A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“’Twas such a scene as gave a kind relief
“Mine be the breezy hill, that skirts the down,
Repose had so much restored Clara, that when Adeline, anxious to know how she did, went early in the morning to her chamber, she found her already risen, and ready to attend the family at breakfast. Monsieur Verneuil appeared also, but his looks betrayed a want of rest, and indeed he had suffered during the night a degree of anguish from his arm, which it was an effort of some resolution to endure in silence. It was now swelled and somewhat inflamed, and this might in some degree be attributed to the effect of Madame La Luc’s balsam, whose restorative qualities had for once failed. The whole family sympathised with his sufferings, and Madame, at the request of M. Verneuil, abandoned her balsam, and substituted an emollient fomentation.
From an application of this he, in a short time, found an abatement of the pain, and returned to the breakfast table with greater composure. The happiness which La Luc felt at seeing his daughter in safety was very apparent, but the warmth of his gratitude towards her preserver he found it difficult to express. Clara spoke the genuine emotions of her heart with artless, but modest, energy, and testified sincere concern for the sufferings which she had occasioned M. Verneuil.
The pleasure received from the company of his guest, and the consideration of the essential services he had rendered him, co-operated with the natural hospitality of La Luc, and he pressed M. Verneuil to remain some time at the chateau. — “I can never repay the services you have done me,” said La Luc; yet I seek to increase my obligations to you by requesting you will prolong your visit, and thus allow me an opportunity of cultivating your acquaintance.”
M. Verneuil, who at the time he met La Luc was travelling from Geneva to a distant part of Savoy, merely for the purpose of viewing the country, being now delighted with his host and with every thing around him, willingly accepted the invitation. In this circumstance prudence concurred with inclination, for to have pursued his journey on horseback, in his present situation, would have been dangerous, if not impracticable.
The morning was spent in conversation, in which M. Verneuil displayed a mind enriched with taste, enlightened by science, and enlarged by observation. The situation of the chateau and the features of the surrounding scenery charmed him, and in the evening he found himself able to walk with La Luc and explore the beauties of this romantic region. As they passed through the village, the salutations of the peasants, in whom love and respect were equally blended, and their eager inquiries after Clara, bore testimony to the character of La Luc, while his countenance expressed a serene satisfaction, arising from the consciousness of deserving and possessing their love. — “I live surrounded by my children,” said he, turning to M. Verneuil, who had noticed their eagerness, “for such I consider my parishioners. In discharging the duties of my office, I am repaid not only by my own conscience, but by their gratitude. There is a luxury in observing their simple and honest love, which I would not exchange for any thing the world calls blessings.”
“Yet the world, Sir, would call the pleasures of which you speak romantic,” said M. Verneuil; “for to be sensible of this pure and exquisite delight requires a heart untainted with the vicious pleasures of society — pleasures that deaden its finest feelings and poison the source of its truest enjoyments.” — They pursued their way along the borders of the lake, sometimes under the shade of hanging woods, and sometimes over hillocks of turf, where the scene opened in all its wild magnificence. M. Verneuil often stopped in raptures to observe and point out the singular beauties it exhibited, while La Luc, pleased with the delight his friend expressed, surveyed with more than usual satisfaction the objects which had so often charmed him before. But there was a tender melancholy in the tone of his voice and his countenance, which arose from the recollection of having often traced those scenes, and partook of the pleasure they inspired, with her who had long since bade them an eternal farewell.
They presently quitted the lake, and, winding up a steep ascent between the woods, came, after an hour’s walk, to a green summit, which appeared, among the savage rocks that environed it, like the blossom on the thorn. It was a spot formed for solitary delight, inspiring that soothing tenderness so dear to the feeling mind, and which calls back to memory the images of passed regret, softened by distance and endeared by frequent recollection. Wild shrubs grew from the crevices of the rocks beneath, and the high trees of pine and cedar that waved above, afforded a melancholy and romantic shade. The silence of the scene was interrupted only by the breeze as it rolled over the woods, and by the solitary notes of the birds that inhabited the cliffs.
From this point the eye commanded an entire view of those majestic and sublime alps whose aspect fills the soul with emotions of indescribable awe, and seems to lift it to a nobler nature. The village, and the chateau of La Luc appeared in the bosom of the mountains, a peaceful retreat from the storms that gathered on their tops. All the faculties of M. Verneuil were absorbed in admiration, and he was for some time quite silent; at length, bursting into a rhapsody, he turned, and would have addressed La Luc, when he perceived him at a distance leaning against a rustic urn, over which dropped, in beautiful luxuriance, the weeping willow.
As he approached, La Luc quitted his position, and advanced to meet him, while M. Verneuil inquired upon what occasion the urn had been crected. La Luc, unable to answer, pointed to it, and walked silently away, and M. Verneuil, approaching the urn, read the following inscription:
TO THE MEMORY OF CLARA LA LUC, THIS URN IS ERECTED ON THE SPOT WHICH SHE LOVED, IN TESTIMONY OF THE AFFECTION OF A HUSBAND.
M. Verneuil now comprehended the whole, and, feeling for his friend, was hurt that he had noticed this monument of his grief. He rejoined La Luc, who was standing on the point of the eminence contemplating the landscape below with an air more placid, and touched with the sweetness of piety and resignation. He perceived that M. Verneuil was somewhat disconcerted, and he sought to remove his uneasiness. “You will consider it,” said he, “as a mark of my esteem that I have brought you to this spot. It is never prophaned by the presence of the unfeeling. “They would deride the faithfulness of an attachment which has so long survived its objects, and which, in their own breasts, would quickly have been lost amidst the dissipation of general society. I have cherished in my heart the remembrance of a woman whose virtues claimed all my love: I have cherished it as a treasure to which I could withdraw from temporary cares and vexations, in the certainty of finding a soothing, though melancholy, comfort.”
La Luc paused. M. Verneuil expressed the sympathy he felt, but he knew the sacredness of sorrow, and soon relapsed into silence. “One of the brightest hopes of a future state,” resumed La Luc, “is, that we shall meet again those whom we have loved upon earth. And perhaps our happiness may be permitted to consist very much in the society of our friends, purified from the frailties of mortality, with the finer affections more sweetly attuned, and with the faculties of mind infinitely more elevated and enlarged. We shall then be enabled to comprehend subjects which are too vast for human conception; to comprehend, perhaps, the sublimity of that Deity who first called us into being. These views of futurity, my friend, elevate us above the evils of this world, and seem to communicate to us a portion of the nature we contemplate.”
“Call them not the illusions of a visionary brain,” proceeded La Luc: I trust in their reality. Of this I am certain, that whether they are illusions or not, a faith in them ought to be cherished for the comfort it brings to the heart, and reverenced for the dignity it imparts to the mind. Such feelings make a happy and an important part of our belief in a future existence: they give energy to virtue, and stability to principle.”
“This,” said M. Verneuil, “is what I have often felt, and what every ingenuous mind must acknowledge.”
La Luc and M. Verneuil continued in conversation till the sun had left the scene. The mountains, darkened by twilight, assumed a sublimer aspect, while the tops of some of the highest alps were yet illumined by the sun’s rays, and formed a striking contrast to the shadowy obscurity of the world below. As they descended through the woods, and traversed the margin of the lake, the stillness and solemnity of the hour diffused a pensive sweetness over their minds, and sunk them into silence.
They found supper spread, as was usual, in the hall, of which the windows opened upon a garden, where the flowers might be said to yield their fragrance in gratitude to the refreshing dews. The windows were embowered with eglantine and other sweet shurubs, which hung in wild luxuriance around, and formed a beautiful and simple decoration. Clara and Adeline loved to pass the evenings in this hall, where they had acquired the first rudiments of astronomy, and from which they had a wide view of the heavens. La Luc pointed out to them the planets and the fixed stars, explained their laws, and from thence taking occasion to mingle moral with scientific instruction, would often ascend towards that great first cause, whose nature soars beyond the grasp of human comprehension.
“No study,” he would sometimes say, “so much enlarges the mind, or impresses it with so sublime an idea of the Diety, as that of astronomy. When the imagination launches into the regions of space, and contemplates the innumerable worlds which are scattered through it, we are lost in astonishment and awe. This globe appears as a mass of atoms in the immensity of the universe, and man a mere insect. Yet how wonderful! that man, whose frame is so diminutive in the scale of being, should have powers which spurn the narrow boundaries of time and place, soar beyond the sphere of his existence, penetrate the secret laws of nature, and calculate their progressive effects.”
“O! how expressively does this prove the spirituality of our Being! Let the materialist consider it, and blush that he has ever doubted.”
In this hall the whole family now met at supper, and during the remainder of the evening the conversation turned upon general subjects, in which Clara joined in modest and judicious remark. La Luc had taught her to familiarize her mind to reasoning, and had accustomed her to deliver her sentiments freely: she spoke them with a simplicity extremely engaging, and which convinced her hearers that the love of knowledge, not the vanity of talking, induced her to converse. M. Verneuil evidently endeavoured to draw forth her sentiments, and Clara, interested by the subjects he introduced, a stranger to affectation, and pleased with the opinions he expressed, answered them with frankness and animation. They retired mutually pleased with each other.
M. Verneuil was about six and thirty; his figure manly, his countenance frank and engaging. A quick penetrating eye, whose fire was softened by benevolence, disclosed the chief traits of his character; he was quick to discern, but generous to excuse, the follies of mankind; and while no one more sensibly felt an injury, none more readily accepted the concession of an enemy.
He was by birth a Frenchman. A fortune lately devolved to him, had enabled him to execute the plan, which his active and inquisitive mind had suggested, of viewing the most remarkable parts of the continent. He was peculiarly susceptible of the beautiful and sublime in nature. To such a taste Switzerland and the adjacent country was, of all others, the most interesting; and he found the scenery it exhibited infinitely surpassing all that his glowing imagination had painted; he saw with the eye of a painter, and felt with the rapture of a poet.
In the habitation of La Luc he met with the hospitality, the frankness, and the simplicity, so characteristic of the country: in his venerable host he saw the strength of philosophy united with the finest tenderness of humanity — a philosophy which taught him to correct his feelings, not to annihilate them; in Clara, the bloom of beauty, with the most perfect simplicity of heart; and in Adeline all the charms of elegance and grace, with a genius deserving of the highest culture. In this family picture the goodness of Madame La Luc was not unperceived or forgotten. The chearfulness and harmony that reigned within the chateau was delightful; but the philanthropy which, flowing from the heart of the pastor, was diffused though the whole village, and united the inhabitants in the sweet and firm bonds of social compact, was divine. The beauty of its situation conspired with these circumstances to make Leloncourt seem almost a Paradise. M. Verneuil sighed that he must so soon quite it. “I ought to seek no farther,” said he, “for here wisdom and happiness dwell together.
The admiration was reciprocal; La Luc and his family found themselves much interested in M. Verneuil, and looked forward to the time of his departure with regret. So warmly they pressed him to prolong his visit, and so powerfully his own inclinations seconded theirs, that he accepted the invitation. La Luc omitted no circumstance which might contribute to the amusement of his guest, who having in a few days recovered the use of his arm, they made several excursions among the mountains. Adeline and Clara, whom the care of Madame had restored to her usual health, were generally of the party.
After spending a week at the chateau, M. Verneuil bade adieu to La Luc and his family; they parted with mutual regret, and the former promised that when he returned to Geneva, he would take Leloncourt in his way. As he said this, Adeline, who had for some time observed, with much alarm, La Luc’s declining health, looked mournfully on his languid countenance, and uttered a secret prayer that he might live to receive the visit of M. Verneuil.
Madame was the only person who did not lament his departure, she saw that the efforts of her brother to entertain his guest were more than his present state of health would admit of, and she rejoiced in the quiet that would now return to him.
But this quiet brought La Luc no respite from illness; the fatigue he had suffered in his late excursions seemed to have encreased his disorder, which in a short time assumed the aspect of a consumption. Yielding to the solicitations of his family, he went to Geneva for advice, and was there recommended to try the air of Nice.
The journey thither, however, was of considerable length, and believing his life to be very precarious, he hesitated whether to go. He was also unwilling to leave the duty of his parish unperformed for so long a period as his health might require; but this was an objection which would not have withheld him from Nice, had his faith in the climate been equal to that of his physicians.
His parishioners felt the life of their pastor to be of the utmost consequence to them. It was a general cause, and they testified at once his worth, and their sense of it, by going in a body to solicit him to leave them. He was much affected by this instance of their attachment. Such a proof of regard, joined with the entreaties of his own family, and a consideration that for their sakes it was a duty to endeavour to prolong his life, was too powerful to be withstood, and be determined to set out for Italy.
It was settled that Clara and Adeline, whose health La Luc thought required change of air and scene, should accompany him, attended by the faithful Peter.
On the morning of his departure, a large body of his parishioners assembled round the door to bid him farewell. It was an affecting scene; they might meet no more. At length, wiping the tears from his eyes, La Luc said, “Let us trust in God, my friends; he has power to heal all disorders both of body and mind. We shall meet again, if not in this world, I hope in a better. Let our conduct be such as to ensure that better.”
The sobs of his people prevented any reply. There was scarcely a dry eye in the village; for there was scarcely an inhabitant of it that was not now assembled in the presence of La Luc. He shook hands with them all, “Farewell, my friends, said he,” “we shall meet again.” “God grant we may,” said they, with one voice of fervent petition.
Having mounted his horse, and Clara and Adeline being ready, they took a last leave of Madame La Luc, and quitted the chateau. The people, unwilling to leave La Luc, the greater part of them accompanied him to some distance from the village. As he moved slowly on he cast a last lingering look at his little home, where he had spent so many peaceful years, and which he now gazed on, perhaps for the last time, and tears rose to his eyes; but he checked them. Every scene of the adjacent country called up, as he passed, some tender remembrance. He looked towards the spot consecrated to the memory of his deceased wife; the dewy vapours of the morning veiled it. La Luc felt the disappointment more deeply, perhaps, than reason could justify; but those who know from experience how much the imagination loves to dwell on any object, however remotely connected with that of our tenderness, will feel with him. This was an object round which the affections of La Luc had settled themselves; it was a memorial to the eye, and the view of it awakened more forcibly in the memory every tender idea that could associate with the primary subject of his regard. In such cases fancy gives to the illusions of strong affection, the stamp of reality, and they are cherished by the heart with romantic fondness.
His people accompanied him for near a mile from the village, and could scarcely then be prevailed on to leave him; at length he once more bade them farewell, and went on his way, followed by their prayers and blessings.
La Luc and his little party travelled slowly on, sunk in pensive silence — a silence too pleasingly sad to be soon relinquished, and which they indulged without fear of interruption. The solitary grandeur of the scenes through which they passed, and the soothing murmur of the pines that waved above, aided this soft luxury of meditation.
They proceeded by easy stages; and after travelling for some days among the romantic mountains and green vallies of Piedmont, they entered the rich country of Nice. The gay and luxuriant views which now opened upon the travellers as they wound among the hills, appeared like scenes of fairy enchantment, or those produced by the lonely visions of the Poets. While the spiral summits of the mountains exhibited the snowy severity of winter, the pine, the cypress, the olive, and the myrtle shaded their sides with the green tints of spring, and groves of orange, lemon, and citron, spread over their feet the full glow of autumn. As they advanced the scenery became still more diversified; and at length, between the receding heights, Adeline caught a glimpse of the distant waters of the Mediterranean, fading into the blue and cloudless horizon. She had never till now seen the ocean; and this transient view of it roused her imagination, and made her watch impatiently for a nearer prospect.
It was towards the close of day when the travellers, winding round an abrupt projection of that range of Alps which crowns the amphitheatre that environs Nice, looked down upon the green hills that stretch to the shores, on the city, and its antient castle, and on the wide waters of the Mediterranean; with the mountains of Corsica in the farthest distance. Such a sweep of sea and land, so varied with the gay, the magnificient, and the awful, would have fixed any eye in admiration: — for Adeline and Clara novelty and enthusiasm added their charms to the prospect. The soft and salubrious air seemed to welcome La Luc to this smiling region, and the serene atmosphere to promise invariable summer. They at length descended upon the little plain where stands the city of Nice, and which was the most extensive piece of level ground they had passed since they entered the county. Here, in the bosom of the mountains, sheltered from the north and the east, where the western gales alone seemed to breathe, all the blooms of spring and the riches of autumn were united. Trees of myrtle bordered the road, which wound among groves of orange, lemon, and bergamot, whose delicious fragrance came to the sense mingled with the breath of roses and carnations that blossomed in their shade. The gently swelling hills that rose from the plain were covered with vines, and crowned with cypresses, olives and date trees; beyond, there appeared the sweep of lofty mountains whence the travellers had descended, and whence rose the little river Paglion, swoln by the snows that melt on their summits, and which, after meandering through the plain, washes the walls of Nice, where it falls into the Mediterranean. In this blooming region Adeline observed that the countenances of the peasants, meagre and discontented, formed a melancholy contrast to the face of the country, and she lamented again the effects of an arbitrary government, where the bounties of nature, which were designed for all, are monopolized by a few, and the many are suffered to starve tantalized by surrounding plenty.
The city lost much of its enchantment on a nearer approach: its narrow streets and shabby houses but ill answered the expectation which a distant view of its ramparts and its harbour, gay with vessels, seemed to authorise. The appearance of the inn at which La Luc now alighted did not contribute to soften his disappointment; but if he was surprised to find such indifferent accommodation at the inn of a town celebrated as the resort of valetudinarians, he was still more so when he learned the difficulty of procuring furnished lodgings.
After much search he procured apartments in a small but pleasant house, situated a little way out of the town: it had a garden, and a terrace which overlooked the sea, and was distinguished by an air of neatness very unusual in the houses of Nice. He agreed to board with the family, whose table likewise accommodated a gentleman and lady, their lodgers, and thus he became a temporary inhabitant of this charming climate.
On the following morning Adeline rose at an early hour, eager to indulge the new and sublime emotion with which a view of the ocean inspired her, and walked with Clara toward the hills that afforded a more extensive prospect. They pursued their way for some time between high embowering banks, till they arrived at an eminence, whence
“Heaven, earth, ocean, smil’d!”
They sat down on a point of rock, overshadowed by lofty palm-trees, to contemplate at leisure the magnificent scene. The sun was just emerged from the sea, over which his rays shed a flood of light, and darted a thousand brilliant tints on the vapours that ascended the horizon, and floated there in light clouds, leaving the bosom of the waters below clear as chrystal, except where the white surges were seen to beat upon the rocks; and discovering the distant sails of the fishing boats, and the far distant highlands of Corsica, tinted with Štherial blue. Clara, after some time, drew forth her pencil, but threw it aside in despair. Adeline, as they returned home through a romantic glen, when her senses were no longer absorbed in the contemplation of this grand scenery, and when its images floated on her memory, only, in softened colours, repeated the following lines:
SUNRISE: A SONNET.
Oft let me wander, at the break of day, Thro’ the cool vale o’erhung with waving woods, Drink the rich fragrance of the budding May, And catch the murmur of the distant floods; Or rest on the fresh bank of limpid rill, Where sleeps the vi’let in the dewy shade. Where op’ning lilies balmy sweets distill, And the wild musk-rose weeps along the glade:
Or climb the eastern cliff, whose airy head Hangs rudely o’er the blue and misty main; Watch the fine hues of morn through Šther spread, And paint with roseate glow the chrystal plain. Oh! who can speak the rapture of the soul When o’er the waves the sun first steals to sight,’ And all the world of waters, as they roll, And Heaven’s vast vault unveils in living light! So life’s young hour to man enchanting smiles, With sparkling health, and joy, and fancy’s fairy wiles!
La Luc in his walks met with some sensible and agreeable companions, who like himself came to Nice in search of health. Of these he soon formed a small but pleasant society, among whom was a Frenchman, whose mild manners, marked with a deep and interesting melancholy, had particularly attracted La Luc. He very seldom mentioned himself, or any circumstance that might lead to a knowledge of his family, but on other subjects conversed with frankness and much intelligence. La Luc had frequently invited him to his lodgings, but he had always declined the invitation, and this in a manner so gentle as to disarm displeasure, and convince La Luc that his refusal was the consequence of a certain dejection of mind which made him reluctant to meet other strangers.
The description which La Luc had given of this foreigner had excited the curiosity of Clara; and the sympathy which the unfortunate feel for each other called forth the commiseration of Adeline; for that he was unfortunate she could not doubt. On their return from an evening walk La Luc pointed out the chavelier, and quickened his pace to overtake him. Adeline was for a moment impelled to follow, but delicacy checked her steps, she knew how painful the presence of a stranger often is to a wounded mind, and forbore to intrude herself on his notice for the sake of only satisfying an idle curiosity. She turned therefore, into another path; but the delicacy which now prevented the meeting, accident in a few days defeated, and La Luc introduced the stranger. Adeline received him with a soft smile, but endeavoured to restrain the expression of pity which her features had involuntarily assumed; she wished him not to know that she observed he was unhappy.
After this interview he no longer rejected the invitations of La Luc, but made him frequent visits, and often accompanied Adeline and Clara in their rambles. The mild and sensible conversation of the former seemed to sooth his mind, and in her presence he frequently conversed with a degree of animation which La Luc till then had not observed in him. Adeline too derived from the similarity of their taste, and his intelligent conversation, a degree of satisfaction which contributed, with the compassion his dejection inspired, to win her confidence, and she conversed with an easy frankness rather unusual to her.
His visits soon became more frequent. He walked with La Luc and his family; he attended them on their little excursions to view those magnificent remains of Roman antiquity which enrich the neighbourhood of Nice. When the ladies sat at home and worked, he enlivened the hours by reading to them, and they had the pleasure to observe his spirits somewhat relieved from the heavy melancholy that had oppressed him.
M. Amand was passionately fond of music. Clara had not forgot to bring her beloved lute: he would sometimes strike the chords in the most sweet and mournful symphonies, but never could be prevailed on to play. When Adeline or Clara played, he would sit in deep reverie, and lost to every object around him, except when he fixed his eyes in mournful gaze on Adeline, and a sigh would sometimes escape him.
One evening Adeline having excused herself from accompanying La Luc and Clara in a visit to a neighbouring family, she retired to the terrace of the garden, which overlooked the sea, and as she viewed the tranquil splendour of the setting sun, and his glories reflected on the polished surface of the waves, she touched the strings of the lute in softest harmony, her voice accompanying it with words which she had one day written after having read that rich effusion of Shakespeare’s genius, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
TITANIA TO HER LOVE.
O! fly with me through distant air To isles that gem the western deep! For laughing Summer revels there, And hangs her wreath on ev’ry steep.
As through the green transparent sea Light floating on its waves we go, The nymphs shall gaily welcome me Far in their coral caves below.
For oft upon their margin sands, When Twilight leads the fresh’ning Hours. I come with all my jocund bands To charm them from their sea-green bow’rs.
And well they love our sports to view, And on the Ocean’s breast to lave; And oft, as we the dance renew, They call up music from the wave.
Swift hie we to that splendid clime, Where gay Jamaica spreads her scene, Lifts the blue mountain — wild — sublime! And smooths her vales of vivid green.
Where throned high, in pomp of shade, The Power of Vegetation reigns, Expanding wide, o’er hill and glade, Shrubs of all growth — fruit of all stains:
She steals the sun-beams’ fervid glow To paint her flow’rs of mingling hue; And o’er the grape the purple throw, Breaking from verdant leaves to view.
There, myrtle bow’rs, and citron grove, O’ercanopy our airy dance; And there the sea-breeze loves to rove When trembles Day’s departing glance.
And when the false moon steals away, Or e’er the chacing morn doth rise, Oft, fearless, we our gambols play By the fire-worm’s radiant eyes.
And suck the honey’d reeds that swell In tufted plumes of silver white; Or pierce the cocoa’s milky cell, To sip the nectar of delight!
And when the shaking thunders roll, And lightnings strike athwart the gloom, We shelter in the cedar’s bole, And revel ‘mid the rich perfume! But chief we love beneath the palm, Or verdant plantain’s spreading leaf, To hear, upon the midnight calm, Sweet Philomela pour her grief. To mortal sprite such dulcet sound, Such blissful hours, were never known! O! fly with me my airy round, And I will make them all thine own!
Adeline ceased to sing when she immediately heard repeated in a low voice,
“To mortal sprite such dulcet sound,
and turning her eyes whence it came, she saw M. Amand. She blushed and laid down the lute, which he instantly took up, and with a tremulous hand drew forth tones
“That might create a soul under the ribs of Death.”
In a melodious voice, that trembled with sensibility, he sang the following
How sweet is Love’s first gentle sway,
Monsieur Amand paused: he seemed much oppressed, and at length, bursting into tears, laid down the instrument and walked abruptly away to the farther end of the terrace. Adeline, without seeming to observe his agitation, rose and leaned upon the wall, below which a group of fishermen were busily employed in drawing a net. In a few moments he returned, with a composed and softened countenance. “Forgive this abrupt conduct,” said he; “I know not how to apologize for it but by owning its cause. When I tell you, Madam, that my tears flow to the memory of a lady who strongly resembled you, and who is lost to me for ever, you will know how to pity me.” — His voice faultered, and he paused. Adeline was silent. “The lute,” he resumed, was her favourite instrument, and when you touched it with such melancholy expression, I saw her very image before me. But alas! why do I distress you with a knowledge of of my sorrows! she is gone, and never to return! And you, Adeline — you” — He checked his speech; and Adeline, turning on him a look of mournful regard, observed a wildness in his eyes which alarmed her. “These recollections are too painful,” said she, in a gentle voice; let us return to the house; M. La Luc is probably come home.” — “O no!” replied M. Amand; “No — this breeze refreshes me. How often at this hour have I talked with her, as I now talk with you! — Such were the soft tones of her voice — such the ineffable expression of her countenance.” — Adeline interrupted him. “Let me beg of you to consider your health — this dewy air cannot be good for invalids.” He stood with his hands clasped, and seemed not to hear her. She took up the lute to go, and passed her fingers lightly over the chords. The sounds recalled his scattered senses: he raised his eyes, and fixed them in long unsettled gaze upon hers. “Must I leave you here?” said she, smiling, and standing in an attitude to depart — “I entreat you to play again the air I heard just now,” said M. Amand, in a hurried voice. — “Certainly;” and she immediately began to play. He leaned against a palm tree in an attitude of deep attention, and as the sounds languished on the air, his features gradually lost their wild expression, and he melted into tears. He continued to weep silently till the song concluded, and it was some time before he recovered voice enough to say, “Adeline, I cannot thank you for this goodness. My mind has recovered its bias, you have soothed a broken heart. Increase the kindness you have shewn me by promising never to mention what you have witnessed this evening, and I will endeavour never again to wound your sensibility “by a similiar offence.” — Adeline gave the required promise; and M. Amand, pressing her hand, with a melancholy smile, hurried from the garden, and she saw him no more that night.
La Luc had been near a fortnight at Nice, and his health, instead of amending, seemed rather to decline, yet he wished to make a longer experiment of the climate. The air, which failed to restore her venerable friend, revived Adeline, and the variety and novelty of the surrounding scenes amused her mind, though, since they could not obliterate the memory of past, or suppress the pang of present affection, they were ineffectual to dissipate the sick languor of melancholy. Company, by compelling her to withdraw her attention from the subject of her sorrow, afforded her a transient relief, but the violence of the exertion generally nerally left her more depressed. It was in the stillness of solitude, in the tranquil observance of beautiful nature, that her mind recovered its tone, and indulging the pensive inclination now become habitual to it, was soothed and fortified. Of all the grand objects which nature had exhibited, the ocean inspired her with the most sublime admiration She loved to wander alone on its shores, and, when she could escape so long from the duties or the forms of society, she would sit for hours on the beach watching the rolling waves, and listening to their dying murmur, till her softened fancy recalled long lost scenes, and restored the image of Theodore, when tears of despondency too often followed those of pity and regret. But these visions of memory, painful as they were, no longer excited that phrenzy of grief they formerly awakened in Savoy; the sharpness of misery was passed, though its heavy influence was not perhaps less powerful. To these solitary indulgences generally succeeded calmness, and what Adeline endeavoured to believe was resignation.
She usually rose early, and walked down to the shore to enjoy, in the cool and silent hours of the morning, the cheering beauty of nature, and inhale the pure sea-breeze. Every object then smiled in fresh and lively colours. The blue sea, the brilliant sky, the distant fishing boats, with their white sails, and the voices of the fishermen borne at intervals on the air, were circumstances which reanimated her spirits, and in one of her rambles, yielding to that taste for poetry which had seldom forsaken her, she repeated the following lines:
MORNING, ON THE SEA SHORE.
What print of fairy feet is here
In vain the call! — Till moonlight’s hour
O fairy forms! so coy to mortal ken,
There, to the night-bird’s plaintive chaunt
E’en now your scenes enchanted meet my sight!
During several days succeeding that on which M. Amand had disclosed the cause of his melancholy, he did not visit La Luc. At length Adeline met him in one of her solitary rambles on the shore. He was pale and dejected, and seemed much agitated when he observed her; she therefore endeavoured to avoid him, but he advanced with quickened steps and accosted her. He said it was his intention to leave Nice in a few days. “I have found no benefit from the climate,” added M. Amand; Alas! what climate can relieve the sickness of the heart! I go to lose in the varieties of new scenes the remembrance of past happiness; yet the effort is vain; I am every where equally restless and unhappy.” Adeline tried to encourage him to hope much from time and change of place. “Time will blunt the sharpest edge of sorrow,” said she; “I know it from experience.” Yet while she spoke, the tears in her eyes contradicted the assertion of her lips. “You have been unhappy, Adeline! — Yes — I knew it from the first. The smile of pity which you gave me, assured me that you knew what it was to suffer.” The desponding air with which he spoke renewed her apprehension of a scene similar to the one she had lately witnessed, and she changed the subject, but he soon returned to it. “You bid me hope much from time! — My wife! — My dear wife!” — his tongue faultered — “It is now many months since I lost her — yet the moment of her death seems but as yesterday.” Adeline faintly smiled. “You can scarcely judge of the effect of time yet, you have much to hope for.” He shook his head. “But I am again intruding my misfortunes on your notice; forgive this perpetual egotism. There is a comfort in the pity of the good such as nothing else can impart; this must plead my excuse; may you, Adeline, never want it. Ah! those tears — ” Adeline hastily dried them. M. Amand forbore to press the subject, and immediately began to converse on indifferent topics. They returned towards the chateau, but La Luc being from home, M. Amand took leave at the door. Adeline retired to her chamber, oppressed by her own sorrows and those of her amiable friend.
Near three weeks had now elapsed at Nice, during which the disorder of La Luc seemed rather to encrease than to abate, when his physician very honestly confessed the little hope he entertained from the climate, and advised him to try the effect of a sea voyage, adding, that if the experiment failed, even the air of Montpellier appeared to him more likely to afford relief than that of Nice. La Luc received this disinterested advice with a mixture of gratitude and disappointment. The circumstances which had made him reluctant to quit Savoy, rendered him yet more so to protract his absence, and encrease his expences; but the ties of affection that bound him to his family, and the love of life, which so seldom leaves us, again prevailed over inferior considerations, and he determined to coast the Mediterranean as far as Languedoc, where, if the voyage did not answer his expectations, he would land and proceed to Montpellier.
When M. Amand learned that La Luc designed to quit Nice in a few days, he determined not to leave it before him. During this interval he had not sufficient resolution to deny himself the frequent conversation of Adeline, though her presence, by reminding him of his lost wife, gave him more pain than comfort. He was the second son of a French gentleman of family, and had been married about a year to a lady to whom he had long been attached when she died in her lying-in. The infant soon followed its mother, and left the disconsolate father abandoned to grief, which had preyed so heavily on his health, that his physician thought it necessary to send him to Nice. From the air of Nice, however, he had derived no benefit, and he now determined to travel farther into Italy, though he no longer felt any interest in those charming scenes which in happier days, and with her whom he never ceased to lament, would have afforded him the highest degree of mental luxury — now he sought only to escape from himself, or rather from the image of her who had once constituted his truest happiness.
La Luc having laid his plan, hired a small vessel, and in a few days embarked, with a sick hope bidding adieu to the shores of Italy and the towering alps, and seeking on a new element the health which had hitherto mocked his pursuit.
M. Amand took a melancholy leave of his new friends, whom he attended to the sea side. When he assisted Adeline on board, his heart was too full to suffer him to say farewell; but he stood long on the beach pursuing with his eyes her course over the waters, and waving his hand, till tears dimmed his sight. The breeze wafted the vessel gently from the coast, and Adeline saw herself surrounded by the undulating waves of the ocean. The shore appeared to recede, its mountains to lessen, the gay colours of its landscape to melt into each other, and in a short time the figure of M. Amand was seen no more: the town of Nice, with its castle and harbour, next faded away in distance, and the purple tint of the mountains was at length all that remained on the verge of the horizon. She sighed as she gazed, and her eyes filled with tears. “So vanished my prospect of happiness,” said she; “and my future view is like the waste of waters that surround me.” Her heart was full, and she retired from observation to a remote part of the deck, where she indulged her tears as she watched the vessel cut its way through the liquid glass. The water was so transparent that she saw the sun-beams playing at a considerable depth, and fish of various colours glance athwart the current. Innumerable marine plants spread their vigorous leaves on the rocks below, and the richness of their verdure formed a beautiful contrast to the glowing scarlet of the coral that branched beside them.
The distant coast, at length, entirely disappeared. Adeline gazed with an emotion the most sub’ime, on the boundless expanse of waters that spread on all sides: she seemed as if launched into a new world; the grandeur and immensity of the view astonished and overpowered her: for a moment she doubted the truth of the compass, and believed it to be almost impossible for the vessel to find its way over the pathless waters to any shore. And when she considered that a plank alone separated her from death, a sensation of unmixed terror superceded that of sublimity, and she hastily turned her eyes from the prospect, and her thoughts from the subject.