A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“Hail awful scenes, that calm the troubled breast,
Adeline, mean while, and Peter proceeded on their voyage, without any accident, and landed in Savoy, where Peter placed her upon the horse, and himself walked beside her. When he came within sight of his native mountains, his extravagant joy burst forth into frequent exclamations, and he would often ask Adeline if she had ever seen such hills in France. “No, no,” said he, “the hills there are very well for French hills, but they are not to be named on the same day with ours.” Adeline, lost in admiration of the astonishing and tremendous scenery around her, assented very warmly to the truth of Peter’s assertion, which encouraged him to expatiate more largely upon the advantages of his country; its disadvantages he totally forgot; and though he gave away his last sous to the children of the peasantry that run barefooted by the side of the horse, he spoke of nothing but the happiness and content of the inhabitants.
His native village, indeed, was an exception to the general character of the country, and to the usual effects of an arbitrary government; it was flourishing, healthy, and happy; and these advantages it chiefly owed to the activity and attention of the benevolent clergyman whose cure it was.
Adeline, who now began to feel the effects of long anxiety and fatigue, much wished to arrive at the end of her journey, and inquired impatiently of Peter concerning it. Her spirits, thus weakened, the gloomy grandeur of the scenes which had so lately awakened emotions of delightful sublimity, now awed her into terror; she trembled at the sound of the torrents rolling among the clifts and thundering in the vale below, and shrunk from the view of the precipices, which sometimes overhung the road, and at others appeared beneath it. Fatigued as she was, she frequently dismounted to climb on foot the steep slinty road, which she feared to travel on horseback.
The day was closing when they drew near a small village at the foot of the Savoy Alps, and the sun, in all his evening splendour, now sinking behind their summits, threw a farewell gleam athwart the landscape, so soft and glowing as drew from Adeline, languid as she was, an exclamation of rapture.
The romantic situation of the village next attracted her notice. It stood at the foot of several stupendous mountains, which formed a chain round a lake at some little distance, and the woods that swept from their summits almost embosomed the village. The lake, unruffled by the lightest air, reflected the vermil tints of the horizon with the sublime scenery on its borders, darkening every instant with the falling twilight.
When Peter perceived the village, he burst into a shout of joy. “Thank God,” said he, “we are near home; there is my dear native place. It looks just as it did twenty years ago; and there are the same old trees growing round our cottage yonder, and the huge rock that rises above it. My poor father died there, Ma’amselle. Pray heaven my sister be alive; it is a long while since I saw her.” Adeline listened with a melancholy pleasure to these artless expressions of Peter, who, in retracing the scenes of his former days, seemed to live them over again. As they approached the village, he continued to point out various objects of his remembrance. “And there too is the good pastor’s chateau; look, Ma’amselle, that white house, with the smoke curling, that stands on the edge of the lake yonder. I wonder whether he is alive yet. He was not old when I left the place, and as much beloved as ever man was; but death spares nobody!”
They had by this time reached the village which was extremely neat, though it did not promise much accommodation. Peter had hardly advanced ten steps before he was accosted by some of his old acquaintance, who shook hands, and seemed not to know how to part with him. He inquired for his sister, and was told she was alive and well. As they passed on, so many of his old friends flocked round him, that Adeline became quite weary of the delay. Many whom he had left in the vigour of life were now tottering under the infirmities of age, while their sons and daughters, whom he had known only in the playfulness of infancy, were grown from his remembrance, and in the pride of youth. At length they approached the cottage, and were met by his sister, who, having heard of his arrival, came and welcomed him with unfeigned joy.
On seeing Adeline, she seemed surprised, but assisted her to alight, and conducting her into a small but neat cottage, received her with a warmth of ready kindness which would have graced a better situation. Adeline desired to speak with her alone, for the room was now crowded with Peter’s friends, and then acquanting her with such particulars of her circumstances as it was necessary to communicate, desired to know if she could be accommodated with lodging in the cottage. “Yes, Ma’amselle,” said the good woman, “such as it is, you are heartily welcome. I am only sorry it is not better. But you seem ill, Ma’amselle; what shall I get you?”
Adeline, who had been long struggling with fatigue and indisposition, now yielded to their pressure. She said she was, indeed, ill; but hoped that rest would restore her, and desired a bed might be immediately prepared. The good woman went out to obey her, and soon returning, shewed her to a little cabin, where she retired to a bed, whose cleanliness was its only recommendation.
But, notwithstanding her fatigue, she could not sleep, and her mind, in spite of all her efforts, returned to the scenes that were passed, or presented gloomy and imperfect visions of the future.
The difference between her own condition and that of other persons, educated as she had been, struck her forcibly, and she wept. “They,” said she, “have friends and relations, all striving to save them not only from what may hurt, but what may displease them; watching not only for their present safety, but for their future advantage, and preventing them even from injuring themselves. But during my whole life I have never know a friend; have been in general surrounded by enemies, and very seldom exempt from some circumstance either of danger or calamity. Yet surely I am not born to be for ever wretched; the time will come when” — She began to think she might one time be happy; but recollecting the desperate situation of Theodore, “No,” said she, “I can never hope even for peace!”
Early the following morning the good woman of the house came to inquire how she had rested, and found she had slept little, and was much worse than on the preceeding night. The uneasiness of her mind contributed to heighten the feverish symptoms that attended her, and in the course of the day her disorder began to assume a serious aspect. She observed its progress with composure, resigning herself to the will of God, and feeling little to regret in life. Her kind hostess did every thing in her power to relieve her, and there was neither physician nor apothecary in the village, so that nature was deprived of none of her advantages. Notwithstanding this, the disorder rapidly increased, and on the third day from its first attack she became delirious; after which she sunk into a state of stupefaction.
How long she remained in this deplorable condition she knew not; but, on recovering her senses, she found herself in an apartment very different from any she remembered. It was spacious and almost beautiful, the bed and every thing around being in one stile of elegant simplicity. For some minutes she lay in a trance of surprise, endeavouring to recollect her scattered ideas of the past, and almost fearing to move, lest the pleasing vision should vanish from her eyes.
At length she ventured to raise herself, when she presently heard a soft voice speaking near her, and the bed curtain on one side was gently undrawn by a beautiful girl. As she leaned forward over the bed, and with a smile of mingled tenderness and joy inquired of her patient how she did, Adeline gazed in silent admiration upon the most interesting female countenance she had ever seen, in which the expression of sweetness, united with lively sense and refinement, was chastened by simplicity.
Adeline at length recollected herself sufficiently to thank her kind inquirer, and begged to know to whom she was obliged, and where she was? The lovely girl pressed her hand, “’Tis we who are obliged,” said she. “Oh! how I rejoice to find that you have recovered your recollection.” She said no more, but slew to the door of the apartment, and disappeared. In a few minutes she returned with an elderly lady, who, approaching the bed with an air of tender interest, asked concerning the state of Adeline; to which the latter replied, as well as the agitation of her spirits would permit, and repeated her desire of knowing to whom she was so greatly obliged. “You shall know that hereafter,” said the lady; “at present be assured that you are with those who will think their care much overpaid by your recovery; submit, therefore, to every thing that may conduce to it, and consent to be kept as quiet as possible.”
Adeline gratefully smiled, and bowed her head in silent assent. The lady now quitted the room for a medicine; having given which to Adeline, the curtain was closed, and she was left to repose. But her thoughts were too busy to suffer her to profit by the opportunity. She contemplated the past, and viewed the present, and, when she compared them, the contrast struck her with astonishment. The whole appeared like one of those sudden transitions so frequent in dreams, in which we pass from grief and despair, we know not how, to comfort and delight.
Yet she looked forward to the future with a trembling anxiety, that threatened to retard her recovery, and which, when she remembered the words of her generous benefactress, she endeavoured to suppress. Had she better known the disposition of the persons in whose house she now was, her anxiety, as far as it regarded herself, must in a great measure have been done away; for La Luc, its owner, was one of those rare characters to whom misfortune seldom looks in vain, and whose native goodness, confirmed by principle, is uniform and unassuming in its acts. The following little picture of his domestic life, his family and his manners, will more fully illustrate his character. It was drawn from the life, and its exactness will, it is hoped, compensate for its length.
THE FAMILY OF LA LUC.
“But half mankind, like Handel’s fool, destroy, Through rage and ignorance, the strain of joy; Irregularly wild their passions roll Through Nature’s finest instrument, the soul: While men of sense, with Handel’s happier skill, Correct the taste and harmonize the will; Teach their affections, like his notes, to flow, Nor rais’d too high, nor ever sunk too low; Till ev’ry virtue, measur’d and refin’d, As fits the concert of the master mind, Melts in its kindred sounds, and pours along Th’ according music of the moral song.” Cawthorne.
In the village of Leloncourt, celebrated for its picturesque situation at the foot of the Savoy Alps, lived Arnaud La Luc, a clergyman, descended from an ancient family of France, whose decayed fortunes occasioned them to seek a retreat in Switzerland, in an age when the violence of civil commotion seldom spared the conquered. He was minister of the village, and equally loved for the piety and benevolence of the Christian as respected for the dignity and elevation of the philosopher. His was the philosophy of nature, directed by common sense. He despised the jargon of the modern schools and the brilliant absurdities of systems, which have dazzled without enlightening, and guided without convincing, their disciples.
His mind was penetrating; his views extensive; and his systems, like his religion, were simple, rational, and sublime. The people of his parish looked up to him as to a father; for while his precepts directed their minds, his example touched their hearts.
In early youth La Luc lost a wife, whom he tenderly loved. This event threw a tincture of soft and interesting melancholy over his character, which remained when time had mellowed the remembrance that occasioned it. Philosophy had strengthened, not hardened, his heart; it enabled him to resist the pressure of affliction, rather than to overcome it.
Calamity taught him to feel with peculiar sympathy the distresses of others. His income from the parish was small, and what remained from the divided and reduced estates of his ancestors did not much increase it; but though he could not always relieve the necessities of the indigent, his tender pity and holy conversation seldom failed in administering consolation to the mental sufferer. On these occasions the sweet and exquisite emotions of his heart have often induced him to say, that could the voluptuary be once sensible of these feelings, he would never after forego “the luxury of doing good.” — “Ignorance of true pleasure,” he would say, “more frequently than temptation to that which is false, leads to vice.”
La Luc had one son and a daughter, who were too young, when their mother died, to lament their loss. He loved them with peculiar tenderness, as the children of her whom he never ceased to deplore; and it was for some time his sole amusement to observe the gradual unfolding of their infant minds, and to bend them to virtue. His was the deep and silent sorrow of the heart; his complaints he never obtruded upon others, and very seldom did he even mention his wife. His grief was too sacred for the eye of the vulgar. Often he retired to the deep solitude of the mountains, and amid their solemn and tremendous scenery would brood over the remembrance of times past, and resign himself to the luxury of grief. On his return from these little excursions he was always more placid and contented. A sweet tranquillity, which arose almost to happiness, was diffused over his mind, and his manners were more than usually benevolent. As he gazed on his children, and fondly kissed them, a tear would sometimes steal into his eye, but it was a tear of tender regret, unmingled with the darker qualities of sorrow, and was most precious to his heart.
On the death of his wife he received into his house a maiden sister, a sensible, worthy woman, who was deeply interested in the happiness of her brother. Her affectionate attention and judicious conduct anticipated the effect of time in softening the poignancy of his distress, and her unremitted care of his children, while it proved the goodness of her own heart, attracted her more closely to his.
It was with inexpressible pleasure that he traced in the infant features of Clara the resemblance of her mother. The same gentleness of manner and the same sweetness of disposition soon displayed themselves, and as she grew up her actions frequently reminded him so strongly of his lost wife as to fix him in reveries, which absorbed all his soul.
Engaged in the duties of his parish, the education of his children, and in philosophic research, his years passed in tranquillity. The tender melancholy with which affliction had tinctured his mind was, by long indulgence, become dear to him, and he would not have relinquished it for the brightest dream of airy happiness. When any passing incident disturbed him, he retired for consolation to the idea of her he so faithfully loved, and yielding to a gentle, and what the world would call a romantic, sadness, gradually reassumed his composure. This was the secret luxary to which he withdrew from temporary disappointment — the solitary enjoyment which dissipated the cloud of care, and blunted the sting of vexation — which elevated his mind above this world, and opened to his view the sublimity of another.
The spot he now inhabited, the surrounding scenery, the romantic beauties of the neighbouring walks, were dear to La Luc, for they had once been loved by Clara; they had been the scenes of her tenderness, and of his happiness.
His chateau stood on the borders of a small lake that was almost enviroued by mountains of stupendous height, which, shooting into a variety of grotesque forms, composed a scenery singularly solemn and sublime. Dark woods, intermingled with bold projections of rock, sometimes barren, and sometimes covered with the purple bloom of wild flowers, impended over the lake, and were seen in the clear mirror of its waters. The wild and alpine heights which rose above were either crowned with perpetual snows, or exhibited tremendous crags and masses of solid rock, whose appearance was continually changing as the rays of light were variously reflected on their surface, and whose summits were often wrapt in impenetrable mists. Some cottages and hamlets, scattered on the margin of the lake, or seated in picturesque points of view on the rocks above, were the only objects that reminded the beholder of humanity.
On the side of the lake, nearly opposite to the chateau, the mountains receded, and a long chain of alps was seen stretching in perspective. Their innumerable tints and shades, some veiled in blue mists, some tinged with rich purple, and others glittering in partial light, gave luxurious and magical colouring to the scene.
The chateau was not large, but it was convenient, and was characterised by an air of elegant simplicity and good order. The entrance was a small hall, which opening by a glass door into the garden, afforded a view of the lake, with the magnificent scenery exhibited on its borders. On the left of the hall was La Luc’s study, where he usually passed his mornings; and adjoining was a small room fitted up with chymical apparatus, astronomical instruments, and other implements of science. On the right was the family parlour, and behind it a room which belonged exclusively to Madame La Luc. Here were deposited various medicines and botanical distillations, together with the apparatus for preparing them. From this room the whole village was liberally supplied with physical comfort; for it was the pride of Madame to believe herself skilful in relieving the disorders of her neighbours.
Behind the chateau rose a tuft of pines, and in front a gentle declivity, covered with verdure and flowers, extended to the lake, whose waters flowed even with the grass, and gave freshness to the acacias that waved over its surface. Flowering shrubs, intermingled with mountain ash, cypress, and ever-green oak, marked the boundary of the garden.
At the return of spring it was Clara’s care to direct the young shoots of the plants, to nurse the budding flowers, and to shelter them with the luxuriant branches of the shrubs from the cold blasts that descended from the mountains. In summer she usually rose with the sun, and visited her favourite flowers while the dew yet hung glittering on their leaves. The freshness of early day, with the glowing colouring which then touched the scenery, gave a pure and exquisite delight to her innocent heart. Born amid scenes of grandeur and sublimity, she had quickly imbibed a taste for their charms, which taste was heightened by the influence of a warm imagination. To view the sun rising above the alps, tinging their snowy heads with light, and suddenly darting his rays over the whole face of nature — to see the fiery splendour of the clouds reflected in the lake below, and the roseate tints first steal upon the rocks above — were among the earliest pleasures of which Clara was susceptible. From being delighted with the observance of nature, she grew pleased with seeing her finely imitated, and soon displayed a taste for poetry and painting. When she was about sixteen she often selected from her father’s library those of the Italian poets most celebrated for picturesque beauty, and would spend the first hours of morning in reading them under the shade of the acacias that bordered the lake. Here too she would often attempt rude sketches of the surrounding scenery, and at length by repeated efforts, assisted by some instruction from her brother, she succeeded so well as to produce twelve drawings in crayon, which were judged worthy of decorating the parlour of the chateau.
Young La Luc played the flute, and she listened to him with exquisite delight, particularly when he stood on the margin of the lake, under her beloved acacias. Her voice was sweet and flexible, though not strong, and she soon learned to modulate it to the instrument. She knew nothing of the intricacies of execution; her airs were simple, and her style equally so, but she soon gave them a touching expression, inspired by the sensibility of her heart, which seldom left those of her hearers unaffected.
It was the happiness of La Luc to see his children happy, and in one of his excursions to Geneva, whither he went to visit some relations of his late wife, he bought Clara a lute. She received it with more gratitude than she could express; and having learned one air, she hastened to her favourite acacias, and played it again and again till she forgot every thing besides. Her little domestic duties, her books, her drawing, even the hour which her father dedicated to her improvement, when she met her brother in the library, and with him partook of knowledge, even this hour passed unheeded by. La Luc suffered it to pass. Madame was displeased that her niece neglected her domestic duties, and wished to reprove her, but La Luc begged she would be silent. “Let experience teach her her error,” said he; “precept seldom brings conviction to young minds.”
Madame objected that experience was a slow teacher. “It is a sure one,” replied La Luc, “and is not unfrequently the quickest of all teachers: when it cannot lead us into serious evil, it is well to trust to it.”
The second day passed with Clara as the first, and the third as the second. She could now play several tunes; she came to her father and repeated what she had learnt.
At supper the cream was not dressed, and there was no fruit on the table. La Luc inquired the reason; Clara recollected it, and blushed. She observed that her brother was absent, but nothing was said. Toward the conclusion of the repast he appeared; his countenance expressed unusual satisfaction, but he seated himself in silence. Clara inquired what had detained him from supper, and learnt that he had been to a sick family in the neighbourhood with the weekly allowance which her father gave them. La Luc had entrusted the care of this family to his daughter, and it was her duty to have carried them their little allowance on the preceding day, but she had forgot every thing but music.
“How did you find the woman?” said La Luc to his son. “Worse, Sir,” he replied, “for her medicines had not been regularly given, and the children had had little or no food today.”
Clara was shocked. “No food to day!” said she to herself, “and I have been playing all day on my lute, under the acacias by the lake!”, Her father did not seem to observe her emotion, but turned to his son. “I left her better,” said the latter; “the medicines I carried eased her pain, and I had the pleasure to see her children make a joyful supper.”
Clara, perhaps for the first time in her life, envied him his pleasure; her heart was full, and she sat silent. “No food to day!” thought she.
She retired pensively to her chamber. The sweet serenity with which she usually went to rest was vanished, for she could no longer reflect on the past day with satisfaction.
“What a pity,” said she, “that what is so pleasing should be the cause of so much pain! This lute is my delight, and my torment!” This reflection occasioned her much internal debate; but before she could come to any resolution upon the point in question, she fell asleep.
She awoke very early the next morning, and impatiently watched the progress of the dawn. The sun at length appearing, she arose, and, determined to make all the atonement in her power for her former neglect, hastened to the cottage.
Here she remained a considerable time, and when she returned to the chateau her countenance had recovered all its usual serenity. She resolved, however, not to touch her lute that day.
Till the hour of breakfast she busied herself in binding up the flowers, and pruning the shoots that were too luxuriant, and she at length found herself, she scarcely knew how, beneath her beloved acacias by the side of the lake. “Ah!” said she, with a sigh, “how sweetly would the song I learned yesterday, sound now over the waters!” But she remembered her determination, and checked the step she was involuntarily taking towards the chateau.
She attended her father in the library at the usual hour, and learned, from his discourse with her brother on what had been read the two preceding days, that she had lost much entertaining knowledge. She requested her father would inform her to what this conversation alluded; but he calmly replied, that she had preferred another amusement at the time when the subject was discussed, and must therefore content herself with ignorance. “You would reap the rewards of study from the amusements of idleness,” said he; “learn to be reasonable — do not expect to unite inconsistencies.”
Clara felt the justness of this rebuke, and remembered her lute. “What mischief has it occasioned!” sighed she. “Yes, I am determined not to touch it at all this day. I will prove that I am able to control my inclinations when I see it is necessary so to do.” Thus resolving, she applied herself to study with more than usual assiduity.
She adhered to her resolution, and towards the close of day went into the garden to amuse herself. The evening was still and uncommonly beautiful. Nothing was heard but the faint shivering of the leaves, which returned but at intervals, making silence more solemn, and the distant murmurs of the torrents that rolled among the cliffs. As she stood by the lake, and watched the sun slowly sinking below the alps, whose summits were tinged with gold and purple; as she saw the last rays of light gleam upon the waters whose surface was not curled by the lightest air, she sighed, “Oh! how enchanting would be the sound of my lute at this moment, on this spot, and when every thing is so still around me!”
The temptation was too powerful for the resolution of Clara: she ran to the chateau, returned with the instrument to her dear acacias, and beneath their shade continued to play till the surrounding objects faded in darkness from her sight. But the moon arose, and, shedding a trembling lustre on the lake, made the scene more captivating than ever.
It was impossible to quit so delightful a spot; Clara repeated her favourite airs again and again. The beauty of the hour awakened all her genius; she never played with such expression before, and she listened with increasing rapture to the tones as they languished over the waters and died away on the distant air. She was perfectly enchanted “No! nothing was ever so delightful as to play on the lute beneath her acacias, on the margin of the lake, by moon-light!”
When she returned to the chateau, supper was over. La Luc had observed Clara, and would not suffer her to be interrupted.
When the enthusiasm of the hour was passed she recollected that she had broken her resolution, and the reflection gave her pain. “I prided myself on controling my inclinations,” said she, “and I have weakly yielded to their direction. But what evil have I incurred by indulging them this evening? I have neglected no duty, for I had none to perform. Of what then have I to accuse myself? It would have been absurd to have kept my resolution, and denied myself a pleasure when there appeared no reason for this self-denial.”
She paused, not quite satisfied with this reasoning. Suddenly resuming her enquiry, “But how,” said she, “am I certain that I should have resisted my inclinations if there had been a reason for opposing them? If the poor family whom I neglected yesterday had been unsupplied to day, I fear I should again have forgotten them while I played on my lute on the banks of the lake.”
She then recollected all that her father had at different times said on the subject of self-command, and she felt some pain.
“No,” said she, “if I do not consider that to preserve a resolution, which I have once solemnly formed, is a sufficient reason to control my inclinations, I fear no other motive would long restrain me. I seriously determined not to touch my lute this whole day, and I have broken my resolution. To-morrow perhaps I may be tempted to neglect some duty, for I have discovered that I cannot rely on my own prudence. Since I cannot conquer temptation, I will fly from it.”
On the following morning she brought her lute to La Luc, and begged he would receive it again, and at least keep it till she had taught her inclinations to submit to control.
The heart of La Luc swelled as she spoke. “No, Clara,” said he, “it is unnecessary that I should receive your lute; the sacrifice you would make proves you worthy of my confidence. Take back the instrument; since you have sufficient resolution to resign it when it leads you from duty, I doubt not that you will be able to control its influence now that it is restored to you.”
Clara felt a degree of pleasure and pride at these words, such as she had never before experienced; but she thought, that to deserve the commendation they bestowed, it was necessary to complete the sacrifice she had begun. In the virtuous enthusiasm of the moment the delights of music were forgotten in those of aspiring to well-earned praise, and when she refused the lute thus offered, she was conscious only of exquisite sensations. “Dear Sir,” said she, tears of pleasure swelling in her eyes, “allow me to deserve the praises you bestow, and then I shall indeed be happy.”
La Luc thought she had never resembled her mother so much as at this instant, and, tenderly kissing her, he for some moments, wept in silence. When he was able to speak, “You do already deserve my praises,” said he, “and I restore your lute as a reward for the conduct which excites them.” This scene called back recollections too tender for the heart of La Luc, and giving Clara the instrument, he abruptly quitted the room.
La Luc’s son, a youth of much promise, was designed by his father for the church, and had received from him an excellent education, which, however, it was thought necessary he should finish at an university. That of Geneva was fixed upon by La Luc. His scheme had been to make his son not a scholar only; he was ambitious that he should also be enviable as a man. From early infancy he had accustomed him to hardihood and endurance, and, as he advanced in youth, he encouraged him in manly exercises, and acquainted him with the useful arts as well as with abstract science.
He was high spirited and ardent in his temper, but his heart was generous and affectionate. He looked forward to Geneva, and to the new world it would disclose, with the sanguine expectations of youth; and in the delight of these expectations was absorbed the regret he would otherwise have felt at a separation from his family.
A brother of the late Madame La Luc, who was by birth an English woman, resided at Geneva with his family. To have been related to his wife was a sufficient claim upon the heart of La Luc, and he had, therefore, always kept up an intercourse with Mr. Audley, though the difference in their characters and manner of thinking would never permit this association to advance into friendship. La Luc now wrote to him, signifying an intention of sending his son to Geneva, and recommending him to his care; to this letter Mr. Audley returned a friendly answer, and a short time after an acquaintance of La Luc’s being called to Geneva, he determined that his son should accompany him. The separation was painful to La Luc, and almost insupportable to Clara. Madame was grieved, and took care that he should have a sufficient quantity of medicines put up in his travelling trunk; she was also at some pains to point out their virtues, and the different complaints for which they were requisite; but she was careful to deliver her lecture during the absence of her brother.
La Luc, with his daughter, accompanied his son on horseback to the next town, which was about eight miles from Leloncourt, and there again enforcing all the advice he had formerly given him respecting his conduct and pursuits, and again yielding to the tender weakness of the father, he bade him farewell. Clara wept, and felt more sorrow at this parting than the occasion could justify; but this was almost the first time she had known grief, and she artlessly yielded to its influence.
La Luc and Clara travelled pensively back, and the day was closing when they came within view of the lake, and soon after of the chateau. Never had it appeared gloomy till now; but now Clara wandered forlornly through every deserted apartment where she had been accustomed to see her brother, and recollected a thousand little circumstances which, had he been present, she would have thought immaterial, but on which imagination now stamped a value. The garden, the scenes around, all wore a melancholy aspect, and it was long ere they resumed their natural character and Clara recovered her vivacity.
Near four years had elapsed since this separation, when one evening, as Madame La Luc and her niece were sitting at work together in the parlour, a good woman in the neighbourhood desired to be admitted. She came to ask for some medicines, and the advice of Madame La Luc. “Here is a sad accident happened at our house, Madame,” said she; “I am sure my heart aches for the poor young creature.” — Madame La Luc desired she would explain herself, and the woman proceeded to say, that her brother Peter, whom she had not seen for so many years, was arrived, and had brought a young lady to her cottage, who she verily believed was dying. She described her disorder, and acquainted Madame with what particulars of her mournful story Peter had related, failing not to exaggerate such as her compassion for the unhappy stranger and her love of the marvellous prompted.
The account appeared a very extraordinary one to Madame; but pity for the forlorn condition of the young sufferer induced her to inquire farther into the affair. “Do let me go to her, Madam,” said Clara, who had been listening with ready compassion to the poor woman narrative: “do suffer me to go — she must want comforts, and I wish much to see how she is.” Madame asked some farther questions concerning her disorder, and then, taking off her spectacles, she rose from her chair and said she would go herself. Clara desired to accompany her. They put on their hats and followed the good woman to the cottage, where, in a very small, close room, on a miserable bed, lay Adeline, pale, emaciated, and unconscious of all around her. Madame turned to the woman, and asked how long she had been in this way, while Clara went up to the bed, and taking the almost lifeless hand that lay on the quilt, looked anxiously in her face. “She observes nothing,” said she, “poor creature! I wish she was at the chateau, she would be better accommodated, and I could nurse her there.” The woman told Madame La Luc, that the young lady had lain in that state for several hours. Madame examined her pulse, and shook her head. “This room is very close,” said she. — “Very close indeed,” cried Clara, eagerly; “surely she would be better at the chateau, if she could be moved.”
“We will see about that,” said her aunt. “In the mean time let me speak to Peter; it is some years since I saw him.” She went to the outer room, and the woman ran out of the cottage to look for him. When she was gone, “This is a miserable habitation for the poor stranger,” said Clara; “she will never be well here: do, Madam, let her be carried to our house; I am sure my father would wish it. Besides, there is something in her features, even inanimate as they now are, that prejudices me in her favour.”
“Shall I never persuade you to give up that romantic notion of judging people by their faces,” said her aunt. “What sort of a face she has is of very little consequence — her condition is lamentable, and I am desirous of altering it; but I wish first to ask Peter a few questions concerning her.”
“Thank you, my dear aunt,” said Clara; “she will be removed then.” Madame La Luc was going to reply; but Peter now entered, and, expressing great joy at seeing her again, inquired how Monsieur La Luc and Clara did. Clara immediately welcomed honest Peter to his native place, and he returned her salutation with many expressions of surprise at finding her so much grown. “Though I have so often dandled you in my arms, Ma’amselle, I should never have known you again. Young twigs shoot fast, as they say.”
Madame La Luc now inquired into the particulars of Adeline’s story, and heard as much as Peter knew of it, being only that his late master found her in a very distressed situation, and that he had himself brought her from the Abbey to save her from a French Marquis. The simplicity of Peter’s manner would not suffer her to question his veracity, though some of the circumstances he related excited all her surprise, and awakened all her pity. Tears frequently stood in Clara’s eyes during the course of his narrative, and when he concluded, she said, “Dear Madam, I am sure when my father learns the history of this unhappy young woman he will not refuse to be a parent to her, and I will be her sister.”
“She deserves it all,” said Peter, “for she is very good indeed.” He then proceeded in a strain of praise, which was very unusual with him. — “I will go home and consult with my brother about her,” said Madame La Luc, rising: “she certainly ought to be removed to a more airy room. The chateau is so near, that I think she may be carried thither without much risk.”
“Heaven bless you! Madam,” cried Peter, rubbing his hands, “for your goodness to my poor young lady.”
La Luc had just returned from his evening walk when they reached the chateau. Madame told him where she had been, and related the history of Adeline and her present condition. “By all means have her removed hither,” said La Luc, whose eyes bore testimony to the tenderness of his heart. “She can be better attended to here than in Susan’s cottage.”
“I knew you would say so, my dear father,” said Clara: “I will go and order the green bed to be prepared for her.”
“Be patient, niece,” said Madame La Luc: “there is no occasion for such haste: some things are to be considered first; but you are young and romantic.” — La Luc smiled. — “The evening is now closed,” resumed Madame; “it will, therefore, be dangerous to remove her before morning. Early to-morrow a room shall be got ready, and she shall be brought here; in the mean time I will go and make up a medicine, which I hope may be of service to her.” — Clara reluctantly assented to this delay, and Madame La Luc retired to her closet.
On the following morning Adeline, wrapped in blankets, and sheltered as much as possible from the air, was brought to the chateau, where the good La Luc desired she might have every attention paid her, and where Clara watched over her with unceasing anxiety and tenderness. She remained in a state of torpor during the greater part of the day, but towards evening she breathed more freely; and Clara, who still watched by her bed, had at length the pleasure of perceiving that her senses were restored. It was at this moment that she found herself in the situation from which we have digressed to give this account of the venerable La Luc and his family. The reader will find that his virtues and his friendship to Adeline deserved this notice.