A ROMANCE OF THE FOREST
“Last came Joy’s ecstatic trial:
Ode to the Passions.
Adeline, in the society of friends so beloved, lost the impression of that melancholy which the fate of her parent had occasioned; she recovered all her natural vivacity; and when she threw off the mourning habit which filial piety had required her to assume, she gave her hand to Theodore. The nuptials, which were celebrated at St. Maur, were graced by the presence of the Count and Countess D — , and La Luc had the supreme felicity of confirming on the same day the flattering destinies of both his children. When the ceremony was over he blessed and embraced them all with tears of fatherly affection. “I thank thee, O God! that I have been permitted to see this hour;” said he, “whenever it shall please thee to call me hence, I shall depart in peace.”
“Long, very long, may you be spared to bless your children,” replied Adeline. Clara kissed her father’s hand and wept: “Long, very long,” she repeated in a voice scarcely audible. La Luc smiled cheerfully, and turned the conversation to a subject less affecting.
But the time now drew nigh when La Luc thought it necessary to return to the duties of his parish, from which he had so long been absent. Madame La Luc too, who had attended him during the period of his danger at Montpelier, and hence returned to Savoy, complained much of the solitude of her life; and this was with her brother an additional motive for his speedy departure. Theodore and Adeline, who could not support the thought of a separation, endeavoured to persuade him to give up his chateau, and to reside with them in France; but he was held by many ties to Leloncourt. For many years he had constituted the comfort and happiness of his parishioners; they revered and loved him as a father — he regarded them with an affection little short of parental. The attachment they discovered towards him on his departure was not forgotten either; it had made a deep impression on his mind, and he could not bear the thought of forsaking them now that Heaven had showered on him its abundance. “It is sweet to live for them,” said he, “and I will also die amongst them.” A sentiment also of a more tender nature, — (and let not the stoic prophane it with the name of weakness, or the man of the world scorn it as unnatural) — a sentiment still more tender attracted him to Leloncourt, — the remains of his wife reposed there.
Since La Luc would not reside in France, Theodore and Adeline, to whom the splendid gaieties that courted them at Paris were very inferior temptations to the sweet domestic pleasures and refined society which Leloncourt would afford, determined to accompany La Luc and Mon. and Madame Verneuil abroad. Adeline arranged her affairs so as to render her residence in France unnecessary; and having bade an affectionate adieu to the Count and Countess D — , and to M. Amand, who had recovered a tolerable degree of cheerfulness, she departed with her friends for Savoy.
They travelled leisurely, and frequently turned out of their way to view whatever was worthy of observation. After a long and pleasant journey they came once more within view of the Swiss mountains, the sight of which revived a thousand interesting recollections in the mind of Adeline. She remembered the circumstances and the sensations under which she had first seen them — when an orphan, flying from persecution to seek shelter among strangers, and lost to the only person on earth whom she loved — she remembered this, and the contrast of the present moment struck with all its force upon her heart.
The countenance of Clara brightened into smiles of the most animated delight as she drew near the beloved scenes of her infant pleasures; and Theodore, often looking from the windows, caught with patriotic enthusiasm the magnificent and changing scenery which the receding mountains successively disclosed.
It was evening when they approached within a few miles of Leloncourt, and the road winding round the foot of a stupendous cragg, presented them a full view of the lake, and of the peaceful dwelling of La Luc. An exclamation of joy from the whole party announced the discovery, and the glance of pleasure was reflected from every eye. The sun’s last light gleamed upon the waters that reposed in “chrystal purity” below, melowed every feature of the landscape, and touched with purple splendour the clouds that rolled along the mountain tops.
La Luc welcomed his family to his happy home, and sent up a silent thanksgiving that he was permitted thus to return to it. Adeline continued to gaze upon each well-known object, and again reflecting on the vicissitudes of grief and joy, and the surprising change of fortune which she had experienced since last she saw them, her heart dilated with gratitude and complacent delight. She looked at Theodore, whom in these very scenes she had lamented as lost to her for ever; who, when found again, was about to be torn from her by an ignominious death, but who now sat by her side her secure and happy husband, the pride of his family and herself; and while the sensibility of her heart flowed in tears from her eyes, a smile of ineffable tenderness told him all she felt. He gently pressed her hand, and answered her with a look of love.
Peter, who now rode up to the carriage with a face full of joy and of importance, interrupted a course of sentiment which was become almost too interesting. “Ah! my dear master!” cried he, “welcome home again. Here is the village, God bless it! It is worth a million such places as Paris. Thank St. Jacques, we are all come safe back again!”
This effusion of honest Peter’s joy was received and answered with the kindness it deserved. As they drew near the lake music sounded over the water, and they presently saw a large party of the villagers assembled on a green spot that sloped to the very margin of the waves, and dancing in all their holiday finery. It was the evening of a festival. The elder peasants sat under the shade of the trees that crowned this little eminence, eating milk and fruits, and watching their sons and daughters frisk it away to the sprightly notes of the tabor and pipe, which was joined by the softer tones of a mandolin.
The scene was highly interesting, and what added to its picturesque beauty was a groupe of cattle that stood, some on the brink, some half in the water, and others reposing on the green bank, while several peasant girls, dressed in the neat simplicity of their country, were dispensing the milky feast. Peter now rode on first, and a crowd soon collected round him, who learning that their beloved master was at hand, went forth to meet and welcome him. Their warm and honest expressions of joy diffused an exquisite satisfaction over the heart of the good La Luc, who met them with the kindness of a father, and who could scarcely forbear shedding tears to this testimony of their attachment. When the younger part of the peasants heard the news of his arrival, the general joy was such, that, led by the tabor and pipe, they danced before his carriage to the chateau, where they again welcomed him and his family with the enlivening strains of music. At the gate of the chateau they were received by Madame La Luc, and a happier party never met.
As the evening was uncommonly mild and beautiful, supper was spead in the garden. When the repast was over, Clara, whose heart was all glee, proposed a dance by moonlight. “It will be delicious,” said she; “the moonbeams are already dancing on the waters. See what a stream of radiance they throw across the lake, and how they sparkle round that little promontory on the left. The freshness of the hour too invites to dancing.”
They all agreed to the proposal. — “And let the good people who have so heartily welcomed us home be called in too,” said La Luc: “they shall all partake our happiness. There is devotion in making others happy, and gratitude ought to make us devout. Peter, bring more wine, and set some tables under the trees.” Peter flew, and, while chairs and tables were placing, Clara ran for her favourite lute, the lute which had formerly afforded her such delight, and which Adeline had often touched with a melancholy expression. Clara’s light hand now ran over the chords, and drew forth tones of tender sweetness, her voice accompanying the following
Now at Moonlight’s fairy hour, When faintly gleams each dewy steep, And vale and mountain, lake and bow’r, In solitary grandeur sleep;
When slowly sinks the evening breeze, That lulls the mind in pensive care, And Fancy loftier visions sees, Bid Music wake the silent air.
Bid the merry, merry tabor sound, And with the Fays of lawn or glade, In tripping circlet beat the ground Under the high trees’ trembling shade.
“Now at Moonlight’s fairy hour” Shall Music breathe her dulcet voice, And o’er the waves, with magic pow’r, Call on Echo to rejoice!
Peter, who could not move in a sober step, had already spread refreshments under the trees, and in a short time the lawn was encircled with peasantry. The rural pipe and tabor were placed, at Clara’s request, under the shade of her beloved acacias on the margin of the lake; the merry notes of music sounded, Adeline led off the dance, and the mountains answered only to the strains of mirth and melody.
The venerable La Luc, as he sat among the elder peasants, surveyed the scene — his children and people thus assembled round him in one grand compact of harmony and joy — the frequent tear bedewed his cheek, and he seemed to taste the fulness of an exalted delight.
So much was every heart roused to gladness, that the morning dawn began to peep upon the scene of their festivity, when every cottager returned to his home blessing the benevolence of La Luc.
After passing some weeks with La Luc, M. Verneuil bought a chateau in the village of Leloncourt, and as it was the only one not already occupied, Theodore looked out for a residence in the neighbourhood. At the distance of a few leagues, on the beautiful banks of the lake of Geneva, where the waters retire into a small bay, he purchased a villa. The chateau was characterized by an air of simplicity and taste, rather than of magnificence, which however was the chief trait in the surrounding scene. The chateau was almost encircled with woods, which forming a grand amphitheatre swept down to the water’s edge, and abounded with wild and romantic walks. Here nature was suffered to sport in all her beautiful luxuriance, except where here, and there, the hand of art formed the foliage to admit a view of the blue waters of the lake, with the white sail that glided by, or of the distant mountains. In front of the chateau the woods opened to a lawn, and the eye was suffered to wander over the lake, whose bosom presented an evermoving picture, while its varied margin sprinkled with villas, woods, and towns, and crowned beyond with the snowy and sublime alps, rising point behind point in aweful confusion, exhibited a scenery of almost unequalled magnificence.
Here, contemning the splendour of false happiness, and possessing the pure and rational delights of a love refined into the most tender friendship, surrounded by the friends so dear to them, and visited by a select and enlightened society — here, in the very bosom of felicity, lived Theodore and Adeline La Luc.
The passion of Louis De la Motte yielded at length to the powers of absence and necessity. He still loved Adeline, but it was with the placid tenderness of friendship, and when, at the earnest invitation of Theodore, he visited the villa, he beheld their happiness with a satisfaction unalloyed by any emotions of envy. He afterwards married a lady of some fortune at Geneva, and resigning his commission in the French service, settled on the borders of the lake, and increased the social delights of Theodore and Adeline.
Their former lives afforded an example of trials well endured — and their present, of virtues greatly rewarded; and this reward they continued to deserve — for not to themselves was their happiness contracted, but diffused to all who came within the sphere of their influence. The indigent and unhappy rejoiced in their benevolence, the virtuous and enlightened in their friendship, and their children in parents whose example impressed upon their hearts the precepts offered to their understandings.