A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“Nor sea, nor shade, nor shield, nor rock, nor cave,
The surgeon of the place, having examined the Marquis’s wound, gave him an immediate opinion upon it, and ordered that he should be put to bed: but the Marquis, ill as he was, had scarcely any other apprehension than that of losing Adeline, and declared he should be able to begin his journey in a few hours. With this intention, he had began to give orders for keeping horses in readiness, when the surgeon persisting most seriously, and even passionately to exclaim, that his life would be the sacrifice of his rashness, he was carried to a bed-chamber, where his valet alone was permitted to attend him.
This man, the convenient confidant of all his intrigues, had been the chief instrument in assisting his designs concerning Adeline, and was indeed the very person who had brought her to the Marquis’s villa on the borders of the forest. To him the Marquis gave his farther directions concerning her; and, foreseeing the inconvenience, as well as the danger of detaining her at the inn, he had ordered him, with several other servants, to carry her away immediately in a hired carriage. The valet having gone to execute his orders, the Marquis was left to his own reflections, and to the violence of contending passions.
The reproaches and continued opposition of Theodore, the favoured lover of Adeline, exasperated his pride, and roused all his malice. He could not for a moment consider this opposition, which was in some respects successful, without feeling an excess of indignation and inveteracy, such as the prospect of a speedy revenge could alone enable him to support.
When he had discovered Adeline’s escape from the villa, his surprize at first equalled his disappointment; and, after exhausting the paroxysms of his rage upon his domestics, he dispatched them all different ways in pursuit of her, going himself to the abbey, in the faint hope, that, destitute as she was of other succour, she might have fled thither. La Motte, however, being as much surprized as himself, and as ignorant of the route which Adeline had taken, he returned to the villa, impatient of intelligence, and found some of his servants arrived, without any news of Adeline, and those who came afterwards were as successless as the first.
A few days after, a letter from the Lieutenant–Colonel of the regiment informed him, that Theodore had quitted his company, and had been for some time absent, nobody knew where. This information, confirming a suspicion which had frequently occurred to him, that Theodore had been by some means, or other, instrumental in the escape of Adeline, all his other passions became, for a time, subservient to his revenge, and he gave orders for the immediate pursuit and apprehension of Theodore: but Theodore, in the mean time, had been overtaken and secured.
It was in consequence of having formerly observed the growing partiality between him and Adeline, and of intelligence received from La Motte, who had noticed their interview in the forest, that the Marquis had resolved to remove a rival so dangerous to his love, and so likely to be informed of his designs. He had therefore told Theodore, in a manner as plausible as he could, that it would be necessary for him to join the regiment; a notice which affected him only as it related to Adeline, and which seemed the less extraordinary, as he had already been at the villa a much longer time than was usual with the officers invited by the Marquis. Theodore, indeed, very well knew the character of the Marquis, and had accepted his invitation rather from an unwillingness to shew any disrespect to his Colonel by a refusal, than from a sanguine expectation of pleasure.
From the men who had apprehended Theodore, the Marquis received the information, which had enabled him to pursue and recover Adeline; but, though he had now effected this, he was internally a prey to the corrosive effects of disappointed passion and exasperated pride. The anguish of his wound was almost forgotten in that of his mind, and every pang he felt seemed to increase his thirst of revenge, and to recoil with new torture upon his heart. While he was in this state, he heard the voice of the innocent Adeline imploring protection; but her cries excited in him neither pity or remorse; and when, soon after, the carriage drove away, and he was certain both that she was secured, and Theodore was wretched, he seemed to feel some cessation of mental pain.
Theodore, indeed, did suffer all that a virtuous mind, labouring under oppression so severe, could feel; but he was, at least, free from those inveterate and malignant passions which tore the bosom of the Marquis, and which inflict upon the possessor a punishment more severe than any they can prompt him to imagine for another. What indignation he might feel towards the Marquis, was at this time secondary to his anxiety for Adeline. His captivity was painful, as it prevented his seeking a just and honourable revenge; but it was dreadful, as it withheld him from attempting the rescue of her whom he loved more than life.
When he heard the wheels of the carriage that contained her drive off, he felt an agony of despair which almost overcame his reason. Even the stern hearts of the soldiers who attended him were not wholly insensible to his wretchedness, and by venturing to blame the conduct of the Marquis, they endeavoured to console their prisoner. The physician, who was just arrived, entered the room during this paroxysm of his distress, and, both feeling and expressing much concern at his condition, inquired with strong surprize why he had been thus precipitately removed to a room so very unfit for his reception?
Theodore explained to him the reason of this, of the distress he suffered, and of the chains by which he was disgraced; and perceiving the physician listened to him with attention and compassion, he became desirous of acquainting him with some farther particulars, for which purpose he desired the soldiers to leave the room. The men, complying with his request, stationed themselves on the outside of the door.
He then related all the particulars of the late transaction, and of his connection with the Marquis. The physician attended to his narrative with deep concern, and his countenance frequently expressed strong agitation. When Theodore concluded, he remained for some time silent and lost in thought; at length, awaking from his reverie, he said, “I fear your situation is desperate. The character of the Marquis is too well known to suffer him either to be loved or respected; from such a man you have nothing to hope, for he has scarcely any thing to fear. I wish it was in my power to serve you, but I see no possibility of it.”
“Alas!” said Theodore, “my situation is indeed desperate, and — for that suffering angel” — deep sobs interrupted his voice, and the violence of his agitation would not allow him to proceed. The physician could only express the sympathy he felt for his distress, and entreat him to be more calm, when a servant entered the room from the Marquis, who desired to see the physician immediately. After some time, he said he would attend the Marquis, and having endeavoured to attain a degree of composure, which he found it difficult to assume, he wrung the hand of Theodore and quitted the room, promising to return before he left the house.
He found the Marquis much agitated both in body and mind, and rather more apprehensive for the consequences of the wound than he had expected. His anxiety for Theodore now suggested a plan, by the execution of which he hoped he might be able to serve him. Having felt his patient’s pulse, and asked some questions, he assumed a very serious look, when the Marquis, who watched every turn of his countenance, desired he would, without hesitation, speak his opinion.
“I am sorry to alarm you, my Lord, but here is some reason for apprehension: how long is it since you received the wound?”
“Good God! there is danger then!” cried the Marquis, adding some bitter execrations against Theodore. — “There certainly is danger;” replied the physician, “a few hours may enable me to determine its degree.”
“A few hours, Sir!” interrupted the Marquis; “a few hours!” The physician entreated him to be more calm. Confusion!” cried the Marquis, “A man in health may, with great composure, entreat a dying man to be calm. Theodore will be broke upon the wheel for it, however.”
“You mistake me, Sir,” said the physician, if I believed you a dying man, “or, indeed, very near death, I should not have spoken as I did. But it is of consequence I should know how long the wound has been inflicted.” The Marquis’s terror now began to subside, and he gave a circumstantial account of the affray with Theodore, representing that he had been basely used in an affair, where his own conduct had been perfectly just and humane. The physician heard this relation with great coolness, and when it concluded, without making any comment upon it, told the Marquis he would prescribe a medicine, which he wished him to take immediately.
The Marquis, again alarmed by the gravity of his manner, entreated he would declare most seriously, whether he thought him in immediate danger. The physician hesitated, and the anxiety of the Marquis increased: “It is of consequence,” “said he, “that I should know my exact situation.” The physician then said, that if he had any worldly affairs to settle, it would be as well to attend to them, for that it was impossible to say what might be the event.
He then turned the discourse and said, he had just been with the young officer under arrest, who, he hoped, would not be removed at present, as such a procedure must endanger his life. The Marquis uttered a dreadful oath, and, cursing Theodore for having brought him to his present condition, said, he should depart with the guard that very night. Against the cruelty of this sentence, the physician ventured to expostulate; and endeavouring to awaken the Marquis to a sense of humanity, pleaded earnestly for Theodore. But these entreaties and arguments seemed, by displaying to the Marquis a part of his own character, to rouse his resentment, and re-kindle all the violence of his passions.
The physician at length withdrew in despondency, after promising, at the Marquis’s request, not to leave the inn. He had hoped, by aggravating his danger, to obtain some advantages, both for Adeline and Theodore, but the plan had quite a contrary effect; for the apprehension of death, so dreadful to the guilty mind of the Marquis, instead of awakening penitence, increased his desire of vengeance against the man, who had brought him to such a situation. He determined to have Adeline conveyed, where Theodore, should he by any accident escape, could never obtain her; and thus to secure to himself, at least, some means of revenge. He knew, however, that when Theodore was once safely conveyed to his regiment, his destruction was certain, for should he even be acquitted of the intention of deserting, he would be condemned for having assaulted his superior officer.
The physician returned to the room where Theodore was confined. The violence of his distress was now subsided into a stern despair, more dreadful than the vehemence which had lately possessed him. The guard, in compliance with his request, having left the room, the physician repeated to him some part of his conversation with the Marquis. Theodore, after expressing his thanks, said, he had nothing more to hope. For himself he felt little; it was for his family, and for Adeline he suffered. He inquired what route she had taken, and though he had no prospect of deriving advantage from the information, desired the physician to assist him in obtaining it; but the landlord and his wife either were, or affected to be, ignorant of the matter, and it was in vain to apply to any other person.
The serjeant now entered with orders from the Marquis for the immediate departure of Theodore, who heard the message with composure, though the physician could not help expressing his indignation at this precipitate removal, and his dread of the consequences that might attend it. Theodore had scarcely time to declare his gratitude for the kindness of this valuable friend, before the soldiers entered the room to conduct him to the carriage in waiting. As he bade him farewell, Theodore slipped his purse into his hand, and turning abruptly away, told the soldiers to lead on; but the physician stopped him, and refused the present with such serious warmth, that he was compelled to resume it: he wrung the hand of his new friend, and, being unable to speak, hurried away. The whole party immediately set off, and the unhappy Theodore was left to the remembrance of his past hopes and sufferings, to his anxiety for the fate of Adeline, the contemplation of his present wretchedness, and the apprehension of what might be reserved for him in future. For himself, indeed, he saw nothing but destruction, and was only relieved from total despair, by a feeble hope that she, whom he loved better than himself, might one time enjoy that happiness, of which he did not venture to look for a participation.