apt, indeed, to form opinions upon uncertain grounds. I will give you a singular instance of this: “It is not above a fortnight since I was sent for to a patient at some leagues distance. I was from home when the messenger arrived, and the case being urgent, before I could reach the patient, another physician was consulted, who had ordered such medicines as he thought proper, and the patient had been apparently relieved by them. His friends were congratulating themselves upon his improvement when I arrived, and had agreed in opinion with the physician, that there was no danger in his case. Depend upon it, said I, you are mistaken; these medicines cannot have relieved him; the patient is in the utmost danger. The patient groaned, but my brother physician persisted in affirming that the remedies he had prescribed would not only be certain, but speedy, some good effect having been already produced by them. Upon this I lost all patience, and adhering to my opinion, that these effects were fallacious and the case desperate, I assured the patient himself that his life was in the utmost danger. I am not one of those, Madam, who deceive their patients to the last moment; but you shall hear the conclusion.
“My brother physician was, I suppose, enraged by the firmness of my opposition, for he assumed a most angry look, which did not in the least affect me, and turning to the patient, desired he would decide, upon which of our opinions to rely, for he must decline acting with me. The patient did me the honour,” pursued the surgeon, with a smile of complacency, and smoothing his ruffles, “to think more highly of me than, perhaps, I deserved, for he immediately dismissed my opponent. I could not have believed, said he, as the physician left the room, I could not have believed that a man, who has been so many years in the profession, could be so wholly ignorant of it.
“I could not have believed it either, said I. — I am astonished that he was not aware of my danger, resumed the patient. — I am astonished likewise, replied I — I was resolved to do what I could for the patient, for he was a man of understanding, as you perceive, and I had a regard for him. I, therefore, altered the prescriptions, and myself administered the medicines; but all would not do, my opinion was verified, and he died even before the next morning.” — Adeline, who had been compelled to listen to this long story, sighed at the conclusion of it. “I don’t wonder that you are affected, Madam,” said the surgeon, “the instance I have related is certainly a very affecting one. It distressed me so much, that it was some time before I could think, or even speak concerning it. But you must allow, Madam,” continued he, lowering his voice and bowing with a look of self-congratulation, “that this was a striking instance of the infallibility of my judgement.”
Adeline shuddered at the infallibility of his judgement, and made no reply. “It was a shocking thing for the poor man,” resumed the surgeon. — “It was, indeed, very shocking,” said Adeline. — “It affected me a good deal when it happened,” continued he. — “Undoubtedly, Sir,” said Adeline.
“But time wears away the most painful impressions.”
“I think you mentioned it was about a fortnight since this happened.”
“Somewhere thereabouts,” replied the surgeon, without seeming to understand the observation. — “And will you permit me, Sir, to ask the name of the physician, who so ignorantly opposed you?”
“Certainly, Madam, it is Lafance.”
“He lives in the obscurity he deserves, no doubt,” said Adeline.
“Why no, Madam, he lives in a town of some note, at about the distance of four leagues from hence, and affords one instance, among many others, that the public opinion is generally erroneous. You will hardly believe it, but I assure you it is a fact, that this man comes into a great deal of practice, while I am suffered to remain here, neglected, and, indeed, very little known.”
During his narrative, Adeline had been considering by what means she could discover the name of the physician, for the instance that had been produced to prove his ignorance, and the infallibility of his opponent, had completely settled her opinion concerning them both. She now, more than ever, wished to deliver Theodore from the hands of the surgeon, and was musing on the possibility, when he, with so much self-security, developed the means.
She asked him a few more questions, concerning the state of Theodore’s wound, and was told it was much as it had been, but that some degree of fever had come on. “But I have ordered a fire to be made in the room,” continued the surgeon, “and some additional blankets to be laid on the bed; these, I doubt not, will have a proper effect. In the mean time, they must be careful to keep from him every kind of liquid, except some cordial draughts, which I shall send. He will naturally ask for drink, but it must, on no account, be given to him.”
“You do not approve, then, of the method, which I have somewhere heard of,” said Adeline, “of attending to nature in these cases.”
“Nature, Madam!” pursued he, “Nature is the most improper guide in the world. I always adopt a method directly contrary to what she would suggest; for what can be the use of Art, if she is only to follow Nature? This was my first opinion on setting out in life, and I have ever since strictly adhered to it. From what I have said, indeed, Madam, you may, perhaps, perceive that my opinions may be depended on; what they once are they always are, for my mind is not of that frivolous kind to be affected by circumstances.”
Adeline was fatigued by this discourse, and impatient to impart to Theodore her discovery of a physician, but the surgeon seemed by no means disposed to leave her, and was expatiating upon various topics, with new instances of his surprising sagacity, when the waiter brought a message that some person desired to see him. He was, however, engaged upon too agreeable a topic to be easily prevailed upon to quit it, and it was not till after a second message was brought that he made his bow to Adeline and left the room. The moment he was gone she sent a note to Theodore, entreating his permission to call in the assistance of the physician.
The conceited manners of the surgeon had by this time given Theodore a very unfavourable opinion of his talents, and the last prescription had so fully confirmed it, that he now readily consented to have other advice. Adeline immediately inquired for a messenger, but recollecting that the residence of the physician was still a secret, she applied to the hostess, who being really ignorant of it, or pretending to be so, gave her no information. What farther inquiries she made were equally ineffectual, and she passed some hours in extreme distress, while the disorder of Theodore rather increased than abated.
When supper appeared, she asked the boy who waited, if he knew a physician of the name of Lafance, in the neighbourhood. “Not in the neighbourhood, Madam, but I know Doctor Lafance of Chancy, for I come from the town.” — Adeline inquired farther, and received very satisfactory answers. But the town was at some leagues distance, and the delay this circumstance must occasion again alarmed her; she, however, ordered a messenger to be immediately dispatched, and, having sent again to inquire concerning Theodore, retired to her chamber for the night.
The continued fatigue she had suffered for the last fourteen hours overcame anxiety, and her harrassed spirits sunk to repose. She slept till late in the morning, and was then awakened by the landlady, who came to inform her, that Theodore was much worse, and to inquire what should be done. Adeline, finding that the physician was not arrived, immediately arose, and hastened to inquire farther concerning Theodore. The hostess informed her, that he had passed a very disturbed night; that he had complained of being very hot, and desired that the fire in his room might be extinguished; but that the nurse knew her duty too well to obey him, and had strictly followed the doctor’s orders.
She added, that he had taken the cordial draughts regularly, but had, notwithstanding, continued to grow worse, and at last became light-headed. In the mean time the boy, who had been sent for the physician, was still absent: — “And no wonder,” continued the hostess; “why, only consider, it’s eight leagues off, and the lad had to find the road, bad as it is, in the dark. But, indeed, Ma’amselle, you might as well have trusted our doctor, for we never want any body else, not we, in the town here; and if I might speak my mind, Jacques had better have been sent off for the young gentleman’s friends than for this strange doctor that no body knows.”
After asking some farther questions concerning Theodore, the answers to which rather increased than diminished her alarm, Adeline endeavoured to compose her spirits, and await in patience the arrival of the physician. She was now more sensible than ever of the forlornness of her own condition, and of the danger of Theodore’s, and earnestly wished that his friends could be informed of his situation; a wish which could not be gratified, for Theodore, who alone could acquaint her with their place of residence, was deprived of recollection.
When the surgeon arrived and perceived the situation of his patient, he expressed no surprize; but having asked some questions, and given a few general directions, he went down to Adeline. After paying her his usual compliments, he suddenly assumed an air of importance, “I am sorry, Madam,” said he, “that it is my office to communicate disagreeable intelligence, but I wish you to be prepared for the event, which, I fear, is approaching.” Adeline comprehended his meaning, and though she had hitherto given little faith to his judgement, she could not hear him hint at the immediate danger of Theodore without yielding to the influence of fear.
She entreated him to acquaint her with all he apprehended; and he then proceeded to say, that Theodore was, as he had foreseen, much worse this morning than he had been the preceding night; and the disorder having now affected his head, there was every reason to fear it would prove fatal in a few hours. “The worst consequences may ensue,” continued he; “if the wound becomes inflamed, there will be very little chance of his recovery.”
Adeline listened to this sentence with a dreadful calmness, and gave no utterance to grief, either by words or tears. The gentleman, I suppose, Madam, has friends, and the sooner you inform them of his condition the better. If they reside at any distance, it is indeed too late; but there are other necessary — you are ill, Madam.”
Adeline made an effort to speak, but in vain, and the surgeon now called loudly for a glass of water; she drank it, and a deep sigh that she uttered, seemed somewhat to relieve her oppressed heart: tears succeeded. In the mean time, the surgeon perceiving she was better, though not well enough to listen to his conversation, took his leave, and promised to return in an hour. The physician was not yet arrived, and Adeline awaited his appearance with a mixture of fear and anxious hope.
About noon he came, and having been informed of the accident by which the fever was produced, and of the treatment which the surgeon had given it, he ascended to Theodore’s chamber: in a quarter of an hour he returned to the room where Adeline expected him. “The gentleman is still delirious,” said he, “but I have ordered him a composing draught.” — “Is there any hope, Sir?” inquired Adeline. “Yes, Madam, certainly there is hope; the case at present is somewhat doubtful, but a few hours may enable me to judge with more certainty. In the mean time, I have directed that he shall be kept quiet, and be allowed to drink freely of some diluting liquids.”
He had scarcely, at Adeline’s request, recommended a surgeon, instead of the one at present employed, when the latter gentleman entered the room, and, perceiving the physician, threw a glance of mingled surprize and anger at Adeline, who retired with him to another apartment, where she dismissed him with a politeness, which he did not deign to return, and which he certainly did not deserve.
Early the following morning the surgeon arrived, but either the medicines, or the crisis of the disorder, had thrown Theodore into a deep sleep, in which he remained for several hours. The physician now gave Adeline reason to hope for a favourable issue, and every precaution was taken to prevent his being disturbed. He awoke perfectly sensible and free from fever, and his first words inquired for Adeline, who soon learned that he was out of danger.
In a few days he was sufficiently recovered to be removed from his chamber to a room adjoining, where Adeline met him with a joy, which she found it impossible to repress; and the observance of this lighted up his countenance with pleasure: indeed Adeline, sensible to the attachment he had so nobly testified, and softened by the danger he had encountered, no longer attempted to disguise the tenderness of her esteem, and was at length brought to confess the interest his first appearance had impressed upon her heart.
After an hour of affecting conversation, in which the happiness of a young and mutual attachment occupied all their minds, and excluded every idea not in unison with delight, they returned to a sense of their present embarrassments: Adeline recollected that Theodore was arrested for disobedience of orders, and deserting his post; and Theodore, that he must shortly be torn away from Adeline, who wound be left exposed to all the evils from which he had so lately rescued her. This thought overwhelmed his heart with anguish; and, after a long pause, he ventured to propose, what his wishes had often suggested, a marriage with Adeline before he departed from the village: this was the only means of preventing, perhaps, an eternal separation; and though he saw the many dangerous inconveniences to which she would be exposed, by a marriage with a man circumstanced like himself, yet these appeared so unequal to those she would otherwise be left to encounter alone, that his reason could no longer scruple to adopt what his affection had suggested.
Adeline was, for some time, too much agitated to reply; and though she had little to oppose to the arguments and pleadings of Theodore; though she had no friends to control, and no contrariety of interests to perplex her, she could not bring herself to consent thus hastily to a marriage with a man, of whom she had little knowledge, and to whose family and connections she had no sort of introduction. At length, she entreated he would drop the subject, and the conversation for the remainder of the day was more general, yet still interesting.
That similarity of taste and opinion, which had at first attracted them, every moment now more fully disclosed. Their discourse was enriched by elegant literature, and endeared by mutual regard. Adeline had enjoyed few opportunities of reading, but the books to which she had access, operating upon a mind eager for knowledge, and upon a taste peculiarly sensible of the beautiful and the elegant, had impressed all their excellencies upon her understanding. Theodore had received from nature many of the qualities of genius, and from education all that it could bestow; to these were added, a noble independency of spirit, a feeling heart, and manners, which partook of a happy mixture of dignity and sweetness.
In the evening, one of the officers, who, upon the representation of the serjeant, was sent by the persons employed to prosecute military criminals, arrived at the village, and entering the apartment of Theodore, from which Adeline immediately withdrew, informed him, with an air of infinite importance, that he should set out on the following day for head-quarters. Theodore answered, that he was not able to bear the journey, and referred him to his physician; but the officer replied, htat he should take no such trouble, it being certain that the physician might be instructed what to say, and that he should begin his journey on the morrow. “Here has been delay enough,” said he, “already, and you will have sufficient business on your hands when you reach head-quarters;for the serjeant, whom you have severely wounded, intends to appear against you; and htis, with the offence you have committed by deserting your post”
Theodore’s eyes flashed fire, “Deserting!” said he, rising from his seat and darting a look of menace at his accuser, “who dares brand me with the name of deserter?” But instantly recollecting how much his conduct had appeared to justify the accusation, he endeavoured to stifle his emotions, and with a firm voice and composed manner, said, that when he reached head-quarters, he should be ready to answer whatever might be brought against him, but that till then he should be silent. The boldness of the officer was repressed by the spirit and dignity with which Theodore spoke these words, and muttering a reply, that was scarecly audible, he left the room.
Theodore sat musing on the danger of his situation: he knew that he had much to apprehend from the peculiar circumstances attending his abrupt departure from his regiment, it having been stationed in a garrison town upon the Spanish frontiers; where the discipline was very severe, and from the power of his colonel, the Marquis de Montalt, whom pride and disappointment would now rouse to vengeance, and, probably, render indefatigable in the accomplishment of his destruction. But his thoughts soon fled from his own danger to that of Adeline, and, in the consideration of this, all his fortitude forsook him: he could not support the idea of leaving her exposed to the evils he foreboded, nor, indeed, of a separation so sudden as that which now threatened him; and when she again entered the room, he renewed his solicitations for a speedy marriage, with all the arguments that tenderness and ingenuity could suggest.
Adeline, when she learned that he was to depart on the morrow, felt as if bereaved of her last comfort. All the horrors of his situation arose to her mind, and she turned from him in unutterable anguish. Considering her silence as a favourable presage, he repeated his entreaties that she would consent to be his, and thus give him a surety that their separation should not be eternal. Adeline sighed deeply to these words: “And who can know that our separation will not be eternal,” said she, “even if I could consent to the marriage you propose? But while you hear my determination, forbear to accuse me of indifference, for indifference towards you would, indeed, be a crime, after the services you have rendered me.”
“And is a cold sentiment of gratitude all that I must expect from you?” said Theodore. “I know that you are going to distress me with a proof of your indifference, which you mistake for the suggestions of prudence; and that I shall be compelled to look, without reluctance, upon the evils that may shortly await me. Ah, Adeline! if you mean to reject this, perhaps, the last proposal which I can ever make to you, cease, at least, to deceive yourself with an idea that you love me; that delirium is fading even from my mind.”
“Can you then so soon forget our conversation of this morning?” replied Adeline; “and can you think so lightly of me as to believe I would profess a regard, which I do not feel? If, indeed, you can believe this, I shall do well to forget that I ever made such an acknowledgement, and you, that you heard it.”
“Forgive me, Adeline, forgive the doubts and inconsistencies I have betrayed: let the anxieties of love, and the emergency of my circumstances, plead for me.” Adeline, smiling faintly through her tears, held out her hand, which he seized and pressed to his lips. “Yet do not drive me to despair by a rejection of my suit,” continued Theodore; “think what I must suffer to leave you here destitute of friends and protection.”
“I am thinking how I may avoid a situation so deplorable,” said Adeline. “They say there is a convent, which receives boarders, within a few miles, and thither I wish to go.”
“A convent!” rejoined Theodore, “would you go to a convent? Do you know the persecutions you would be liable to; and that if the Marquis should discover you, there is little probability the superior would resist his authority, or, at least, his bribes?”
“All this I have considered,” said Adeline, “and am prepared to encounter it, rather than enter into an engagement, which, at this time, can be productive only of misery to us both.”
“Ah, Adeline! could you think thus, if you truly loved? I see myself about to be separated, and that, perhaps, for ever, from the object of my tenderest affections — and I cannot but express all the anguish I feel — I cannot forbear to repeat every argument that may afford even the slightest possibility of altering your determination. But you, Adeline, you look with complacency upon a circumstance which tortures me with despair.”
Adeline, who had long strove to support her spirits in his presence, while she adhered to a resolution which reason suggested, but which the pleadings of her heart powerfully opposed, was unable longer to command her distress, and burst into tears. Theodore was in the same moment convinced of his error, and shocked at the grief he had occasioned. He drew his chair towards her, and, taking her hand, again entreated her pardon, and endeavoured in the tenderest accents to soothe and comfort her. — “What a wretch was I to cause you this distress, by questioning that regard with which I can no longer doubt you honour me! Forgive me, Adeline; say but you forgive me, and, whatever may be the pain of this separation, I will no longer oppose it.”
“You have given me some pain,” said Adeline, “but you have not offended me.” — She then mentioned some farther particulars concerning the convent. Theodore endeavoured to conceal the distress which the approaching separation occasioned him, and to consult with her on these plans with composure. His judgement by degrees prevailed over his passions, and he now perceived that the plan she suggested would afford her best chance of security. He considered, what in the first agitation of his mind had escaped him, that he might be condemned upon the charges brought against him, and that his death, should they have been married, would not only deprive her of her protector, but leave her more immediately exposed to the designs of the Marquis, who would, doubtless, attend his trial. Astonished that he had not noticed this before, and shocked at the unwariness by which he might have betrayed her into so dangerous a situation, he became at once reconciled to the idea of leaving her in a convent. He could have wished to place her in the asylum of his own family, but the circumstances under which she must be introduced were so awkward and painful, and, above all, the distance at which they resided, would render a journey so highly dangerous for her, that he forbore to propose it. He entreated only that she would allow him to write to her; but recollecting that his letters might be a means of betraying the place of her residence to the Marquis, he checked himself: “I must deny myself even this melancholy pleasure,” said he, “lest my letters should discover your abode; yet how shall I be able to endure the impatience and uncertainty to which prudence condemns me! If you are in danger, I shall be ignorant of it; though, indeed, did I know it,” said he with a look of despair, “I could not fly to save you. O exquisite misery! ’tis now only I perceive all the horrors of confinement — ’tis now only that I understand all the value of liberty!”
His utterance was interrupted by the violent agitation of his mind; he rose from his chair, and walked with quick paces about the room. Adeline sat, overcome by the description which Theodore had given of his approaching situation, and by the consideration that she might remain in the most terrible suspense concerning his fate. She saw him in a prison — pale — emaciated, and in chains: — she saw all the vengeance of the Marquis descending upon him; and this for his noble exertions in her cause. Theodore, alarmed by the placid despair expressed in her countenance, threw himself into a chair by her’s, and, taking her hand, attempted to speak comfort to her, but the words faltered on his lips, and he could only bathe her hand with tears.
This mournful silence was interrupted by the arrival of the carriage at the inn, and Theodore, arising, went to the window that opened into the yard. The darkness of the night prevented his distinguishing the objects without, but a light now brought from the house shewed him a carriage and four, attended by several servants. Presently he saw a gentleman, wrapped up in a roquelaure, alight and enter the inn, and in the next moment he heard the voice of the Marquis.
He had flown to support Adeline, who was sinking with terror, when the door opened, and the Marquis, followed by the officers and several servants, entered. Fury flashed from his eyes, as they glanced upon Theodore, who hung over Adeline with a look of fearful solicitude
— “Seize that traitor,” said he, turning to
the officers; “why have
“I am no traitor,” said Theodore, with a firm voice, and the dignity of conscious worth, “but a defender of innocence, of one whom the treacherous Marquis de Montalt would destroy.”
“Obey your orders,” said the Marquis to the officers. Adeline shrieked, held faster by Theodore’s arm, and entreated the men not to part them. “Force only can effect it,” said Theodore, as he looked round for some instrument of defence, but he could see none, and in the same moment they surrounded and seized him. “Dread every thing from my vengeance,” said the Marquis to Theodore, as he caught the hand of Adeline, who had lost all power of resistance, and was scarcely sensible of what passed; “dread every thing from my vengeance; you know you have deserved it.”
“I defy your vengeance,” cried Theodore, “and dread only the pangs of conscience, which your power cannot inflict upon me, though your vices condemn you to its tortures.”
“Take him instantly from the room, and see that he is strongly fettered,” said the Marquis; “he shall soon know what a criminal, who adds insolence to guilt, may suffer.” — Theodore, exclaiming, “Oh Adeline! farewell!” “was now forced out of the room; while Adeline, whose torpid senses were roused by his voice and his last looks, fell at the feet of the Marquis, and with tears of agony implored compassion for Theodore: but her pleadings for his rival served only to irritate the pride and exasperate the hatred of the Marquis. He denounced vengeance on his head, and imprecations too dreadful for the spirits of Adeline, whom he compelled to rise; and then, endeavouring to stifle the emotions of rage, which the presence of Theodore had excited, he began to address her with his usual expressions of admiration.
The wretched Adeline, who, regardless of what he said, still continued to plead for her unhappy lover, was at length alarmed by the returning rage which the countenance of the Marquis expressed, and, exerting all her remaining strength, she sprung from his grasp towards the door of the room; but he seized her hand before she could reach it, and, regardless of her shrieks, bringing her back to her chair, was going to speak, when voices were heard in the passage, and immediately the landlord and his wife, whom Adeline’s cries had alarmed, entered the apartment. The Marquis, turning furiously to them, demanded what they wanted; but not waiting for their answer, he bade them attend him, and quitting the room, she heard the door locked upon her.
Adeline now ran to the windows, which were unfastened, and opened into the inn-yard. All was dark and silent. She called aloud for help, but no person appeared; and the windows were so high, that it was impossible to escape unassisted. She walked about the room in an agony of terror and distress, now stopping to listen, and fancying she heard voices disputing below, and now quickening her steps, as suspense increased the agitation of her mind.
She had continued in this state for near half an hour, when she suddenly heard a violent noise in the lower part of the house, which increased till all was uproar and confusion. People passed quickly through the passages, and doors were frequently opened and shut. She called, but received no answer. It immediately occurred to her, that Theodore, having heard her screams, had attempted to come to her assistance, and that the bustle had been occasioned by the opposition of the officers. Knowing their fierceness and cruelty, she was seized with dreadful apprehensions for the life of Theodore.
A confused uproar of voices now sounded from below, and the screams of women convinced her there was fighting; she even thought she heard the clashing of swords; the image of Theodore, dying by the hands of the Marquis, now rose to her imagination, and the terrors of suspense became almost insupportable. She made a desperate effort to force the door, and again called for help, but her trembling hands were powerless, and every person in the house seemed to be too much engaged even to hear her. A loud shriek now pierced her ears, and, amidst the tumult that followed, she clearly distinguished deep groans. This confirmation of her fears deprived her of all her remaining spirits, and growing faint, she sunk almost lifeless into a chair near the door. The uproar gradually subsided till all was still, but nobody returned to her. Soon after she heard voices in the yard, but she had no power to walk across the room, even to ask the questions she wished, yet feared, to have answered.
About a quarter of an hour elapsed, when the door was unlocked, and the hostess appeared with a countenance as pale as death. “For God’s sake,” said Adeline, “tell me what has happened? Is he wounded? Is he killed?”
“He is not dead, Ma’amselle, but — He is dying then? — tell me where he is — let me go.”
“Stop, Ma’amselle,” cried the hostess, “you are to stay here, I only want the hartshorn out of that cupboard there.” Adeline tried to escape by the door, but the hostess, pushing her aside, locked it, and went down stairs.
Adeline’s distress now entirely overcame her, and she sat motionless, and scarcely conscious that she existed, till roused by a sound of footsteps near the door, which was again opened, and three men, whom she knew to be the Marquis’s servants, entered. She had sufficient recollection to repeat the questions she had asked the landlady, but they answered only that she must come with them, and that a chaise was waiting for her at the door. Still she urged her questions. “Tell me if he lives,” cried she. — “Yes, Ma’amselle, he is alive, but he is terribly wounded, and the surgeon is just come to him.” As they spoke they hurried her along the passage, and without noticing her entreaties and supplications to know whither she was going, they had reached the foot of the stairs, when her cries brought several people to the door. To these the hostess related, that the lady was the wife of a gentleman just arrived, who had overtaken her in her flight with a gallant; an account which the Marquis’s servants corroborated. “’Tis the gentleman who has just fought the duel,” added the hostess, “and it was on her account.”
Adeline, partly disdaining to take any notice of this artful story, and partly from her desire to know the particulars of what had happened, contented herself with repeating her inquiries; to which one of the spectators at last replied, that the gentleman was desperately wounded. The Marquis’s people would now have hurried her into the chaise, but she sunk lifeless in their arms, and her condition so interested the humanity of the spectators, that, notwithstanding their belief of what had been said, they opposed the effort made to carry her, senseless as she was, into the carriage.
She was at length taken into a room, and, by proper applications, restored to her senses. There she so earnestly besought an explanation of what had happened, that the hostess acquainted her with some particulars of the late rencounter. “When the gentleman that was ill heard your screams, Madam,” said she, “he became quite outrageous, as they tell me, and nothing could pacify him. The Marquis, for they say he is a Marquis, but you know best, was then in the room with my husband and I, and when he heard the uproar, he went down to see what was the matter; and when he came into the room where the Captain was, he found him struggling with the serjeant. Then the Captain was more outrageous than ever; and notwithstanding he had one leg chained, and no sword, he contrived to get the serjeant’s cutlass out of the scabbard, and immediately flew at the Marquis, and wounded him desperately; upon which he was secured.” — “It is the Marquis then who is wounded,” said Adeline; “the other gentleman is not hurt?”
“No, not he,” replied the hostess; but he will smart for it by and bye, for the Marquis swears he will do for him.” Adeline, for a moment, forgot all her misfortunes and all her danger in thankfulness for the immediate escape of Theodore; and she was proceeding to make some farther inquiries concerning him, when the Marquis’s servants entered the room, and declared they could wait no longer. Adeline, now awakened to a sense of the evils with which she was threatened, endeavoured to win the pity of the hostess, who, however, was, or affected to be, convinced of the truth of the Marquis’s story, and, therefore, insensible to all she could urge. Again she addressed his servants, but in vain; they would neither suffer her to remain longer at the inn, or inform her whither she was going; but, in the presence of several persons, already prejudiced by the injurious assertions of the hostess, Adeline was hurried into the chaise, and her conductors mounting their horses, the whole party was very soon beyond the village.
Thus ended Adeline’s share of an adventure, begun with a prospect not only of security, but of happiness; an adventure, which had attached her more closely to Theodore, and shewn him to be more worthy of her love; but which, at the same time, had distressed her by new disappointment, produced the imprisonment of her generous and now-adored lover, and delivered both himself and her into the power of a rival, irritated by delay, contempt, and opposition.